Ski jumping back for Fourth of July in Steamboat |

Ski jumping back for Fourth of July in Steamboat

Luke Graham

U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team member Taylor Fletcher speeds down the in-run on Howelsen Hill's plastic-covered ski jump Thursday morning. Fletcher, who was raised in Steamboat Springs, is back in town with other members of the U.S. Ski Team for the Fourth of July Ski Jumping Extravaganza, which will take place Sunday and Monday at Howelsen Hill.

— Bryan and Taylor Fletcher grew up in Steamboat Springs, spending hours at the base of Howelsen Hill and on the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue.

Each has chased the classic Steamboat dream, moving through the junior ranks to finally making the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team.

Now, as the brothers spend a majority of their time in Park City, Utah, Fourth of July in Steamboat always symbolizes something special.

Fireworks, sure, but the Ski Jumping Extravaganza means it's that time of year.

The event, which brings the top Nordic combined athletes in the country to Steamboat, begins at 9 a.m. Sunday with a competition jump at Howelsen Hill.

That jump will be paired with a two-kilometer roller ski race at 9:30 a.m. Monday on Lincoln Avenue before to the start of the parade. There also will be an elimination jump contest Monday. The qualification round begins at 11 a.m. with the competition set for 12:30 p.m. People also can watch skiers jump at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Howelsen Hill.

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"The Fourth of July is

awesome," Bryan Fletcher said. "It's a chance to come home and relax but also showcase Nordic combined. To be able to come home in the summertime and enjoy hanging out with your friends and at the same time continue my training is a lot of fun."

In addition to the Fletchers, Olympic gold medalist Billy Demong and Olympic silver medalist Todd Lodwick are expected to compete. Teammate and fellow silver medalist Johnny Spillane will be out of town at a wedding.

Sunday and Monday's events culminate a weeklong camp the U.S. team conducts each year. In addition to training early in the summer in Steamboat and Park City, the team plans to leave July 11 for a camp in Germany and France.

"That's always a good part of our strategy is to have a nation of Nordic combined together as much as we can at a high level," Nordic combined coach Dave Jarrett said. "Steamboat is the perfect venue. Most of us are already in Steamboat."

The event serves several purposes. It introduces people to the sport and allows the team to come together and compete against one another in front of what usually amounts to a raucous crowd.

The roller ski race typically proves to be the biggest attraction. With poles and roller skis on, athletes skate up and down Lincoln Avenue, making wide turns and showing that, despite it being a friendly competition among countrymen, everyone wants to win.

"I think it's starting to become a Steamboat tradition," Lodwick said. "Nordic combined is on the minds of many locals. Lots of athletes from here put it on the map. It's fun to see something like that. It's fun and exciting and nice for people to see."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

If you go

■ Friday

9 to 11 a.m. Ski jump training at Howelsen Hill

2 to 4 p.m. Ski jump training at Howelsen

■ Saturday

9 to 11 a.m. Ski jump training at Howelsen

2 to 4 p.m. Ski jump training at Howelsen

■ Sunday

9 a.m. Jumping competition at Howelsen

■ Monday

9:30 a.m. 2-kilometer roller ski race on Lincoln Avenue

11 a.m. Qualification jumping at Howelsen

12:30 p.m. Elimination competition begins at Howelsen

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