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Steamboat’s Fourth of July ski competition is one of a kind

Decker Dean finishes first at Howelsen Hill for second time at Fourth of July competition.
Leah Vann

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sunny and 90 degrees doesn’t seem like the perfect weather for a ski jump competition, but in Steamboat Springs, it’s a Fourth of July tradition.

Competitors slipped on their body suits and traveled up the storied Howelsen Hill to its 75-meter jump for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Jumpin’ and Jammin’ Competition. At the top, the crowd of spectators indulging in food and drinks looked like spots of red, white and blue.

“No other town is doing that in America, right?” Billy Demong, executive director of USA Nordic Sport said. “There’s also six or seven Olympians here from last winter. In addition to that, they’re learning the next generation of names to watch.”

Others were standing on steep ground lined with wooden boards to help with the hike. And maybe, once they got up there, they’d cool off with the water spouting from either side, which kept the surface slick.

Down the center of the hill is a tan ceramic-like tile, where skiers fit their skis into the slips, while held by a back bar until it was time for takeoff.

Most curious is the landing, which most would fear without snow. As the skiers land, you can hear the clicking of horizontal boards, which are covered in shiny green plastic material.

“They’re like green broom straws, but plastic, laid there like shingles up the hill,” Demong said.

The beginning rounds included 9- and 10-year-olds, who competed alongside U.S. Olympic Nordic combined athletes like Jasper Good or Taylor Fletcher.

The announcer made sure people knew just how substantial that was.

“Here he is, 9 years old, ladies and gentleman.”

And seeing the kids soar through the air drew almost twice the applause as the Olympians.

“The way this event is organized is you get a bunch of 14-year-olds mixing it up with a bunch of Olympians,” Good said. “It’s amazing, I love that. I absolutely love seeing little kids go far in that jump, reminds me of when I was a little kid.”

But Good would compete with fellow Steamboat local, Decker Dean, for the kids’ high-fives and autographs. Dean would win the ski jumping competition, while Good was the lone national Nordic combined ski team member to place, taking third behind Olympian ski jumper, Casey Larson.

“I started competing in this event when I was 10 years old, I think. I am 17 now,” Dean said. “I love coming home and being able to take home wins, it’s always fun having all my friends here watching.”

This was Dean’s second victory at Howelsen Hill’s Fourth of July event and with the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in February, he’s hoping to make a name for himself.

That road starts here before he takes on his first FIS competition in Sochi, Russia next month.

“Steamboat is home roots,” Dean said. “I love doing it for this place and that will never change.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.


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