Steamboat Springs The snow-covered slopes of Howelsen Hill have launched many skiers to the national and international levels.
This weekend, Winter Sports Club Nordic Director Todd Wilson expects about 50 athletes to show up with hopes of making that same leap or at least getting a jump in the right direction during a pair of qualifying events on the fabled jumps.
At stake for these up-and-coming stars are bids to the World Cup B for the Nordic combined athletes and the Continental Cup for the special jumpers. Those international events act as the minor league for both the Nordic combined and ski jumping World Cup tours.
Wilson expects about 30 Nordic combined skiers and 20 jumpers to be in Steamboat for two events.
"This is the place where our future stars get started," Wilson said of the Continental Cup and World Cup B. "This weekend will give some young skiers a chance to move to that next level."
The World Cup B and Continental Cup qualifiers will also be the first and only major competition of the season prior to the World Cup B event scheduled for Dec. 14 and -15 at Howelsen.
"This will be a good test," Wilson said. "This is basically a dry run for us to make sure all of our systems are working."
The Nordic combined athletes at this weekend's events will be hoping to grab one of 16 spots available for the North American World Cup B events, which will be held in Calgary, Steamboat Springs and Park City. Members of the U.S. Nordic combined development squad will consume five of the spots for those North American stops, and that will leave plenty of room for a few young guys to sneak into the ranks for at least three stops.
Three qualifiers including one in Park City last weekend and two in Steamboat this weekend will be held before the start of the World Cup B to determine who gets the remaining 11 slots. The skiers will be ranked over the next three events and the top athletes will be invited to compete when the events open in Calgary in two weeks.
In the first qualifier, which was held last weekend in Utah, Steamboat's Alex Glueck topped the field. He was followed by Brett Camerota in second and Morgan Goodwin in third. The top finisher from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Bryan Fletcher, was sixth in the standings. Adam Schwall was ninth, Davis Miller finished 13th and Alex Miller was 15th. Newcomer Marshall Ambros placed 17th and Ethan Johnson, who was ninth after the jumping, had to pull out of the cross country race because he didn't feel well.
On the special-jumping side, former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier Logan Gerber won the K-90 event and was second in the K-120. Gerber lived and trained in Steamboat Springs but like so many of the older jumpers moved to Park City to be closer to plastic-covered jumps and national coaches.
Local coach Chris Gilbertson said the jumper is in good position to qualify for a Continental Cup in Europe depending on his finishes this weekend at Howelsen.
Those events will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with two jumps off the K-90 hill. The Nordic combined skiers will wrap up the first day with a 7.5-kilometer cross country race at 2:30 p.m.
On Sunday, the Nordic combined athletes will compete in a sprint event (one jump off the K-114 and a 7.5-kilometer cross country race) that will also start with jumping at 10 a.m. Wilson said the exact time of the cross country race is still up in the air but is expected to be earlier than Saturday's race.
Wilson is hoping the entire World Cup B course will be ready for the event by this weekend. However, if it is not, he said the cross country races would be held on shorter loops around the World Cup B course.