Nordic combined skier Cliff Field takes flight off a plastic-covered ski jump during the jumping portion of this year’s Fourth of July Ski Jumping Extravaganza in Steamboat Springs. Most U.S. winter sports teams begin the 2012-13 season in the next month, and the rosters are heavy with Steamboat athletes.

Photo by John F. Russell

Nordic combined skier Cliff Field takes flight off a plastic-covered ski jump during the jumping portion of this year’s Fourth of July Ski Jumping Extravaganza in Steamboat Springs. Most U.S. winter sports teams begin the 2012-13 season in the next month, and the rosters are heavy with Steamboat athletes.

Steamboat winter sports athletes prepare to rev up

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— Although snow hasn't started to fly in Steamboat Springs, it's coming. And with it begins another competitive season on the slopes. With the 2014 Olympics on the horizon, most U.S. teams begin the season in the next month. Here's look ahead to the 2012-13 season:

Nordic combined

First World Cup: Nov. 24 and 25 in Lillehammer, Norway

The Nordic combined team returns to competitive action in a little less than a month. With the Olympic qualifying season beginning, expect the American squad to ramp things up. After a down 2011-12 season, the team seemed rededicated to taking its place again among the Nordic combined elite. All three veterans — Billy Demong, Johnny Spillane and Todd Lodwick — are in great shape entering the season.

Steamboat athletes to watch: Really, the whole team has ties to Steamboat. The most interesting element should be the development of Bryan Fletcher into a top contender. After winning the final event last season, Fletcher looks poised for a big season. The team also is refocused after a hangover from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The World Championship in Val di Fiemme, Italy, also will mark the 10-year anniversary of Spillane winning his improbable World Championship that set the team up for greater future success.

Cross-country

First World Cup: Nov. 24 and 25 in Gaellivare, Sweden

The cross-country team features 13 athletes and FIS World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall. Randall is joined on the A Team by Liz Stephen, Kris Freeman and Andy Newell. Jessie Diggins and Simi Hamilton join the A Team as newcomers.

Steamboat athletes to watch: None.

Alpine

First World Cup: Saturday and Sunday in Soelden, Austria

The United States Alpine team returns a strong contingent to the slopes for the 2012-13 season. Led by four-time world champ Lindsey Vonn, the U.S. again should be strong. Ted Ligety and Bode Miller anchor the men’s team. Miller, however, will be out of the first World Cup to rest a surgically repaired left knee. It should be interesting how young female skiers Alice McKennis, from Glenwood Springs, and Mikaela Shiffrin do.

Steamboat athletes to watch: Anna Marno. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club member is on the D Team. Marno will continue to move her way up after a strong finish to last season. Marno was fifth overall in downhill at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Aspen. She closed out the season with three podiums as the top junior at the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships.

Freestyle moguls

First World Cup: Dec. 15 in Ruka, Finland

The freestyle moguls team returns as one of the more dominant ones in winter sports. Led by gold medalist and reigning world champion Hannah Kearney, the U.S. is tough on the women’s and men’s sides. Kearney was injured in a training accident in early October, fracturing two ribs. The men’s side again should be strong with Pat Deneen and Jeremy Cota battling for podium finishes.

Steamboat athletes to watch: Eliza Outtrim (A Team), Cota (A), Deneen (A), Brittany Loweree (B) and Ryan Dyer (C). Outtrim will be out to make her first Olympic team while Cota and Deneen should battle every World Cup with a strong Canadian team for podium finishes. Dyer, after injury, could inch his way up. The Winter Sports Club also has several athletes on the cusp of making the team.

Snowboard cross

First World Cup: Dec. 6 to 8 in Montafon, Austria

United States snowboard cross returns its strong team from last year. Led by Lindsey Jacobellis on the women’s side and Nate Holland and Seth Westcott on the men’s side, the United States should dominate.

Steamboat athletes to watch: Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes Belle Brockhoff, Jenna Feldman, Jarryd Hughes and Mick Dierdorff should have shots at World Cup starts. Brockhoff and Hughes, both Australian, should have chances to make their case for the Olympic team with strong seasons.

Snowboard half-pipe

First Grand Prix: Dec. 20 to 22 in Park City, Utah

The half-pipe team remains one of the strongest in the world. Led by Shawn White, Louie Vito, Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark, the United States has been at the forefront of competition results for more than a decade.

Steamboat athletes to watch: The “who’s next” list of snowboarders is chock-full of Steamboat riders. Matt Ladley, Maddy Schaffrick and Benji Farrow already are on the pro team with Taylor and Arielle Gold pressing to make the list. All should have a good chance to make the jump to the top level this season. Paul Brichta, Kirby Kelly and Natalie Geer also have earned 2013 Grand Prix invites.

Telemark

First World Cup: Jan. 12 and 13 in Bohinj, Slovenia

The team has a distinct Steamboat flavor to it. Seven Steamboat athletes dot the national and developmental teams.

Steamboat athletes to watch: Zoe Taylor and Madi McKinstry highlight the women’s side, and Charlie Dresen and Jeffrey Gay make up part of the men’s side.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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