Cross-country skiing events bring talented skiers to town

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More than 200 skiers will open the Rocky Mountain Division cross-country skiing season at 1 p.m. today on the challenging trails of the Nordic combined World Cup course at Howelsen Hill.

That number will grow to 350 on Saturday when the same venue plays host to a second round of Rocky Mountain Division races and the first high school cross-country ski races of the 2004-05 season.

"We normally get the bid for this race because we have snowmaking," Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Brian Tate said. "We normally have some of the best early season skiing anywhere in the state."

The races will be qualifiers for the end-of-season Junior Olympic Championships, as well as a starting point for the high school ski season in Colorado.

Tate expects about 50 skiers from Steamboat Springs to take part in the races, which include a mass start classic today and a skate race Saturday. The races will be 5 kilometers for the older racers; younger racers will compete on shorter courses. Today's race will begin at 1 p.m. at Howelsen. The skate race will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Tate said both events would begin with the youngest age divisions and continue through the oldest. In Saturday's mass start classic race, entire age groups will begin the race at the same time. Some races will feature as many as 30 athletes heading out onto the course at the same time.

The skate race Saturday will feature an individual start, with skiers leaving the finish line in 15-second intervals.

The events will feature skiers at the development, age class and ability levels. Teams are expected to come from Durango, Crested Butte, Aspen, Colorado Rocky Mountain School, Summit County, Vail, Boulder and Middle Park.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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