After a grueling first period on the Nordic combined World Cup tour, Steamboat Springs skier Todd Lodwick returned home this week to enjoy a different kind of skiing.
"The powder was amazing," Lodwick said after taking a few turns on Mount Werner on Wednesday.
But if cutting fresh trails through the Steamboat Ski Area's champagne powder wasn't enough to make Lodwick feel like he was back on top of the world, he could always reflect on his finishes during last weekend's World Cup events in Italy.
Lodwick wrapped up the first period with two eighth-place finishes, saving what might have been considered a disappointing American effort during the first of three periods in the Warsteiner Nordic Combined World Cup Tour.
Lodwick's top-10 finishes lifted the team and also helped get the veteran U.S. Ski Team member back on track in the overall World Cup standings.
"I'm happy with the eighth-place finishes, but I'm not satisfied," Lodwick said. "I think I belong in the top 10, and I'm hoping that my last few finishes are just a prelude of things to come."
Lodwick said he jumped well during the first period, but he admits his cross country was slowed by illness in the first few races this year.
The slow start pushed Lodwick back in the standings, but by the time he had completed five events, he was the top American skier sitting in 14th in the overall points with one top-10 finish. He added another eighth-place finish in the final event before the holidays, which was held Saturday in Predazzo, Italy. That results moved him into 12th place heading into the second period.
Germany's Ronny Ackermann, who won four of the first six World Cup events this season, holds a commanding lead in the overall standings with 450 total points. He is followed but Hannu Manninen who pulled to within 90 points of the leader by winning Saturday's mass-start event, the sixth and final event of the Nordic combined World Cup's first period.
Germany's Sebastian Haseney is third with 271 points, Ausria's Felix Gottwald is fourth with 257 points and Steamboat's Johnny Spillane is 36th with four points.
Lodwick said the tour was overshadowed by fluky wind the first three events, but that didn't slow down the athletes who were hot at the start of the season.
"There were a few people who were on fire, and they would have been on fire no matter what the conditions were like," Lodwick said.
While he has slipped off the pace a bit, Lodwick doesn't feel like he is out of the running for a top World Cup finish this season.
"The skiers who are at the top right now are not going to be able to stay up there all season," Lodwick said. "It's going to weed itself out, and the top skiers are going to rise to the top."
Lodwick feels as if he is returning to form after placing eighth in his past two events, including an individual Gundersen and a mass start event last weekend.
The mass start event features an unusual 10-kilometer cross country race in which all 45 competitors leave the starting line at the same time. After the race, the athletes head to the hill for a two-round jumping competition to determine the winner.
Manninen posted the fourth-fastest cross country time and the fifth-best jumping results to win the event.
Lodwick was 10th after the cross country race, but gained ground in the final results by recording the sixth best jumping performance.
Lodwick also earned a solid result in an individual Gundersen event held Dec. 12 in Predazzo.
Ackermann led the two-jump, 15K Nordic combined event from the start to the finish. He crossed the finish line 65 seconds in front of second-place finisher Haseney.
Lodwick jumped to 10th and then picked up two spots in the cross country race to finish 1:14 seconds behind the winner.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org