Griffin Sides soars through a snowstorm last winter during a Big Air event at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. The five-event Steamboat Park Challenge series kicks off its third season Sunday at the Steamboat Ski Area.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Griffin Sides soars through a snowstorm last winter during a Big Air event at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. The five-event Steamboat Park Challenge series kicks off its third season Sunday at the Steamboat Ski Area.

Steamboat Park Challenge returns Sunday

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2013 Steamboat Park Challenge schedule

Jan. 13: Slopestyle — Rabbit Ears Terrain Park

Feb. 10: Slopestyle — Rabbit Ears Terrain Park

Feb. 24: Slopestyle — Rabbit Ears Terrain Park

March 17: Big Air — Mavericks Terrain Park

March 24: Slopestyle — Rabbit Ears Terrain Park

Organizers started the Steamboat Park Challenge essentially as an answer to Town Challenge ski racing: Provide an all-comers option for those skiers and riders who like to hit the features in terrain parks. Now, as the skiing and snowboarding series prepares to launch into its third season Sunday, director David Poussard said that vision has proven successful, and they’re sticking with it.

“The whole idea was to put on a fun and friendly competition where people can come and compete,” he said. “For those who have never competed in a freestyle competition, this is great for them.”

The events have turned into a mix of the experienced and inexperienced. The top riders and skiers throw jaw-dropping tricks and vie for victories. Plenty of others set less ambitious goals and take pride in slowly escalating their skiing or riding and nailing clean runs.

The festivities begin with registration at 9 a.m. Sunday at Competition Services in the top floor of the Ski and Snowboard School building at Steamboat Ski Area. The cost is $20 per competitor.

Training in Rabbit Ears Terrain Park, which will play host to four of the series’ five competitions, begins at 10 a.m., and actual runs start at 11 a.m.

“Every year it’s been growing,” Poussard said. “We’re looking at getting bigger numbers this year, too. Hopefully we will get more people involved in some of the smaller classes.”

He said the series drew between 40 and 50 athletes a year ago, with some of the juniors divisions and the women's divisions having the fewest athletes.

The series continues Feb. 10 with another slopestyle competition in Rabbit Ears Terrain Park. It does the same Feb. 24. There’s a St. Patrick’s Day Big Air competition in the Mavericks Terrain Park on March 17, then the final Rabbit Ears Terrain park slopestyle on March 24.

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