Surefoot Holiday Classic continues at Howelsen Hill |

Surefoot Holiday Classic continues at Howelsen Hill

Luke Graham

Derek Strand skis down Howelsen Hill on Wednesday during the third day of the Surefoot Holiday Classic.

— Like most of the skiers who descended on Steamboat Springs this week for the Surefoot Holiday Classic, Macarena Simari Birkner has been chasing snow.

"Every year for 23 years now," said Birkner, 27. "I mean every year."

Birkner found exactly what she was looking for Wednesday at Howelsen Hill during the third slalom competition of the week.

The Argentine national team skier overcame a slower first run to tear up the second one Wednesday, finishing the women's race first in 1 minute, 25.16 seconds.

First-run leader and University of New Mexico skier Kate Williams was second in 1:25.35, and former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier and current New Mexico skier Mary Rachel Hostetter was third in 1:26.03. Former Steamboat skier Jenny Allen was eighth, and Anna Marno, also a former Winter Sports Club member, was 10th.

Wednesday's ladies race set up in two different runs. The first saw softer snow and a more direct course.

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In the second run, with conditions hardening up and snow readily flying, times were much slower.

For Birkner, who competed for Argentina in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, it was just good to be back competing. 

The Argentine team was supposed to be in the United States since early November. The team missed a World Cup in Aspen and arrived just a day before the Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek in late November.

"It's tough because our budget is tight," she said. "It's really tough. All the money we get in the family, we put it there. It's really tough, especially being from Argentina. They don't know about winter sports."

On the men's side, it was again a collection of the top collegiate skiers leading the way.

This time, University of Denver freshman Luke Laidlaw crushed a second run to win in 1:14.06. Nick Cohee was second in 1:14.67, and Tuesday's winner and University of New Mexico skier Chris Acosta was third in 1:14.80. Former Steamboat skier Hig Roberts was sixth in 1:15.70.

"I'm almost surprised I didn't blow out," said Laidlaw, who hails from Australia but finished high school in Vermont. "It was one of those runs where sometimes you come out, make it and you win. That was the mindset. To be honest I think I gave 110 percent. I couldn't have given it anymore."

Laidlaw was 19/100ths of a second out of first after the first run and said he knew he'd have to attack in the second run.

"The last pitch you have to let it go," he said. "I really was nervous and knew everyone was going for it. I was pumped up and charged for it."

Racing concludes Thursday at Howelsen Hill. The men's first run is at 8:30 a.m. with the final run at 11:50 a.m. The women go off at 10 a.m. and 1:20 p.m.

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

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