John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs In less than 100 days, the best Alpine ski racers in America will step onto an international stage where they will showcase their skills against the best the world has to offer at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The skiers are the best our country has to offer, but they didn’t get there overnight.
The journey includes entry-level and middle-level events that help skiers progress. If they are good enough, they will qualify for FIS races, the NorAm and Europa Cup. If they are successful, they eventually will end up at the World Cup level and possibly even the Olympics.
The events are essential to the success of American ski racing.
Last month, the community of Steamboat Springs proved it was a leader on the ski slopes once again when it was recognized for its efforts at a luncheon hosted by the Rocky Mountain Division.
The division honored five businesses with its service and support awards. SmartWool, Millennium Bank, Steamboat Village Brokers, Surefoot and Edward Jones were all recognized for supporting ski racing in Colorado.
Terry DelliQuadri, the Rocky/Central Regional Director with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said without the support of businesses like these, some of America’s top racers might never see the Olympics.
SmartWool has supported the Colorado Ski Cup, an introductory race series, for several years. Last winter, Millennium Bank stepped to the plate, and with the help of Steamboat Village Brokers and Edward Jones along with Chris Puckett, introduced the Millennium Junior Ski Cup.
Former racer and local skiing supporter David Baldinger Jr. said he lobbied to support that racer series because it fills the gap between the introductory series and the higher-level Surefoot Colorado Ski Cup.
“We wanted a bridge, and we wanted to support ski racing,” Baldinger said. “This was a great opportunity to support ski racing at a grass-roots level.”
DelliQuadri agrees that the new series filled a void in the ladder to bigger things.
“We noticed that a lot of younger racers were buying an FIS license, but they could not qualify to race in the higher-level FIS events,” DelliQuadri said. “This new series has allowed them to qualify for more races and improve their rankings for those higher-level races.”
The fact is that if America wants to stay competitive against the top ski racers in the world, it’s going to take more than the talent, hard work and dedication of the athletes. It’s going to take the continued support of businesses such as Surefoot, which supports the higher-level FIS race events, SmartWool, Millennium Bank, Steamboat Village Brokers and Edward Jones.
This year, the Surefoot Colorado Ski Cup will host events in Steamboat Springs Dec. 19 to 22, the SmartWool Ski Cup will be Jan. 30 and 31 and the Millennium Bank Jr. Ski Cup will hold its championships here March 19 to 22.