John F. Russell: Returning the Continental Cup to Steamboat
August 29, 2010
If former Olympic Nordic combined skier Todd Wilson has his way, some of the world's top Nordic combined skiers will be in Steamboat Springs in December. Not for a vacation, but to take part in the Continental Cup's return to Steamboat Springs and Howelsen Hill. But for Wilson to get his way, he's going to need some help — well, a lot of help — from Nordic combined supporters and Steamboat.
Steamboat last hosted the Continental Cup (formerly called the World Cup B) in 2008. But changes in FIS rules requiring the venues to pay more to host an event took Steamboat off the schedule last season. The idea of Steamboat hosting another event came up in conversations with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association in the spring, and despite never making an official request, Steamboat was placed on the 2010-11 calendar.
Wilson said he was surprised when he saw Steamboat on the schedule and isn't confident that our mountain town, which has a long history of supporting Nordic combined events, will be able to bring it back this winter. But he's willing to give it a shot.
"It's a long shot," Wilson said. "The good news is that the USSA gave us $7,500 to hold the event."
The bad news is that organizers would need to raise another $50,000 by mid-September to secure the event, scheduled for Dec. 3 to 5. If it doesn't happen by then, Wilson said Steamboat would need to take its name off the schedule to be fair to the FIS and European athletes who already are making winter travel plans.
Wilson said he knows it's a lot to ask of the community in the current economic conditions, but he feels like he owes it to Steamboat to at least try to see whether there is any interest in the event.
"If it doesn't happen, there is nothing we can do about it. But at least we will know that we gave it a shot."
It's a leap of faith. But it's a leap that Wilson thinks could pay off in a number of positive ways. He said the event would bring elite athletes to Steamboat and continue to promote Nordic combined skiing in the United States while reminding the world of our town's key role in producing Olympic champions.
If Wilson has his way, he will persuade Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane or Billy Demong to stop back and compete in a hometown Continental Cup. Not for the points, but as a way to thank the community that helped the skiers reach their Olympic goals.
But if those champions didn't show up, Wilson said he still would be excited.
He knows a new generation, including several top skiers from Steamboat, is waiting in the wings, and he would love to see those skiers take flight at Howelsen. That's exactly what will happen in December if Wilson gets his way.