Steamboat Springs Thanks to the new plastic at Howelsen Hill, the young athletes in Todd Wilson's jumping and Nordic combined programs logged more time on the hill this summer than ever before.
"This is the summer that we've dreamed about," Wilson said.
It was a dream because some of the younger jumpers in the Steamboat Springs programs doubled, and in some cases tripled, the number of jumps they typically log in a summer. And they spent less time on the road traveling between home and places such as Park City, Utah, and Lake Placid, N.Y.
Wilson said he might see the results of that added work this winter in competitions but that the full impact of the new jump will really be evident in two or three years, when the younger athletes in his program move into the higher level competitions.
"It has been a plus for all the athletes in our program, but I think it has really helped the younger kids who may not have traveled to other places to train in past summers," Wilson said. "Now, they can train at home. It's been great for the athletes and the parents. There were fewer trips that parents were expected to pay for."
However, the team has hit the road a few times this summer. The team visited Park City once in July and twice in August for training camps and competitions.
This month, several older jumpers traveled to Chicago for a Super Tour event at Fox Grove Run.
"Basically, we wanted to go there for the competition," coach Martin Bayer said. "We only took a few jumpers, and it was a pretty demanding road trip."
Bayer jumped in a van and drove 17 hours with Trevor Wert, Taylor Fletcher, Cliff Field and Jake Barker to get to the competition.
Bayer said the Steamboat athletes had high expectations when they left for the trip. Some of the results fell short of what the team and coaches had hoped for, but considering the long drive and the level of the field at the Super Tour event, Bayer wasn't complaining when he returned.
"We've got a couple of weeks at home to prepare for the next meet in Lake Placid," Bayer said. "There is some room for improvement, and I expect our guys to have a good showing there."
Wert finished 14th overall in Chicago, and Fletcher, a Nordic combined skier, was 20th in the event. The competition was won by Johnny Lyon, who was followed by Chris Francis in second and Anders Johnson in third.
Bayer said the meet was characterized by unpredictable winds that challenged local jumpers.
Although the weekend was somewhat disappointing for the older jumpers, Bayer said he was encouraged by what he saw from Field and Barker. Field was eighth in the junior class, and Barker was 10th.
The Steamboat jumpers will get another chance in October, when they head to Lake Placid for the Flaming Leaves competition.
Bayer said it's an opportunity for the older guys to improve their positions headed into the winter and to qualify for upcoming competitions.