Steamboat Springs Alpine snowboarder Justin Reiter was excited about the opening World Cup race of the season, even if it will take place inside what he refers to as a giant refrigerator.
"It's a nice place to open the World Cup," Reiter said before leaving for SnowWorld, an indoor ski resort in the Netherlands. "It's a unique experience to ski inside in a totally controlled environment."
Reiter said he would miss the sun, which doesn't shine inside the enclosed walls of SkiWorld, but he said the competition inside the garage-like indoor ski resort should provide plenty of heat.
The parallel slalom is expected to draw the best alpine snowboarders in the world, racing for the first World Cup points of the season. Several U.S. riders, including Reiter and teammates Tyler Jewell and Chris Klug, will make the trip. But because it's parallel slalom, a non-Olympic event, the U.S. Ski Team's staff will not make the trip to Landgraaf to support the riders.
"I wouldn't dream of missing the race," Reiter said. "It's a World Cup, so I can't imagine skipping that race to save a few bucks."
Reiter and his Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach, Thedo Remmelink, think making the trip is key to the success of the U.S. team as it prepares for this season and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
That's why many of the riders on the U.S. team have decided to foot the bill out of their own pockets for coaching, support and travel this week. American athletes who will compete include Winter Sports Club riders Reiter, Ben Fairchild, Josh Wylie, Erica Mueller and Zachary Kay. Tyler Jewell, who trained for several years in Steamboat before the 2006 Olympics, also will make the trip, along with former club member Andi Jo Stump.
Remmelink also has been approached by Klug and American Adam Smith for coaching. Remmelink will provide riders with coaching support before and during the race, which is scheduled for Oct. 10.
"All of these riders have great work ethics," Remmelink said. "But many of them are also struggling to make ends meet right now."
U.S. Ski Team spokesman Tom Kelly stated in an e-mail that the decision not to send coaches should not be interpreted as a lack of support for the alpine snowboarding team. He said early-season World Cups present unique challenges for many teams. In the past, he added, the U.S. Ski Team has looked carefully at the expenditures to ensure there really was value in going to the event. He said the team has made similar decisions in other snowboarding, freestyle and cross-country events to make its money work in the best way possible. In this case, he said, the team thinks the money is spent more productively at events that will increase America's chances of earning qualifying spots to the Olympics.
However, Reiter and many of his American teammates decided the Landgraaf event was important - with or without U.S. coaching.
Reiter said he missed part of last season and at least two months this summer with an injury that doctors have not been able to pinpoint. He said he feels good right now, and he is ready to get back on snow and prove himself.
"My goal is to win," Reiter said. "If my body feels strong, and I ride to my ability, I don't think that winning is out of the question."
Reiter is hoping for a solid finish in the World Cup slalom. He said there are not a lot of early-season races to test riders this year. He and his American teammates will have to wait until Dec. 6 for the next race - a parallel giant slalom race set for Grenoble, France.