Four days, $9,000 in prize money and eight races have made Steamboat Springs one of the hottest destinations for ski racers this December.
"I've had athletes calling all this week trying to get into the races," said Chris Puckett, Alpine director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. "But we are all maxed out."
The International Skiing Federation (FIS) races will begin Sunday and continue through Dec. 21 at Howelsen Hill and the Steamboat Ski Area.
A field of 140 women will compete in giant slalom races on Mount Werner's Sitz/See Me ski run during the first two days of the races, and at night, a field of 140 men will compete in slalom under the lights on the face of Howelsen Hill.
During the final two days of racing, the men and women will swap locations and times, with the men racing giant slalom during the day and the women competing in slalom at night.
The giant slalom runs will begin at 9:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. each day, and slalom runs will take place at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
"The prize money is unprecedented for this level of racing," Puckett said.
The Alpine director credits the coming NCAA National Championships and a field of top national level racers for boosting the interest in the Steamboat Springs races this year.
Most of the top college programs from across the country are expected in Steamboat and will be hoping to get a preview of the national championship venues.
U.S. Ski Team members such as Drew Roberts, Erik Fisher and Jake Zamansky also will make the races inviting for regional racers hoping to improve their positions in national points standings.
Thanks to top prize money from sponsors Steamboat Village Brokers, Fox Construction and First Western Mortgage, these races also are attractive to racers who are eligible to accept prize money. Puckett said the money has helped the Steamboat races stand out from others taking place this week across the country.
"We've had tremendous support from the local community," Puckett said. "This is our chance to prove that the Alpine ski racing legacy is alive and doing well."
Puckett said national vendors are going to set up tents at the base of Howelsen Hill during the night races, helping create a festive atmosphere he is hoping will draw plenty of spectators to the events.
Steamboat has hosted these races for years, but Puckett said the recent addition of prize money and moving the slalom events to night has given the event new life that he is hoping will lead to bigger events in the future.
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