Bustin' gates; alpine skiers ready

First races of season to take place in Steamboat

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— The members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club will open the new year with a busy alpine schedule.

"It's just a good race," Steamboat Winter Sports Club alpine racer Damian LeRoy said. "It will be fun to race in front of the hometown crowds and see what I can do."

The race LeRoy is talking about is just one in a series of Rocky Mountain-Central FIS (International Skiing Federation) events that will be held at Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill Jan. 2 through 5. The races will test the men in the giant slalom at the Steamboat Ski Area Jan. 2. From there, the men and women will move to Howelsen hill to compete in a slalom race on Jan. 3 and 4. The final race of the series will be held at Mount Werner, when the women compete in the giant slalom race.

The giant slalom events are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. with the first run. The second run will be scheduled for 1 p.m.

Slalom racing will start at

9 a.m. with the women's first run and 10 a.m. for the men's first run. The women's second run is slated for noon and the men will hit the course at 1 p.m.

The races are open to all qualified FIS racers 15 years of age and older.

"In terms of numbers, these will be some of the biggest races we host this season," Alpine Director Tony Nunnikhoven said.

The Winter Sports Club coach said the races will be a great opportunity for some of the club's upcoming racers to score some FIS points and allow local fans to see some top-level skiing action.

"Its nice not to have to travel, and the weather is always great here in Steamboat," LeRoy said. "I think these are some of the best races all season."

The races will be the first of the season at home for the members of the Winter Sports Club. Many of the team members have been traveling in the early part of the season. LeRoy has been traveling a lot in the early season competing in races in Park City, Utah, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek.

"I'm off to a pretty good start this season," LeRoy said. "But these are by far the races we look forward to every year. It's always fun to do well in front of the hometown crowd."

LeRoy is also looking forward to the races because he skied well in them last year. He is hoping a strong showing this year will help him follow in the footsteps of his cousin Andy LeRoy, who was a member of the U.S. Ski Team for a number of years. LeRoy took last year off to ski with the University of Colorado ski team. Andy LeRoy is currently trying to make a comeback with the U.S. Team.

The Steamboat races will draw 140 men and more than 70 women from around the country to Steamboat.

"We will have a cross-section of top local athletes competing in these races," Nunnikhoven said. "This is really the kickoff to our alpine ski racing season."

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