Steamboat skiers to start at home

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— Fourteen-year-old Nick Bucci is eagerly anticipating the first Rocky Mountain Division Freestyle meet of the year that will be held in Steamboat Springs Thursday through Saturday.

"It's going to be a new thing," Bucci said of the upcoming meet. "The skiers are going to be older and the competition will be tougher."

Bucci will be one of several local skiers stepping up from the lower development level to the open class that will be offered at the meet.

The world-class freestyle venue at the Steamboat Ski Area will play host to the meet, which is expected to draw 70 of the region's top young freestyle athletes for moguls and aerial events.

"It's tough because the events are so close to Christmas," said Wendy Allen, the Winter Sports Club's freestyle director. "Still, it should be a good opportunity for a lot of our local skiers."

The RMD meet will be the first of the season hosted by the Winter Sports Club, and Allen is expecting a strong contingent of local skiers to be vying for titles in the bumps and air at the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex.

"I think we will be very well represented at the events," Allen said. "We've got a lot of young, talented skiers here who are ready to get going."

The competition will begin with a training day today. The Voodoo course will be open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

On Thursday, the first of two single mogul events will take center stage. There will be another mogul competition Friday and the aerials will take place Saturday. The aerial will include an upright and inverted competitions.

Bucci, who skied in development-level meets last season, is looking forward to stepping up to another level.

"I'm not really sure what to expect," Bucci said. "I'm just going to try to ski fast."

Bucci said the skiers are scored on how fast they ski the course, how well they complete their turns and how big they fly off the jumps.

"I've got a few new tricks that I've been working on," Bucci said.

While Bucci is new to this level of skiing, which draws competitors up to 18 years of age, he isn't new to the sport of skiing.

Bucci started as an alpine ski racer when he was 7 years old. Two years ago, he switched to freestyle and has competed in a number of development events in Steamboat, Aspen, Breckenridge, Winter Park and Crested Butte. The Steamboat events this week will be his first at the more advanced level.

"I want to see all of our skiers be successful," Allen said. "But the most important thing is that they have fun."

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