Annual Town Challenge set

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— Recreational racing will return to Howelsen Hill Thursday night as the Town Challenge Race Series opens the season with a kickoff party and giant slalom race.

"This will be the 19th annual Town Challenge," race director Heather DeVos said. "We just want to offer a fun, social race experience. The emphases is on fun after all, this isn't the Olympics."

The series was established in 1982 and is designed to offer adults from the local community and visitors to Steamboat Springs a unique FIS (International Ski Federation) style racing opportunity. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club will provide the expertise, organization and production for each event and ensures that the race is a safe and rewarding experience for each competitor.

Adults older than 21 years of age may enter for $10 per event, which includes entry into the competition and the after-event party, which includes free drinks and a prize drawing.

"Last year, we gave out more than $10,000 in prizes, which were donated by local businesses," DeVos said. "If you take part in all the races, your odds of winning a prize are pretty good."

DeVos said the races draw a wide variety of abilities and ages. The courses are designed to be challenging, but they offer racers of all abilities a chance at success.

"It's a great deal," local racer Stein Halsnes said. "It's an opportunity to get out on the race course and test yourself against the clock."

Halsnes, a former national and professional racer, said he has taken part in the local race series for several years. It offers him a chance to compete locally and keep his competitive racing edge for several regional races.

"I used to train every day, now I train a few days a week if I'm lucky," Halsnes said.

Halsnes said the local series helps him keep his edge for Rocky Mountain Division Master's circuit and several legends ski races he takes part in each year.

The racer said the Town Challenge is a great way to stay involved even if you are not a former professional.

"I'm 46 years old, so I'm not as fast as I used to be," Halsnes said. "I like the Town Challenge because it's just a lot of fun."

The kickoff party and race at Howelsen will begin with registration at 5 p.m. Thursday. DeVos said the registration will end at 6:30 p.m. to allow enough time to get the races started on time. Blimpie's, a sponsor of the event along with the Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare, will provide food for the event, and there will also be beer once the racing is under way.

If you can't make the first one, however, don't panic. There will be 13 races in this year's series, which will included four slalom races, six giant slalom races, one super G, one half-pipe and one Gelande jumping event. There will be four races at Mount Werner. Those races will be held on Sundays at 1:30 p.m. The nine remaining races will take place at Howelsen Hill on Thursday nights. Those races will start with registration at 5:30 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m.

Participants can enter into men's or women's classes in one of three different ability levels in alpine skiing, including racer, expert and cruiser classes. There will also be a division for telemark and another division for snowboarding.

A World Cup scoring system will be used to determine overall winners and class results for each race. Those points will be carried over for year-end standings as well.

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