Cross-country skiers carry on tradition

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During the past 17 winters, cross-country skiers in Steamboat Springs have ushered in new years along the 15 kilometers of challenging trails at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center.

The annual New Year's Eve Relays this year are scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday. Touring Center operator Birgitta Lindgren said the races are always one of the highlights of the season.

"The relays are always a lot of fun," Lindgren said. " It is a popular event and always seems to draw a lot of out-of-town people."

The format of the relay is pretty simple.

Teams of three skiers take turns trading off 7.5-kilometer loops around the Touring Center's scenic trails. The first skier must complete the opening leg using the classic style. The final two skiers can choose to complete their journey's using the classic or skating style.

"The only real requirement is that the first leg is a classic," Lindgren said. "After that, it's up to the team to decide how they want to ski it."

Last year, the team of Kyrill Kretzschmar, Antonio Marxuach and Kirsten Ames won the race. But this race is more about taking part than winning.

The top team gets bragging rights for their effort. All the skiers who take part in the relays are entered in drawings that come after the race.

"We try to make sure that everyone who comes out and skis goes home with something," Lindgren said.

She says the relays are designed to give skiers from Steamboat and visitors to the Yampa Valley a chance to get out and celebrate the new year on Nordic skis. It's a tradition that will celebrate its 18th year Sunday. The cost to enter is $28 per team, and a few laps.

The Steamboat Ski Touring Center, off Club House Drive, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Passes are $14 for the day and $12 for skiers arriving after 1 p.m.

In addition to hosting the New Year's Relays, the touring center hosts other competitive events including this year's Steamboat Stampede, a 20- and 40-kilometer race, scheduled for Feb. 6.

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

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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