Two hundred skiers came to Howelsen Hill last weekend for a pair of Rocky Mountain Division cross country races designed to give them a small taste of what the Yampa Valley has to offer.
"Both days were perfect weather wise with clear skies and cold snow," Steamboat's Brian Tate said. "At this point Steamboat may have the best snow conditions in the state."
At least that's what Aspen's Simi Hamilton and Crested Butte's Ashley Quiggle were thinking Friday as they raced to the top spots in a 5-kilometer classic race (that's the distance the older skiers raced) held along the challenging trails of Howelsen Hill.
Hamilton's pace of 14 minutes, 41.9 seconds was unmatched. Kyle Ahern of Summit was second at 15:16.8, and Steamboat Springs skier Austin Ross finished third with a time of 15:19.5.
Steamboat's Marty Smith was fourth (15:29.9), and Mike Gleason was ninth (16:19.7).
Paul Rose placed third in the J-2 class at 16:06, Kyle Steitz was third in the J-3 class at 9:21 and Carter Miller was ninth and Jasper Gantick was 17th among J-3 skiers.
Quiggle led the pack in the girls J-1 class with a time of 17:26.2. Durango skiers took second, third, fourth and fifth places. Steamboat's Lisl Pearson placed ninth.
Steamboat's Mary Rose won the J-3 class with a time of 9:47.6. Teammate Melissa Krause was fourth at 10:06.8, Molly Newman came in fifth at 10:19.6, Emily Stout was sixth at 10:35 and Katherine Ingalls placed eighth with a time of 10:53.4.
Steamboat's Emma Lichtenfels was fourth in the J-4 class, Emily Hines was sixth, Liza Stout was seventh, Haley Piske was tenth and Eva Lambek came in 11th.
Steamboat's Lucy Newman, Mallory Richey and Dori McNeill placed second, third and fourth, respectively, in the J-4 class.
On Saturday the same field of skiers returned to Howelsen for a rare sprint relay event in which two skiers teamed up and traded turns on a 1,000-meter loop around the base of Howelsen.
Steamboat's Taylor Fletcher and Charlie Stoddard combined to win a mixed class that included J-3 and J-4 skiers.
Winter Sports Club skiers Brett Denny and Adam Peters followed in second.
Other top finishers in the boy's race included Cliff Field and Erik Lynch (ninth), Miller and Steitz (10th), Gantick and Gus Allen (17th), and Jace Worden and Patrick Weston (24th) in the same combined division.
Steamboat's Sam Chovan and Connor Walsh finished ninth in the J-2 class.
Smith and Ross teamed up to lead Steamboat's efforts in the senior men's division with a fourth. It was a nice finish when you consider two of the teams in front of them were made up of college skiers.
Steamboat teams took fourth through sevent, as well as 15th.
Steamboat's Mark Iverson joined Vail Mountain School skier Dan Weiland in that same division to place second, and former high school standout Hennie Kashawa joined Colin Struthers to take 11th.
Steamboat girls also fared well in the women's race.
Molly Newman and Emily Stout won the J-3/J-4 class. Steamboat's Mary Rose and Krause came in third, Katherine Ingalls and Michelle Lichtenfels placed fifth, and Emma Lichtenfels and Liza Stout took ninth.
Steamboat's Meredith Gilliland teamed up with Durango's Krysia Crabtree to place third in the J-1/OJ division and Pearson teamed up with Western State College's Kelly Ahern to place eighth.
"The sprint relay was like a NASCAR race with short laps and tight, fast skiing, Tate said. The Winter Sports Club did very well in the results."
Tate said Saturday's event was the perfect way to wrap up the weekend for the cross country program, which now can start focusing on it's next big event -- the state high school skiing championships in February.