It's only fitting that the Town Challenge should open with a party.
Having a good time has been the underlying theme for the race series since it was established in 1982.
"If we just had the race, I don't think that we would get as many people to come out to the events," said Heather DeVos, race series director. "Most of the people come out for the social aspect and the chance to race in an FIS (International Skiing Federation) style event."
DeVos said the event's World Cup format has been selected to give every level of racer the feel and excitement of international competition as an individual or as a part of a team.
Last year, more than 250 skiers and snowboarders took part in the events, which feature a mix of divisions to keep the events exciting and challenging for every level of racer. Five athletes also can form a team.
In Steamboat's unique skiing community, skiers range from former Olympic skiers to people who have just started running gates. DeVos said it's important to have divisions that allow every skier to be successful.
"We want every level of racer to be challenged, but they also have to have the chance to win," DeVos said. "That's why the divisions are based on age and ability."
The Town Challenge series opens Wednesday with a kickoff party at Olympian Hall.
Skiers 21 years or older can learn more about the series and sign up for the season during this special party from 7 to 9 p.m.
There will be free food provided by Azteca Taqueria and complementary beverages. There will be a random drawing for prizes including a free season pass to all the races (valued at $121) and other great merchandise from some of the 50 sponsors who support the Town Challenge each year.
Cost to take part in the race series is $15 per event or $121 for the entire season.
The entry covers the cost to race and the post-event party, which includes beer, food specials and prize drawings that total between $800 and $1,000 per event.
Participants can enter men's and women's classes in five categories including Alpine, expert, cruiser, over 40, over 50 and over 60. There also are telemark and snowboarding divisions.
The top male and female winner of the 12-event series will earn the Carl's Cup at the end of season party. Those winners also receive a grand prize, which is typically a pair of skis.
This year's race series will include giant slalom races at Howelsen on Thursday and Jan 1. There also will be slalom events at Howelsen on Jan. 8 and 15.
The series will move to Mount Werner on Jan. 25 for the Jim Kehoe Memorial, one of two super-G events this season. The other will take place Feb. 12 at Howelsen Hill.
Other racing events will include a dual giant slalom at the Steamboat Ski Area on Feb. 21, a dual slalom at Mount Werner on Feb. 22, the giant slalom finale March 4 at Howelsen and the slalom finale March 11 at Howelsen.
The series also includes a gelande jumping event Feb. 5 at Howelsen Hill.
All of the races at Howelsen Hill begin at 7 p.m. and the races at the ski area start at 1 p.m.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
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