Thursday, December 26, 2002
Steamboat Springs Last year it was Jake Fiala grabbing the spotlight and most of the prize money during Steamboat's Holiday Grand Prix and the Rocky Central FIS races.
This year, the top racers will once again earn paychecks, but Alpine program director Tony Nunnikhoven says even the top racers will have to give 100 percent if they want to cash in. Those races will begin Monday and continue through Jan. 5.
"Thanks in part to the prize money, these races draw a number of top racers, which really drives the penalty," Nunnikhoven said.
The ski coach said it's a win-win situation for all of the skiers involved.
The top skiers have a chance to pick up some spending cash and the younger skiers can earn International Ski Federation points -- which someday may lead to international skiing and the U.S. Team. These are some of the biggest Alpine races Steamboat will host this season and some of the biggest races in the region.
"We have seven days of racing scheduled," Nunnikhoven said. "It should be a pretty good time and a great opportunity for some of our younger racers."
The first races of the week will feature both men and women racing in a pair of slalom events Dec. 30 and 31 at Howelsen Hill. The first run each day is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
That action will continue on Jan. 1 with a dual slalom at Howelsen -- this is the only non-FIS race of the week. Nunnikhoven said it would be a dash for cash with the best racers pocketing money if they finish in the top-three slots.
On Jan. 2 and 3, the racing will move to Mount Werner for a women's giant slalom race. The men will take to the course Jan. 4 and 5. Those races are expected to start at 10 a.m.
The organizers expect 140 men and 90 women to arrive in Steamboat and battle for the points. Don't be surprised if Fiala and Casey Puckett are in the field. Puckett, who just retired from the U.S. Ski Team, proved he is still very competitive just a few weeks ago by winning the 24 hours of Aspen.
"Traditionally, these races always draw some top racers," Nunnikhoven said. "Many of them are in the area on a holiday break and use the races as a way to keep their edge."
Nunnikhoven thinks the events could draw a few top racers and said the competition is sure to be some of the best in the Rocky Mountain region this winter.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
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