Steamboat to host Continental Cup with 1st women’s Nordic competition
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the second year in a row, Steamboat Springs will play host to the International Ski Federation Continental Cup.
The event is part of a joint bid with Park City, Utah. Steamboat will host a three-day competition Dec. 14 to 19, and Park City will follow with competition Dec. 18 to 20.
“We’ve got a pretty rich tradition of hosting international events, especially in Nordic combined, dating back to 1993,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic combined director Todd Wilson said. “So, we went for consecutive years there and took a seven-year break until last year. We did such a good job that the international ski federation was interested in us doing it.”
The Continental Cup falls into a weekend that does not conflict with any World Cup events, which provides opportunity for some of the world’s best competition to come to Steamboat. Others will compete for points that can earn them top-50 spots to qualify for the World Cup.
With women’s ski jumping making its debut at the Sochi Olympics, Steamboat has decided to host a women’s Nordic combined event at the Continental Cup this year.
“Women’s Nordic combined remains the only winter Olympic sport without both genders,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to build the sport internationally and get a certain number of countries participating. So, the Continental Cup is the next step in development to make it a full-fledged World Cup sport.”
The international women’s Nordic combined Continental Cup will be the first of its kind in the U.S.
The U.S. seems to be pioneering its presence in the women’s side of the sport. Just this summer, American Tara Geraghty-Moats from Lake Placid, New York, won the first-ever FIS women’s Grand Prix in Oberwisenthal, Germany.
Being the host nation for the event comes with the added advantage of extra entries, which could provide opportunities for local Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes.
Wilson said having the first U.S.-hosted competition for women’s Nordic combined provides a special opportunity for Winter Sports Club athletes Tess Arnone, 15, and Alexa Brabec, 14, who would have a shot of making the women’s class.
On the men’s side, it’s a chance for former and current Winter Sports Club athletes Bennett Gamber, Jasper Good, Grant Andrews and Taylor Fletcher to compete on their home turf and earn points toward World Championship qualifications.
Last year, the event cost $70,000 to produce, but local sponsorships covered $50,000, not including the city’s contribution.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will be in charge of staffing for snowmaking, grooming and maintenance of Howelsen Hill and cross-country courses for the event. It will also staff the Poma lift.
Some teams will come early to train and spend time in Steamboat. The city is expected to get half of the early training fees. Russia and China are already expected to attend.
“It’s going to take time and energy from the Parks and Recreation Department for snowmaking, moving snow around to prepare these world class courses and jumps as well as other support from other staff,” City Manager Gary Suiter said. “It’s not a super high-impact event, but it’s great exposure as it will be streamed world-wide. ‘Steamboat Springs’ will be on all of the athletes’ bibs as well as having the first women’s competition for the Continental Cup in the country.”
From personal experience, Suiter said he enjoys getting up close and personal to meet such elite athletes. He believes hosting the Continental Cup is a fantastic part of the city’s heritage.
“Anytime you bring an international event to your home venue that has some magic to it as far as dream-building, kids getting to see a different level and being able to observe athletes from different countries, the whole community comes together,” Wilson said. “There’s something for everybody in the Nordic combined family.”
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.