Tom Ross: Ski just like Olympian Spillane

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— I skied just like Johnny Spillane on Saturday. Maybe a little slower.

Spillane and his teammates Billy Demong and Todd Lodwick competed a 10-kilometer cross-country ski race to wrap up a World Cup Nordic Combined competition in Chaux-Neuve (pronounced Show-Nuff), France, on Saturday.

Just like Spillane and the fellas, I skied a 10-kilometer race (6.2 miles) Saturday during the Steamboat Stampede at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center. It was the opening race of the Sven Wiik Cup series. Spillane, skiing on the other side of the Atlantic, beat me by just 24 minutes.

Another way to say it would be to point out that it took me more than twice as long as it took Spillane to ski 6.2 miles. My Olympic aspirations have dissipated.

I was remarkably slow on a spectacularly prepared track. I was so slow Saturday that while I was out on the race course, Brett Favre had time to make up his mind about retiring this spring.

The 11:24 a.m. Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta descended into Yampa Valley Regional Airport, unloaded passengers and baggage, took off on the return leg and crossed the Continental Divide before I crossed the finish line. Yep, I was slower than a Boeing 737 on Saturday.

And you know what? It doesn’t really matter how fast or slow I was.

Racing isn’t for everyone, and we shouldn’t feel like we have to be bona fide weekend warriors to visit one of the cross-country touring centers in and around Steamboat.

The Steamboat Springs Nordic Council wants you to give cross-country skiing a try. That’s why they’ve started the Newbies Program.

Racers who sign up for one of the next three events in the Sven Wiik Cup will be handed a guest bib to transfer to a never-ever skier — no racing involved.

The guest bib is good for a set of rental equipment on race day, a free trial pass and a very informal clinic at the race venue.

“After the racers have all left the starting line, we’ll invite the newbies to bring their skis and we’ll get them started from the very beginning,” the Nordic Council’s Jeff Nelson said. “One

of our goals is to increase the number of people

enjoying this lifetime sport. It’s one of the great things about living in this valley, and we want to share the wealth.”

Right about now you might be saying, “I want to give it a try, and I don’t want to wait for some racer to choose me.”

I have a feeling that if you go to the Nordic Council’s Web page at www.steamboatxcski.org — click on the contact link and call one of the members of the board of directors, they’re going to hook you up.

There are three races remaining in the Sven Wiik Cup series: this Sunday, and again Feb. 20 and 27.

You don’t have to ski fast. Just ski.

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