Holiday races building renown | SteamboatToday.com

Holiday races building renown

— On paper, the Holiday Classic is just four ski races during the course of three days.

But Chris Puckett, Alpine director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, thinks the races are growing into something bigger than an entry-level International Ski Federation race.

“These are becoming classic FIS races,” Puckett said. “In terms of points, they are just another entry-level event, but they’ve drawn top racers in the past and they are becoming the type of ski race that nobody wants to miss.”

This year’s Holiday Classic begins Friday afternoon at Howelsen Hill with the first women’s race of the weekend.

“It’s rare to have a chance to see slalom races this good with your own eyes,” Puckett said. “There’s going to be some great athletes here, and you can see them from start to finish on the face of Howelsen.”

The women’s first race is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. Friday, and the second run will start at 7 p.m. Puckett expects about 130 women to step into the starting gate, including U.S. Ski Team members Julia Littman and Keeley Kelleher. There also will be top collegiate racers, including Steamboat’s Tina Roberts, Lisa Perricone and Lindsay McClure. On Saturday morning, the women will compete in a slalom race beginning at 9:30 a.m. Puckett said the second run is scheduled to begin at about noon.

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On Saturday night, a full field of men’s racers will take to the icy track at Howelsen. The first run of slalom is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by a second run at 7 p.m.

In past years the field has been filled with top college racers and developing U.S. Ski Team members. Puckett expects the college racers to return, but isn’t sure about which national team skiers will be on hand.

“I haven’t got a lot of commitments from those guys, but they have a few more days to register for the races,” Puckett said.

The Holiday Classic has been a popular stop because it’s one of the few places national-level skiers can win money for top finishes. This year the Holiday Classic will offer $5,000 in prize money, including a $500 prize for skiers who win a race and another $500 for the top male and female racer in both events. Skiers also can win $300 for a second-place finish and $200 for a third-place finish. College racers must turn down the money because of NCAA rules. Puckett said those skiers can win plenty of prizes and other stuff donated by sponsors.

More than the prizes, Puckett said the races have earned a reputation for drawing top fields, and he said skiers enjoy the atmosphere and excitement that comes from racing under the lights in front of large crowds.

The events also provide a great chance for many of Steamboat Springs’ younger skiers to pick up valuable FIS points that will help them earn better starting positions for races later this winter.

Local skiers earn top finishes in Winter Park races

Steamboat Springs ski racer Lauren Brien will be among the favorites in this weekend’s Holiday Classic.

Brien picked up a fifth-place finish in an FIS giant slalom on Monday in Winter Park. The race was won by Sun Valley, Idaho’s Hailey Duke. Brien also finished seventh in a giant slalom race held on the same course Sunday. Duke won that race, too.

“Those were great races for Lauren,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine director Chris Puckett said. “She is skiing really fast right now, and I think she will be strong this weekend.”

Brien led the local skiers at the races, which help skiers earn points needed to qualify for higher level races and the national ski team.

Other top Steamboat finishers in Sunday’s races included Lisa Perricone’s eight-place showing, Jennifer Allen’s 19th-place showing and Mary Rachel Hostetter’s 29th-place showing.

Steamboat’s Heidi Hillenbrand finished 37th, and Emily Sackett moved up from her 79th start position to place 57th overall.

On Monday, top finishers included Hostetter in 20th, Letson in 34th and Sackett in 45th.

The Steamboat men also raced recently in Winter Park.

On Dec. 8, Steamboat’s Austin Johnson finished 14th in a race won by Vermont skier Cody Marshall.

Other top Steamboat skiers making big moves included Cory McConnell, who went from 46th to 18th; Taylor Coe, who moved from 73rd to 41st; Andy White, who moved from 65th to 46th; and Ryan Coe, who moved from 94th to 47th.

Ian landy skied from the 99th starting position to finish 50th with teammates Max Marno (58th), Ryan McConnell (61st), Jimmy Hostetler (67th), Wiley Thayer (71st) and Hig Roberts (77th) all making big jumps.

Johnson was also strong in a giant slalom race Dec. 9. Johnson finished seventh in the race. Other top Steamboat finishers included Andy White, who moved from 62nd to 32nd place; Taylor Coe, who moved from 70th to 37th; and Ryan Coe, who moved from 92nd to 39th. Ryan McConnel (47th), Marno (55th), Landy (55th) and Hig Roberts (58th) also made significant jumps during the race.