Preparing for the Cup

Howelsen Hill site of Nordic Combined B event

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If you go

What: Nordic Combined World Cup B Tour

Where: Howelsen Hill, Steamboat Springs

When: Dec 9 to 10. The sprint event is Dec. 9, and the individual Gundersen event is Dec. 10.

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A skier soars above Steamboat Springs during a Nordic combined World Cup B tour event in 2004. Volunteers are needed for this year's event, which is Dec. 8 to 10.

— Preparations are under way for the opening event of the Nordic Combined World Cup B season in Steamboat Springs.

The members of the U.S. Ski Team - including several from Steamboat Springs - were in town during the past week getting a feel for Howelsen Hill.

Thanks to the efforts of the city, Howelsen's K-90 jump opened Monday in time for the skiers to take flight. World Cup B coach Chris Gilbertson said the team will head to Park City for a few days, and then return to Steamboat next week to continue training.

Gilbertson, who was a coach at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club last season, said he is excited about coming back to Steamboat for the World Cup B.

"I'm not normally that optimistic, but I've got a good feeling about this competition," Gilbertson said. "We are coming off of a strong summer and the team's got some high expectations in the first period."

The U.S. Ski Team will be in Steamboat for the World Cup B with the exception of Bill Demong and Johnny Spillane. Those two skiers are the only ones representing the United States on the World Cup A tour.

However, Gilbertson hopes a strong showing in Steamboat will change things for the second period of the season, which begins in January.

The World Cup B will give locals a chance to cheer for several hometown favorites including Bryan Fletcher, Alex Glueck, and brothers Davis and Alex Miller. The athletes spent most of the summer training in Park City, but are excited about coming home.

Todd Wilson, who directs the World Cup B event with Kathi Meyer, hopes for cooler temperatures to help crews make more snow in the coming days. He is confident that the 15-kilometer course and all of the jumps will be ready by the time teams start arriving for the Dec. 9 and Dec. 10 competition.

Wilson knows there is still plenty of work to be done.

"We have a core of volunteers that always come out to support this event, but I think we are going to need an additional 80 to 100 people to make it a success," he said.

Wilson said the tradition of hosting World Cup events began in the 1990s when Steamboat played host to a long series of World Cup A competitions that brought world attention to the town's rich Nordic tradition.

When Steamboat lost the main World Cup tour in 2001, organizers who wanted to see events continue here scrambled and filled the void with a couple of stops on the World Cup B tour.

The B tour is the minor leagues of Nordic combined. It's where athletes earn the points needed to be a part of the World Cup A, and where athletes recovering from injury prove they can still compete at the top level.

"Volunteers are the key (to hosting the event)," Wilson said. "We couldn't do this without their help."

Wilson said experienced volunteers with a background in ski jumping and Nordic combined would fill the technical positions. However, there are plenty of other positions left to fill.

Volunteers will be needed starting Nov. 27 and can earn lift tickets for the time they spend working for the World Cup event. Volunteers are needed to build stairs on the jump hill and place fencing and signs around the course. Volunteer coordinator Kris Seybold said anyone interested in helping out can contact the volunteer hotline at 879-0880, ext. 209, or e-mail her at krisseybold@yahoo.com.

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