Long-running Nordic events highlight Steamboat Springs winter calendar

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— As expected, January has been filled with plenty of chilly weather, but luckily for local skiers, the Nordic scene in Steamboat Springs is just heating up.

On Wednesday night, young ski jumpers will take flight in the first of four events that make up the annual Hitchens Brothers Wednesday Night Jump Series, sponsored by Nordic Excavating and SmartWool.

The annual jump series is a rite of passage for young skiers in Steamboat Springs, and it’s free. The series offers Nordic and Alpine categories on the HS20, HS30 and HS45 jumps. The athlete’s age determines which jump will launch the athletes into the air; however, there is an open class offered for athletes who might not be ready for some of the bigger hills in the competition.

“It can be competitive at times, but it’s really just designed to let children come out and have a good time,” organizer Terin Petersen said. Petersen has helped organize the event the past six years, but this will be her last event.

“I’m passing the torch and will be there to make sure there is a smooth transition,” Petersen said.

The event is for competitors ages 7 to 13. Younger competitors will be allowed to compete if they’ve been cleared to jump by coaches. Registration begins at 4:45 p.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m. There are no later registrations.

As part of the evening, children are treated to free pizza and cookies. Parents also can eat but are asked to make a donation to cover the pizza at the next ski jumping event. Competition beings at 6 p.m., and there is a short awards ceremony after the competition.

Wednesday's series event is the first of four this winter. There also will be competitions Jan. 29, Feb 12 and March 5.

Cross-country skiers will get their shot when the fourth race of the Sven Wiik Nordic Cup series, which opened Dec. 21, takes place Sunday. The Ski Haus Classic will begin at 10 a.m. at Catamount Ranch & Club and offers skiers recreational and competitive races.

“We want to encourage skiers of all levels and abilities to come out," organizer Birgitta Lindgren said. “We offer a number of different races that will appeal to almost any racer."

The series opened Dec. 21 with a race at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center before moving to the Home Ranch for the second race Jan. 5. Last weekend, the Ski Touring Center hosted the Steamboat Stampede, which was the third race in the series.

The final race in the series, the Ski Marathon, is Feb. 15 at Catamount.

The racers in the competitive division have to earn points throughout the season based on their results. The top point-earners will be rewarded for the top overall finishes at the end of the winter. Top finishers in the recreational category also are recognized but do not earn points in the season series.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Lindgren said. “We normally get about 60 or 70 skiers for an event. That’s the average.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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