Steamboat Cup Alpine racing series opener gives young skiers 1st giant slalom taste | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Cup Alpine racing series opener gives young skiers 1st giant slalom taste

Ben Ingersoll

Cooper Puckett dominated Saturday at the Steamboat Cup opener giant slalom held on Steamboat Ski Area's Sitz-See Me run. Puckett, 11, skied up an age class to win the U14 boys division.

— For a large pool of U10-plus, U12 and U14 skiers competing at Sunday’s first of three Steamboat Cup races at Steamboat Ski Area, the Sitz-See Me giant slalom course was their inaugural taste of what Alpine racing is all about.

For the other portion, mostly the U12 and U14 athletes, the opening Cup race was treated as just another training session with a bit of added pressure of wearing a bib and flying down to a crowd of family and friends waiting at the course’s base.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s new Alpine Director Caroline Lalive Carmichael has been on both sides of that fence — a newcomer ski racer way back when as well as an Olympian years later. Now, she oversees this pool of young men and women living out their Alpine skiing dreams.

"Today was great," Lalive Carmichael said. "I think it was a new experience for a lot of kids. Just getting them in the motion of racing is huge. Giving them that exposure. Kids get nervous. I think just learning the ropes is so huge. For other kids — the older kids — it was more of a training opportunity for them to turn it up and get it going."

Cooper Puckett, 11, skied up an age class with the U14 boys and didn’t disappoint, winning convincingly. Second place in the U14 boys went to Marat Washburn, and Kyle Kagan took third.

In the girls U14 division, Riley Smith beat out runner-up Sequoia Anstine for first. Alex Blair took third.

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Jordan Simon won the U12 boys class and had a comparable time to that of the top-tier U14 boys Saturday. In the U12 girls race, Ryli Adrian took the win ahead of Sydney O’Hare in second and Annika Ort in third.

Cade Gedon was the U10-plus boys winner, and Abby and Avery Olson took 1-2 in the U10-plus girls division.

Lilly Patterson was the girls Telemark champion, and Sal Malone won the boys Telemark.

The same age class contingent competing in Saturday’s Cup opener will be back at Sitz-See Me next Saturday, Sunday and Monday for a bigger, more competitive USSA event that will draw giant slalom skiers from across the state.

"The kids are all skiing really well and demonstrating all the things we’ve been working on the last couple weeks leading up to this," Winter Sports Club U12 Alpine head coach Jack Ignatius said. "For all of these kids, they have that race coming next weekend. This is a great taste of what to expect at that one. I’m really excited to see what they’re going to do."

The next Steamboat Cup event will be a slalom at Bashor Bowl at Steamboat Ski Area at 1 p.m. Jan. 17. The final Cup event will be slalom-GS combination at 1 p.m. Feb. 14, also at Bashor Bowl.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll