Steamboat Springs Spectators at Saturday night’s Surefoot Holiday Classic at Howelsen Hill didn’t need to look much farther than the bib numbers they sported or age groups a select few Winter Sports Club skiers competed in to understand the magnitude of their accomplishments.
In the ladies slalom, a pair of Under-18 Alpine skiers — Serina Kidd and Ellese Lupori — showed what they were capable of against some of the country’s and world’s top athletes.
Kidd led all Steamboat ladies skiers with a 12th-place finish and a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 32.67 seconds.
Lupori’s performance showed her grit and come-from-behind competitive nature.
Wearing bib number 59 — which would also serve as Lupori’s starting place heading into run one — Lupori made up 45 places to snag 14th under the lights at Howelsen. It was a performance “you don’t see every day,” Winter Sports Club Alpine director Deb Armstrong said about Lupori on Saturday.
“Alice and Serina, they got top-15 results and they are juniors,” Armstrong said following the ladies slalom. “To be juniors and to place top 15 in this field is extraordinary, really.”
The field drew some of the top international and collegiate Alpine skiers one can find. From Europeans and Argentinians to East Coast and West Coast athletes, Armstrong said the Holiday Classic is something just about everyone circles on their calendars before the season begins.
“These college athletes here are the best racers in the country,” Armstrong said. “That’s what defines a ‘classic’ race. You have to have the talent. To be a classic you have to have the best talent and atmosphere, which we do at Howelsen. It has to be a quality race and a fair race.”
Of course, the prize money helps, too. Up for grabs courtesy of Chris Puckett from the Steamboat Springs Edward Jones office was $1,000 for ladies and mens slalom victors. Hailey Duke, a 2010 Olympian and member of the US Ski Team, took the ladies slalom in 1 minute, 24.65 seconds, making up 14 spots from the start list.
Other ladies SSWSC athletes finishing two runs Saturday included Natalie Pearl (26th place) and Marnie Buckley (43rd place).
In all, 47 ladies slalom skiers recorded two-run times and the men’s side featured 63 athletes, but more than 120 men were on the start list to begin the day.
Zak Kjos led all SSWSC skiers with a 36th-place finish after entering competition with the 81st start slot in run one. Devin DeJong came in 46th, Jesse Laughlin was 52nd and Parker Temple finished 57th.
“People need to understand is (that) there are 120 boys racing,” Armstrong said. These are "120 of the top racers in the country, and you’ll be able to assess if it was successful or not" based on that.
Holiday Classic racing wraps up Sunday at Howelsen.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll