There are 1,200 reasons free skier Gina Gmeiner is excited about competing in the third annual SoBe Mavericks Superpipe Challenge on Saturday.
That is, if you don't count the fact that Steamboat is Gmeiner's home mountain, she is the defending champion, or that last year's event was held in front of a huge, enthusiastic crowd under an inviting Rocky Mountain blue sky.
"The Mavericks Superpipe Challenge is great because there are not that many events that offer prize money to the women's classes," she said.
Gmeiner said the $1,200 first-place prize isn't the only reason she is competing in the women's free skiing event but that it would go a long way to cover some end-of-season costs.
"I'm hoping I can go out and win," Gmeiner said. "But that's not why I'm doing it. This event is a lot of fun, and it's a chance for the girls in our sport to go out and put on a show -- a chance for us to prove what we can do."
Doug LaPlaca, director of marketing for Steamboat, also hopes the field of skiers and snowboarders who compete in this year's event will prove to be a positive force on the ski area's image among younger riders.
The ski area is confident that the Mavericks Superpipe will provide the perfect stage to showcase the sport and its superpipe.
"With the Mavericks Superpipe, Steamboat is able to host one of the best superpipe events in the Rocky Mountains," LaPlaca said. 'This year's event should draw even more competitors as the word about Mavericks spreads."
Last year, about 80 skiers and snowboarders showed up to take part in the event. La Placa is hoping increased prize money and grass-roots promotion will help the event grow to more than 100 competitors this year.
"It's a lot of fun, " Steamboat snowboarder Lex Carrigan said. "There is not as much pressure as a Grand Prix event, but most of the top riders in the area show up for this one."
The event is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The first session will feature junior riders competing for prizes instead of money. The division is open to snowboarders and free skiers ages 15 and younger. The top five riders will receive prizes based on their finishes. The event is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
The women's open skiing will begin about noon, and the women's snowboarding will follow. The men's open will start with snowboarding about 1 p.m. followed by the open skiing division.
The event will reward riders with $15,000 in cash and prizes. The prize money for each division was detemined by last year's registration. The larger the division, the more money is offered in prizes.
The men's open classes for skiing and snowboarding will pay the top spot $2,500. Second will take home $900 and third will take home $250. Fourth and fifth will get prizes.
The women's open snowboarding winner will receive $1,500. Second will get $650, and third will get $100.
The top skier in the women's open skiing will earn $1,200. Second will get $450 and third $100. Fourth and fifth in each division will receive prizes.
LaPlaca is glad that the Mavericks Challenge had developed such a strong local following. He hopes growing prize money will help the event become one of the country's premier competitions and attract the top riders.
Last year's event drew several top professional riders, and as the word gets out, LaPlaca expects that field to keep getting stronger.
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