Winter athlete Charlie Stoddard practices his ski jumping Saturday at the Howelsen Hill ski jump, which recently was opened for the season.

Photo by Brian Ray

Winter athlete Charlie Stoddard practices his ski jumping Saturday at the Howelsen Hill ski jump, which recently was opened for the season.

Twin Miller brothers shooting for World Cup A

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— Nordic combined skier Davis Miller estimates that he made more than 370 jumps in competition and training last summer.

On Friday, Miller and an elite group of American jumpers returned to the ski jumps at Howelsen Hill, hoping to add to that number - but with a new sense of excitement.

"This is our first time on snow," Miller said. "It's totally different. I have new skis, and it's a very different feeling than plastic."

But while the weather and skis might be different, his goal is the same in summer and winter - to be the best.

Among the athletes who joined Miller on Howelsen's HS75 (K68) hill were the members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team's "A" and "B" squads, the U.S. Women's ski jumping team and a number of developmental special jumpers on the men's side.

Miller's twin brother also was on the hill.

"I'm looking to move up to World Cup A this season," Alex Miller said. "I want to be in the top 40."

Davis and Alex, who were raised in Steamboat Springs, are expected to start on the World Cup B team when the season resumes in December. Top finishes on that tour could earn the skiers a shot at the World Cup A tour early next year.

The brothers are coming off a strong summer training season and are hoping the progress they made on plastic last summer will pay off when the World Cup season returns this winter.

"We take more jumps in the summer," Alex Miller said. "I would say we take two-thirds fewer jumps in the winter."

The down time between summer training and the start of the winter season is getting shorter, due to the plastic-covered jumps and improvements in snowmaking at Howelsen.

Athletes in Steamboat Springs were jumping on plastic less than two weeks ago, and were back on snow Friday.

Todd Wilson, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's Nordic director, said it's great to see top jumpers back at Howelsen for the start of the winter. He also was thrilled to see jumpers back on snow just two weeks after the plastic-covered jump was closed.

"This is why we wanted the plastic," Wilson said. "Two weeks of down time - that's better than we could have asked for."

Warm temperatures across much of the western United States also contributed to a busy weekend for Steamboat Springs. The plastic jumps in Park City, Utah, are still closed, and crews have not been able to make snow because of warm weather. The jumps are expected to open soon, but the jumps in Steamboat currently are the only ones open in North America. The opening allowed the U.S. Nordic combined and women's special jumping teams to get back on snow sooner.

The opening of the Steamboat jumps also is good news for the members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Those athletes also jumped this weekend and will move to their normal winter schedules next week.

They also will begin to prepare for the Steamboat Winter Start, which is scheduled to take place Dec. 15. That event will bring top athletes in the region to Howelsen for a top-level competition. Steamboat also will host the Canadian team later this month.

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