Hartford Ski Spectacular turns competitive | SummitDaily.com

Hartford Ski Spectacular turns competitive

Summit Daily/Reid WilliamsSit-skier Laurie Stephens won her division in the Hartford Ski Spectacular giant slalom Friday at Breckenridge Ski Resort.

BRECKENRIDGE – At the finish of Friday’s Hartford Ski Spectacular giant slalom, dozens of local children stood and rang cowbells as each of the competitors came across the line. The young skiers and snowboarders are third, fourth and fifth graders at Breckenridge Elementary who earlier this week donated $546 to the U.S Disabled Alpine Ski Team in a presentation at the school.The race was part of a week’s worth of festivities centering around ski and snowboard opportunities for the disabled. It was also the season opener for adaptive skiers and drew dozens of competitors, including most of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team.”This has always been a great way to start off the season,” said Kevin Jardine, a coach for the team. “It’s the perfect hill to get our athletes out on. It lets our guys see where they’re at.” Many of the elite skiers used the competition as a tuneup for the start of the disabled skiing World Cup, which begins in January in Steamboat Springs.”It’s good to be back on track,” said Park City’s Monte Meier. “Things are definitely clicking, but it’s a matter of getting the miles and just putting the hammer down.”

Meier skied in the standing skiers male class and finished seventh with a two-run combined time of 1:45.87. Ian Jansing won the class with a time of 1:41.59, and earned a berth on the U.S. Ski Team in the process. The class is one of three in each gender for disabled skiers. Along with standing skiers, disabled skiing includes classes for sitting and visually impaired skiers. The standing class was open to able-bodied skiers, and in the women’s case, that led to a sweep of the podium by Quantum Ski Club’s Chelsea Lynch (1:44.25), Lauren Brien (1:45.18) and Alex Guras (1:47.93).But since the race was viewed by many as a training race, the able-bodied skiers were a welcome addition. “It’s a good thing to fill up the race,” Jardine said. “It gives some competition to some of the (disabled) athletes.” Eighteen-year-old Tyler Walker of New Hampshire won the sitting skier male class with a time of 1:47.12. Meanwhile, Laurie Stephens won the sitting skiers female class with a time of 1:50.21.

Andy Parr was the only skier to compete in the blind skiers category, finishing the course in 1:46.19 with the help of guide A.K. Walker. All of the disabled skiers’ times include adjustments that are designed to even out the field among the different disabilities. “Disabled skiers run on a factored time, which is sort of like a golf handicap,” said Breckenridge’s Sandy Metzger, director of the both the alpine and Nordic squads of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. “It’s a huge, involved system that has evolved over the last 10 years and it’s constantly being adjusted to make it as fair as possible,” she said.According to Jardine, a new set of equalizing factors are being used this season as part of a total revamping of the sport’s timing systems. “There’s new calculations to equal out the disabilities, and they seem to be very accurate,” he said.Along with the new factors, a new computer program has been introduced for timing disabled skiers and is being standardized throughout the world. Even the classes were redefined under the new system, streamlining the way races are run.

The hardest part of the competition for most skiers on Friday was skiing on soft snow that isn’t typical for ski races.”The course was all over the place,” said Walker, referring to ruts that were forming around the gates. The conditions were the result of more than two feet of snow that fell on the resort in the previous 48 hours. The snow, along with high winds, led to the cancellation of a slalom scheduled for Thursday.”There was a lot of work and a lot of course preparation,” Jardine said. “But it’s nice to finally get the race up and running after two days.” The Hartford Ski Spectacular concludes today with a corporate challenge, where teams of four – one of whom must be disabled – compete in a fundraiser on Breckenridge’s NASTAR course.Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at rchittick@summitdaily.com.

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