Series will bring top regional racers to Steamboat

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There's no question that Chris Puckett would like to see more high-level Alpine ski racing on Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill.

Some day, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's competitive Alpine director would like to see Steamboat Springs host a women's NorAm event complete with prize money.

But until then, Puckett will settle for making the traditional holiday Rocky Mountain Trophy Series events the best they can be.

"We are going to have some really good racers coming to town, and they are going to have a chance to make a little money," Puckett said.

Steamboat shares the events with Winter Park, but this year both host sites will offer cash prizes to top finishers in an effort to attract elite-level racers to the FIS race series.

It's an approach Puckett used when he came to the Winter Sports Club three years ago.

That season, he introduced several ideas that were designed to bring life to the trophy series that had taken place in Steamboat Springs for more than a decade. The move worked -- Puckett attracted several top-level skiers, including U.S. Ski Team member Jake Fiala.

He will use the same formula for this year's races, which begin with the men and women's super-G races Friday and Saturday in Winter Park. The men also will compete in giant slalom races Sunday and Dec. 20 in Winter Park.

The women will arrive in Steamboat on Sunday for the first of four days of racing in the Yampa Valley.

The women are scheduled to compete in giant slalom races starting at 9 a.m. Sunday on Vagabond ski run. A second giant slalom race will take place at 9 a.m. Dec. 20. Puckett said the races were scheduled for Sitz/See Me, but the inability to make snow has forced the ski area to move the races to another location on the mountain.

"We couldn't have done this without the support of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.," Puckett said. "We owe them because they've gone all out to make sure this event is successful."

Puckett said the move may interfere with some recreational skiers Sunday morning, but he thinks even more will enjoy the chance to stop along the racecourse to watch the action.

"I hope (recreational skiers) see it as a chance to check out some of the best Alpine skiers in the region," Puckett said. "It really is a great opportunity."

The men will join the women Dec. 21 and 22 at Howelsen Hill for slalom racing. There also will be slalom races Dec. 22.

Puckett expects slalom racing to begin at 8:30 a.m. both days.

"We are hoping that by holding the races before Christmas we will be able to catch a lot of top skiers while they are home for the holidays," Puckett said. "In the past, we held the races in early January sandwiched between the holidays. A lot of the top skiers already had other plans."

Puckett said the U.S. Ski Team's Europa Cup team, including top racers Jeff Harrison and T.J. Lanning, has committed to coming to the races. The field will be filled with top college racers from the University of Colorado, University of Denver, University of New Mexico and several others.

Top Steamboat racers will include Drew Roberts, who has posted several top finishes in high-level races this season, as well as Josh Bryan, Pat Duran, Ramsey Bernard, Cory McConnell and Andy White.

Skiers Lisa Perricone, Tina Roberts, Heidi Hillenbrand, Lauren Letson and Jenny Allen should lead Steamboat's women's team.

Puckett expects 20 Winter Sports Club racers in the field of 140 men and more than 100 women.

The racers in the trophy series will have a chance to pick up $300 for winning an event, $200 for finishing second and $100 for each third-place finish.

Puckett is excited about this week's Alpine races and thinks that the prize money being offered by Steamboat Village Brokers LTD will make the events more interesting and more rewarding for the racers involved.

Puckett also credited Ski Corp. for trying to open Sitz/See Me for the races and making Vagabond available.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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