Aspen and Summit should be the favorites when the high school ski season opens Friday in Copper Mountain, but don't be surprised if the Steamboat Springs Alpine team comes out of the gates hard.
"The trick in high school skiing is to have solid Alpine and Nordic sides," coach Chad Bowdre said. "In the past, we've had a great Alpine team, or a great Nordic team. Now, we just have to put them together."
That's what Aspen and Summit have done in the past, combining to win the past six girls titles and the past two boys titles.
Headed into the first meet of the season, it appears that Steamboat will be stronger on the Alpine side this season, but the team will have to see how its younger Nordic side performs.
Bowdre, the Sailors second-year Alpine coach, said a more favorable schedule should help the Sailors bulk up on the Alpine side.
"The state championships fall a week earlier this year, so there will not be a conflict with the (International Ski Federation) races in Telluride," Bowdre said. "We are going to have a lot more skiers at the races this year."
He said he also thought the more appealing schedule would get his top racers, especially those who compete in United States Ski and Snowboard Association events, to more high school events this season.
Because the high school state championships in Winter Park will be moved up a week to Feb 10 and 11, more Steamboat skiers will be encouraged to qualify, and more will be able to compete.
Last season, many of the top skiers on the high school team had to choose between heading to important Junior Olympic qualifying races or helping Steamboat contend for a state high school title. Some racers tried to do both, but most of the high-level racers attended the qualifier.
The high school Alpine schedule will have six races this season. Giant slalom events are scheduled for Friday in Copper, Jan. 13 in Loveland and Jan. 27 in Aspen.
The Alpine team also is scheduled to compete in slalom races Jan. 6 at Howelsen Hill, Jan. 20 at Beaver Creek and Feb 3 in Vail. Qualified skiers will advance to the high school state championships Feb. 10 and 11 in Winter Park.
Bowdre said he was excited about the Sailors' chances this season -- especially on the Alpine side.
The girl's team will be anchored by returning skiers Robyn Dye and Priska Sorensen. Both skiers finished on the podium at last year's state championships.
Other top skiers on this year's team will include Carolyn Chotvacs, Anna Anderson, Heidi Hillenbrand, M.R. Host--etter, Kathleen Lyon and Jenny Allen.
The team also will get a boost from a large group of younger skiers that includes Chrissy Ford, Hanna Berglund, Jamie Gay and Sarah Dixson.
Bowdre said he thought that Anderson, who competes in Nordic and Alpine events, would contend for this year's skimeister award.
Anderson's former teammate Katie Conrath and Clear Creek's Amber Moran, the only two girls to finish in front of her in 2005, are gone.
The bad news for skiers hoping to win a title this season is that Aspen's Jenny Hearn is expected to return with sights of repeating last season when she won the slalom and giant slalom titles. But Bowdre said he was optimistic his skiers could give the Aspen skier a run for her money.
The Steamboat boys are going to be led by proven skiers such as Ramsey Bernard, Ryan McConnell, Wiley Thayer, Taylor Smith, Ian Landy and Michael Lyon.
Bowdre said he was confident the addition of junior Stephen Bell, sophomore Clinton Gal--orath and such freshmen skiers as Jimmy Hostetler, Ben Paley, Taylor Coe and brother Ryan would make the Steamboat team stronger this season.
The team also should get veteran leadership from the team's only seniors Andrew Hoss and Graham Hogrefe.
The race for the individual title will be a tough in 2006 with defending state champions Tanner McDonald of Summit and Paul Britvar of Aspen returning.