John F. Russell: Producing top skiers keeps club busy

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— The only people working harder than Santa’s elves last week may have been the staff, coaches and volunteers of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Steamboat successfully hosted two major events last week, including the U.S. Freestyle Selections event, which included three competitions during four days, and the Surefoot Holiday Classic, which featured four days of slalom racing at Steamboat Ski Area and Howelsen Hill.

The events were part of a busy December for the club that also included two NorAm snowboard races and several other events. But it was nothing unusual for the club, Executive Director Rick DeVos said.

He says the club will continue to stay busy the rest of the winter, hosting several events in January, February and March. By the time spring arrives, the Winter Sports Club will have hosted more than 100 events and will be close to last year’s record-setting effort of 108 events.

DeVos says hosting competitive events is a focus of the club and it allows local skiers to compete at home during the winter. It also brings thousands of visitors to town to fill local hotel rooms. DeVos says the club estimates that competitive skiing events fill about 10,000 room nights during the course of the winter.

“We do have economic impact here,” DeVos said. “It’s not our main goal, but these events not only provide our skiers with competitive opportunities, they also help our local economy.”

The events also help reinforce Steamboat’s reputation as Ski Town USA. In the past, the competitions have provided a stage for future Olympians — including medalists Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong, Travis Mayer and Nelson Carmichael — to excel. They also have given those elite athletes the chance to show the young skiers in Steamboat Springs that making it to the Olympics and representing our town is not only possible, it’s almost expected.

Steamboat has become known for hosting top-level events.

This year the Winter Sports Club will host a Telemark World Cup and junior championships in Alpine and freestyle. There also will be a variety of events for younger Alpine skiers, Nordic athletes and snowboarders. DeVos said the goal is to host a competition for every discipline and every age group.

Achieving that goal makes for a busy winter for the folks who run the events, but it’s hard to find anyone on the staff complaining.

I guess the people who make the schedule each year can see that the result of hosting all those events is a club that continues to produce top-tier skiers and snowboarders.

So maybe the staff worked harder than Santa’s elves the past week, but the result is a gift the whole community can take pride in.

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