Top racers headed to town

Holiday Classic events draw athletes from around the region

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— Alpine ski racing will heat up the slopes of Howelsen and Mount Werner this week as the Holiday Classic International Ski Federation (FIS) races take center stage.

The skiing competition will open Sunday and Monday with a pair of slalom races at Howelsen Hill.

There will be men's and women's race action; however, organizers still hadn't determined which group would run first and which group would run second in the events as of Monday.

The first race of the day Sunday will kick off at 8: 30 a.m. with the first run (either men or women). The second run time is set for 10:30 a.m.

The second race of the day will begin at noon with the first run. The second run is scheduled for 2 p.m.

A similar format will be followed on Monday. Start times will be the same as Sunday's events.

"These races are going to draw some of the best ski racers in the region," Steamboat Springs coach and former Olympian Chris Puckett said. "We are expecting the men's field to be full with 140 racers and the women's field to have 80 or 90 racers as well."

Puckett said the addition of prize money this year, $300 for first, $200 for second and $100 for third, has drawn a larger quantity of elite racers to the annual ski races.

"We've gotten more interest because of the money. The younger racers want to be here because they know the field is going to be tougher. The older racers want to come for the money, " Puckett said.

In addition to the prizes for winning each race, there will also be overall awards given to the top woman and man in the series. There will be a $250 prize for the women who will just compete in the slalom events. There will also be a $500 prize available for the men who will compete both in the slalom and a set of giant slalom races Jan. 1 and 2.

Puckett said he expects the best clubs from the Rocky Mountain, Central and Intermountain regions will be on hand for the events along with several elite-level racers who are looking to pick up some races over the holidays. There will also be a handful of top college racers from the University of Colorado, Denver University and the University of New Mexico.

Top female racers such as Emmy Barr, Mia Cullman and Tove Dashkowski from CU, Julie Delich and Christina Matzger from DU and Jenny Delich from the University of New Mexico should contend for titles.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club racer Lisa Perricone, who is coming off a first-place finish in a giant slalom race in Winter Park on Dec. 16, will also be on hand. Emily Colin, Gladys Weidt, Britt Bahle and Monica Bruggeman will join her.

Colin was first in a super-G race in Winter Park Dec. 17 and Weidt was second.

On the men's side, Puckett is expecting Tyler Sheppard and Jed Schutze of CU as well as U.S. Ski Team alumni, such as Andy LeRoy, and Puckett himself.

Top local skiers will include Drew Roberts, Gaspar Perricone, Johnny May and Dan McKay.

The slalom races will kick off the Holiday Classic, which will also include a pair of giant slalom races at Mount Werner Jan. 1-2.

Those races will be for the men and will open with the first run at 10 a.m. and the second at 1 p.m. There will also be an open race on Jan. 2. Qualifying will take place during the day at the ski area and the race will be held that night at Howelsen Hill.

The races will also feature a series of giveaways in which local spectators might pick up a Yamaha snowmobile from Mountain Sports or a year's lease on a BMW. More information is available at the race site.

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