Freestyle skiers get testy

Athletes get practice at regional meet

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Last week, the best freestyle skiers in the country came to the U.S. Team Trials looking for a chance to go to the 2006 Winter Games.

This week, the next generation of freestyle skiing stars will arrive hoping to follow in the footsteps of those Olympic hopefuls during one of the biggest Rocky Mountain Division Freestyle meets of the season.

"Most of these skiers were either at or watched the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team Trials on television last week," said Eric Skinner, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freestyle program director.

"They are excited about skiing on the same courses as the skiers they look up to and seeing how they match up."

For the past five years, the Steamboat meet has broken Rocky Mountain Division records in attendance. Skin-ner said he thought this year's event will follow the trend.

He said he expected to draw at least 150 skiers to the main individual event this week and talented fields to the halfpipe and aerial events, as well.

"Everybody wants to come to Steamboat Springs," Skin-ner said. "They know we have great courses, and they know this is going to be a great competition."

The Mavericks Superpipe will host the opening event Friday. The forerunners will get things rolling at 10:16 a.m.

That evening, the competitors will move to Howelsen Hill for a rare nighttime aerials competition. Training will run from 2 to 4 p.m. The main competition will open with forerunners at 4:15 p.m.

On Saturday, the juniors will compete in the first mogul event of the weekend on Voo Doo ski run. Sunday will feature the open event with skiers of all ages going head to head through the unforgiving bumps on the steep-pitched face of Mount Werner.

Skinner said he expected about 30 local skiers to take part in the third Rocky Mountain Division meet of the season. The skiers have competed in Winter Park on Dec. 3 and 4, and in Keystone on Dec. 17 and 19.

"The courses (in Steamboat) are in excellent condition right now," Skinner said. "They've been buffed out for the Olympic Trials and will provide a solid test for the skiers who come here."

This weekend also will be a chance for the regional skiers to test the courses before the divisional championships, which take place the first week of March in Steamboat Springs. The courses and venues should be similar for those end-of-season championships.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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