Series gives ski jump start

Youngsters get chance to compete in Nordic heritage

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Cory McConnell takes off the 50-meter jump in the light of night at Howelsen Hill. The Hitchens Brothers Wednesday Jump Series, which will feature four events begins Jan. 3.

The Hitchens Brothers Wednesday Night Jump Series is about competition, history and promoting Steamboat's Nordic heritage.

But it also is about free pizza, pop and cookies.

"We got involved with Wednesday night jumping because our son is a Nordic combined athlete," organizer Hans Berend said. "He got me into it, but now it's one of the really fun things we do every winter."

Berend and his wife, Heidi, are in charge of organizing and running the four-event series, which begins Jan. 3 at Howelsen Hill. The couple has been in charge of the series for the past two winters.

The Wednesday Night Jump Series is open to all Alpine and Nordic jumpers age 13 and younger. This year's series will include events on Jan. 3, Jan. 17, Feb. 14 and March 14. The events begin with a training session from 3:45 to 4:45 the afternoon of an event with the first competitive jumper taking flight at 6 p.m.

"This is one of the best opportunities for all the young kids -not just in the club, but in the community - to have a chance to use these jumps," said Rick DeVos, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. "We feel really lucky as a club to have a complex like this. Jumping has been part of the history of Steamboat for 90 years and Wednesday Night Jump is the thing that allows all of the kids to come and try it."

Registration is from 4:45 until 5:30 p.m., and is required on each night of the series. Late registrations are not accepted. Parents must sign liability waivers for non-Winter Sports Club members.

Free pizza, pop and cookies will be available at Olympian Hall from 5 until 6 p.m.

Competition starts at 6 p.m. on the K-18 hill. The K-25 and K-38 hills also will be used.

All of the competitors will get two jumps and must be at the start gate at the beginning of each hill's competition.

Scoring for Alpine athletes will be based on distance only. Nordic jumpers are scored based on distance as well as style.

Athletes will be divided into divisions based on discipline (Nordic or Alpine), gender and age.

Athletes are allowed to compete on different hills on different nights. However, an athlete must take both competitive jumps on the same hill the night of the competition.

"This is a chance to be a part of our town's rich skiing history," Berend said. "This event is about our heritage."

The jumping competitions are free for competitors thanks to a fund set up by the Hitchens Brothers to support the series. The food also is free, but organizers ask for donations from parents or other non-competitors who are watching the events.

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