CU skiers return home for alpine race

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— Familiarity with the terrain shouldn't be a problem when the University of Colorado Alpine ski team opens its season in Steamboat Springs on Saturday and Sunday.

Six current Buffs - who will ski a giant slalom race at 9 a.m. Saturday on the See Me run at the Steamboat Ski Area and a slalom race at 9 a.m. Sunday at Howelsen Hill - used to call Steamboat home.

Josh Bryan, Drew Roberts, Pat Duran, Tony Cesolini, Lisa Perricone and Heidi Hillenbrand all have ties to Steamboat.

"Most of (our skiers) are from Steamboat, so it's good to have it there," Colorado ski coach Richard Rokos said. "We definitely have two homes. For most of our kids, Steamboat is their original home."

Colorado finished third in the NCAA Championships last year. This weekend, the Buffaloes will host eight other teams, including 2007 national runner-up University of Denver, as well as perennial contenders New Mexico, Utah and Montana State.

Although the University of Colorado normally trains at Eldora Mountain Resort near Nederland, Rokos said Steamboat is the ideal choice for a season-opener - and not only because of the familiarity his team has with the terrain.

"Steamboat's one of the best host sites in the nation," Rokos said. "The engagement with the people, the spectators, it's something you usually don't see."

Colorado returns all but one of its skiers on the alpine side.

The men's team returns everyone and includes Bryan, a 2007 second team All-American, and Roberts, who has skied in the NCAA Championships as well as at the World University Games.

But Duran might have the most interesting story.

The sophomore is coming off a year of recovery from a broken femur he suffered in training just before the 2006 NCAA Championships in Steamboat.

With Duran returning and a strong women's side, Rokos said 2007 has the potential to be another big year for the Buffs.

"We're working on it," Rokos said. "We have balance in all four places. All four are very equal, it's just a matter of us being consistent."

Because of scheduling conflicts, the Nordic portion of Colorado's invite will be held in Winter Park on Jan. 19 and 20.

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