Four days, three events and more than 100 racers will step into the spotlight this week in Steamboat Springs during the annual J4 Junior Olympic Festival.
''This is the biggest event for the Alpine program all winter," said Tony Nunnikhoven, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine director. "For many of the racers, it will be the first time they've come to a resort like Steamboat. It can be a real eye-opener for their future in ski racing."
A total of 161 11- and 12-year-old racers will come from 41 teams and places such as Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Colorado. They will spend four days in Steamboat training and vying for titles in the super-G, slalom and giant slalom events.
"These are the top racers in their age divisions," Nunnikhoven said.
And while all of the athletes will have their hearts set on gold, Nunnikhoven said the Festival is not all about ski racing.
There will be special events such as the opening ceremonies, a chili dinner, and a pizza "luau" designed to build friendships and new relationships.
The Winter Sports Club has taken steps to ensure that the Steamboat event is unique and reflects the Olympic spirit.
An Olympic caldron will be ignited during Wednesday's opening ceremonies, and athletes will be required to take the Olympic Oath before competition begins.
"They will never have experienced anything like it -- unless they were here last year," Nunnikhoven said.
Training for the super-G will be held Wednesday at the Steamboat Ski Area beginning at 9:30 a.m., with opening ceremonies starting at 6:30 p.m.
On Thursday, the skiers will open competition with the men's super-G at 9 a.m. The women will follow at 11:30 a.m. A speed trap and pizza luau will take place at 4 p.m. that afternoon. In the speed trap, skiers will go as fast as they can ski on the outrun of the K114 hill. A radar gun will be used to record their speeds.
The slalom race is at Howelsen Hill on Friday. The boys first run is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and the second for noon. The girls will take their turns at 9:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
The skiers will move back to the Steamboat Ski Area on Saturday for the final competitive event of the week. The women's first run is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., and the second will take place at noon. The men will race at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The awards banquet will take place at the Steamboat Sheraton Resort at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.