Photo by Matt Stensland
Chris Barounos, left, and Stefan Kowynia train in March at Howelsen Hill with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s ski cross program. Several ski cross events are coming to Steamboat Ski Area in January.
Updated November 16, 2010 at 11:35 p.m.
Steamboat Springs A year ago, Brett Buckles talked about Steamboat Springs becoming a hub for ski and snowboard cross, the fast-growing sports that pit racers against one another on a quasi downhill course with terrain park features.
With the announcement that Steamboat Ski Area will welcome three snowboard cross and ski cross events in late January on a new competition course, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club head ski cross and assistant snowboard cross coach said Steamboat has become the foremost area for each sport.
“I have a bunch of kids getting a hold of me back East,” Buckles said. “I have kids from Australia and one kid from South Korea coming over the holidays. They’re ramping it up and giving the Winter Sports Club a lot of exposure.”
The competitions include a USASA snowboard and ski cross event Jan. 22 and 23, as well as a U.S. Telemark Cross event Jan. 29. The Telemark event is an open qualifier for the international finals in Austria later in the season.
Finally, the area will host a NorAm Hole Shot Tour event Jan. 25 through 27, one of only three stops on the tour. This event will feature some of the best ski cross and snowboard cross competitors in the country.
“I’m really excited to do this with the ski area and excited they stepped up to build it,” said Jon Casson, the Winter Sports Club’s snowboard director. “It’s just one of the elements that makes our program successful.”
Steamboat Terrain Park Manager Nick Roma will build the competition course. Roma was the only American on the 2010 Olympic course design team, a group that had to deal with horrendous conditions at Cypress Mountain north of Vancouver, British Columbia.
The course will begin just below Jess’ Cutoff and wind through the Mavericks Terrain Park, banking around Bashor chairlift and ending on Giggle Gulch.
The course is expected to be 0.7 miles with 150 meters of vertical drop, a little longer than a regulation 100-meter course.
“I think we are lucky to have the on-mountain and park-building team to envision these courses and make them a reality,” ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said. “All those components came together.”
Course construction will begin in early January. After the events, the course will be shortened and open to the public starting in February until the end of the season.
It also will provide one of the lone training grounds in the country for the Winter Sports Club’s snowboard and ski cross athletes.
“It’s giving Steamboat and the club such great exposure,” Buckles said.
“It shows how versatile we are. We are starting the program and pipeline for the 2014 and 2018 Olympians.”