Annual Holiday Classic to open ski race season at Howelsen | SteamboatToday.com

Annual Holiday Classic to open ski race season at Howelsen

Steamboat Springs — The news coming across Anje Worrell's desk has been mixed lately. — The news coming across Anje Worrell's desk has been mixed lately.

— The news coming across Anje Worrell’s desk has been mixed lately.

The bad news is that the Sitz/SeeMe racecourse at Steamboat Ski Area won’t be ready to host a pair of FIS giant slalom races this weekend. Worrell, the Alpine program director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, said those races will be moved to a to-be-determined date in January.

The good news for Worrell – and ski racing fans in Steamboat – is that Howelsen Hill is scheduled to host the annual Holiday Classic from Dec. 21 to 23.

“These races are just so much fun,” Worrell said. “It’s a great opportunity for our athletes and other athletes from other regions. It’s also a great chance to come out and watch these top athletes perform in an exciting event.”

The four-race series will begin with a men’s slalom race Dec. 21 under the recently improved lighting system at Howelsen Hill. The winner of that event will pocket $1,000 for his efforts. The second- and third-place finishers also will win prizes.

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The men are scheduled to return to the steep-pitched slopes of Howelsen on the morning of Dec. 22 for the second and final men’s slalom race of the weekend. Once again, the winner will earn $1,000. The second- and third-place finishers will receive prizes.

That night, the women will take to the racecourse for the first of two slalom races. The women also will race the morning of Dec. 23. Just like the men, the women will race for cash. The winner of each race will earn $1,000. There also will be prizes for second and third place.

Several sponsors, including Steamboat Village Brokers, Alpine Bank and Resort Ventures West, will provide the prize money. Edward Jones will host a “Champions Dinner” for former winners Dec. 20 at Freshies.

Night races are expected to start at 4:45 p.m. with the first run. The top 30 racers will be flipped for the second run, which is tentatively planned for 7 p.m. The daytime races are tentatively scheduled to start at 9 a.m. with the first run. Once again, the top 30 racers will be flipped for the second run later in the morning. Worrell said the final schedule has not been solidified and that start times are still unofficial.

“We’ve had great support from our sponsors for several years, and this is becoming one of the most popular races in the region,” said Chris Puckett, former SSWSC Alpine director and chief of race for the Holiday Classic. “We want to get a lot of people out to support these events. If we can do that, someday we hope to bring in a women’s NorAm event or possibly a World Cup slalom here. I don’t think it’s out of the question, but we have to show the organizers that we have the support.”

In an effort to draw larger crowds, night races have been added to the event the past couple of years. Puckett also is working to get more vendors set up at the base, and he hopes that the prize money will draw more high-level racers.

Worrell said she would love to see the races grow to that level, but for now, she’s just happy to have a race series at Howelsen that provides an opportunity for her own athletes to compete at a high level in front of hometown crowds.

-To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com