John F. Russell: Racing into the future

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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.

— It’s hard to say whether there were any future skiing stars in the field of Friday’s Soda Pop Slalom race at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

But perhaps somewhere in the chaos that consumed the finish area was the next Lindsey Vonn or Bode Miller. Chances are, if the next Olympian was there, you would have found him or her enjoying a free soda pop or lollipop that came in the goodie bag each racer got at the finish line.

It’s no big secret that the Soda Pop Slalom is one of the coolest races of the season in Steamboat Springs. It mixes two of our town’s favorite things — cute kids and snow. How could you go wrong?

Every February, fans gather along the sides of the Stampede ski trail to watch some of our town’s most talented young skiers race to the finish. But if those fans came hoping to see some heated competition, they would have left disappointed.

The race isn’t about winning or getting a trophy at the finish line. All of the racers get the same prize — a bag filled with treats and a soda pop to quench their thirst.

This race is about children having a good time. It also is a starting point for many of the young athletes who are stepping into the starting gate for the first time. It was a place for children to show and sharpen their skills, and to discover what it’s like to be on a race course. It was a place where children could develop a love for the sport of skiing.

The event is the perfect fit for the annual Winter Carnival celebration and a perfect example of what Steamboat Springs is all about. Most of the children never will grow into an Olympic champion, but who knows what might happen?

Maybe someday, a skier will step to the microphone at an Olympic press conference and tell us how they were introduced to the sport of ski racing during the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival. Maybe they will tell us that the Soda Pop Slalom is where they fell in love with the idea of speeding through gates on a steep-pitched slope.

But even if the Soda Pop Slalom doesn’t produce our next Olympic champion, it’s still an important part of our town’s winter celebration. Opportunities like the Soda Pop Slalom are one of the reasons why we all live in this mountain town.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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