Thursday, September 19, 2002
Steamboat Springs There will be no Ronny Ackermann, no Hannu Manninen and no Todd Lodwick on the jump hills in Steamboat Springs this December.
The fact is, the top 45 Nordic combined skiers in the world will not visit Steamboat Springs for the ninth-straight Ski Town USA World Cup. That does not mean, however, that the city's run in the sport has come to an end either.
Several local Nordic combined supporters have lined up a World Cup B event to fill the gap in the early winter schedule. This year the next generation of stars will compete in Steamboat Dec. 14 and 15, with an official training round Dec. 13.
"We are really excited that we were able to find the kind of support we needed to bring a World Cup B event here to Steamboat," said Kathi Meyer, who will co-chair the event along with Todd Wilson. "This will not be a World Cup A event, but it will be a great opportunity for Steamboat to see some of the best up-and-coming Nordic combined athletes in the world. There will be just as many, if not more, athletes from Steamboat Springs taking part in this event."
Meyer said the World Cup B event is similar to major league baseball's minor league. The athletes on the B circuit are tying to earn enough points to move up the ladder.
"It's great to see this event coming to Steamboat Springs," Rick DeVos said. Devos is the executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which will play a major role in bringing the event to town. "It's a chance for us to continue a long tradition of hosting Nordic events."
Wilson said the average person in Steamboat would not realize the difference in the level of competition on the jump hills between the B and the A tours. The only real difference will be the names of the athletes taking place.
Instead of Lodwick, Demong, Dayton and Spillane, locals will be able to cheer the efforts of local skiers like Adam Schwall, Alex Glueck, Bryan Fletcher and Ethan Johnson.
"We are really excited to have this here in Steamboat," Wilson said. "It keeps the tradition of Nordic combined alive at Howelsen."
Meyer said she is in the process of lining up the final supporters needed to meet the $30,000 price tag of the event.
"In the past, (the World Cup A) has been supported by the U.S. Ski Team and the ski area," Meyer said. "We don't have those sponsors this year, so we have had to turn to the local business community for support."
Luckily for Meyer, the local business community has been very supportive of the sport and keeping the World Cup in Steamboat.
Meyer said organizers are about two-thirds of the way to raising the $30,000 needed to host a World Cup B event. Much of the money (and in-kind services) that was raised came from within the lodging community.
"There will not be quite as many bells and whistles with this event," Wilson said. "But we've always had a tradition of putting on a first-class event we want to continue that."
The event will not be quite as prestigious as the World Cup A event, but it will require about the same amount of hard work from volunteers as a normal World Cup event.
Wilson is hoping locals will continue to come out and support the event as volunteers and he is glad the ski area will continue to provide lift tickets to those people based on the amount of time they work.
The World Cup B will attract 50 to 80 athletes from more than 19 countries around the world. Those athletes will compete in a one-jump, 7.5-kilometer cross country race on Saturday. On Sunday, the athletes will move to a two-jump, 15-kilometer format.
"The field for this event will actually be bigger than a regular World Cup," Wilson said. "The competitions will be just as intense and there will be as much at stake for the athletes involved."
This year the entire first period of the World Cup B season is scheduled to take place in North America. The first event will be held in Calgary, the second will take place in Steamboat and the third is scheduled for Park City, Utah.
"This event will be key to keeping Steamboat Springs on the radar in the Nordic combined skiing world," Meyer said. "That could be key to bringing the World Cup A back someday."