Steamboat Springs Later this month, the steep pitches of Beaver Creek's Centennial ski run will be used to separate the state's top high school skiers from the champions.
Steamboat Springs senior Gunnar Sorensen is hoping to match anything the challenging ski run can throw at him en route to earning his first state title -- or his first two, if he can lay down the fastest run in both slalom and giant slalom on Feb. 21-22.
"This is what we've been working for all winter," Sorensen said. "I was a freshman the last time we won a state title on the Alpine side -- I would really like to round out my senior year with another title."
Last weekend, Sorensen and the Steamboat Springs boys Alpine ski team wrapped up the regular season with a solid showing at Ski Cooper.
Sorensen led the local team with a second-place finish in the giant slalom race. Sorensen said he thinks he could have finished with a better time than the event's winner, Gary Beresford of Summit, with different wax.
Sorensen said wax made a big difference on the flat, gravity-challenged Ski Cooper course.
"Just about anything is going to be steeper than Ski Cooper," Steamboat coach Chris Arnis said. "I think our skiers will like the course in Beaver Creek a little bit more. It should be a lot of fun."
In Cooper, Sorensen was followed by teammates Jeff Fowler in 27th and Jeff Albright in 64th.
Both of those skiers will join Sorensen in Beaver Creek at the state meet. All three skiers qualified in both slalom and giant slalom.
"This will be one of our smallest (boys) teams in some time," Arnis said. "But it's a talented group. The key for us is getting everybody to stand up through the finish."
The Steamboat girls team will take five skiers to the state meet, including Brittany Lamb, Henley Shephard, Shannon Gormley, Piper Reed and Rebecca Herman.
Reed led the Steamboat team at Ski Cooper with a 43rd-place finish. Summit County's Shelley Miller won the giant slalom race.
Lamb missed the race last weekend at Ski Cooper but is already looking forward to the state slalom final.
"We don't have a race this week, so we have some time to make sure that everything is perfect for the state finals," Lamb said. "Just about six more practices."
Lamb said the Sailors should make a strong showing this year with five racers in the finals. Lamb will race only in the slalom and Herman is qualified only for the giant slalom.
"It's pretty much the same people, but the races are held over two days and everybody knows that these will be the final races of the season -- so they put their heart and soul into it."
Lamb said she likes the Sailors' chances of winning the state's overall combined title, which goes to the squad with the best showing in both the Alpine and cross country disciplines. But she admits winning a state title has a lot to do with timing. Her coach agrees.
"It just depends on who is hot on those particular days," Arnis said. "Hopefully our racers will put it together."