In a season full of canceled races and changes, the World Pro Ski Tour is proud to be kicking off its season as part of the Winter Carnival in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The World Pro Ski Tour is a series of races that brings out NCAA athletes, Olympians, and World Cup athletes to test their competitive spirit, and give the athletes chances to win big money. Over $50,000 will be given away over the course of the weekend.

Any athlete can enter the Pro Open Qualifiers, and the field will be narrowed down to a group who will race head-to-head through a bracket-style competition that will appear on television. 

Registration is available online and touch-free until 6 p.m. Friday at www.WorldProSkiTour.com.

The first race, the City of Steamboat Winter Carnival Cup, will take place on Saturday and the second race, the Moose Barrows’ Trophy will happen on Monday. Barrows Grew up in Steamboat Springs and has a large silver trophy he has donated for the winner to have their name engraved on every year. 

Barrows will be the celebrity host for Monday’s race. “Howelsen is a great skiing venue and one I have been involved with since I was five years old,” he said.

Barrows recalled racing the Pro Tour in 1971 and said, “That was a good deal — that was the first time all of us kids would have an opportunity to make a living and make some money.” 

2020 season recap

Last season, the Tour got off to a strong start but was brought to a screeching halt due to the COVID pandemic. The Tour welcomed big names in skiing last season, which included Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, three-time Olympian Nolan Kasper, and world championship silver medalist Phil Brown.

The World Pro Ski Tour is really anyone’s game and NCAA racers can find themselves in the starting gate right next to legends of the sport. Anything can happen as proved last year when Max Bervy Jr. from CU Boulder beat Ted Ligety in a head-to-head matchup at Eldora Mountain.

How to watch

Steamboat locals: The race will be available on local TV for live viewing. Due to COVID regulations, spectators will not be allowed at the bottom of Howelsen Hill. A livestream feed through MTN TV of Steamboat will be available so locals can watch from the comfort of their own homes.

Everybody else: All Pro Open qualifying runs will be live on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Ski Racing Media, and World Pro Ski Tour Facebook pages. Beginning with the round of 16, the livestream can be found on FloLive.TV.

CBS Sports Network: The race will be shown in a half-hour magazine style show on CBS Sports Network after the race. Premier times are as follows (subject to change).

  • Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m. ET

Live coverage in Europe: New for this season, the race will be broadcast in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany on XYZ TV.  It will also be broadcast in Poland on a local network.

A race for the fans

The World Pro Ski Tour is formatted differently than other dual slalom races and uses a timing differential. Two racers will go head to head on their first run. Let’s say Skier 1 beats Skier 2 by a half-second on the first run. On the second run, Skier 2’s start gate will be delayed from opening by the same amount. For the fans watching, they will know who won the race by whomever crosses the finish line first.

Celebratory fireworks

A special fireworks show will take place at Howelsen Hill at the conclusion of the awards ceremony on Saturday night as part of Steamboat’s Winter Carnival.  The cameras will keep rolling through the fireworks, so viewers can take part in the festivities via television.

For those in Steamboat, a great benefit to Howelsen Hill being in downtown Steamboat Springs is that the fireworks can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the downtown area. Residents will be able to enjoy the fireworks display in the downtown area safely distanced.

Athletes to watch

Michael Ankeny is a former NorAm champion and World Cup racer. He has been coaching at Buck Hill and has been able to train out there in preparation for the race. Ankeny mentioned that he has been racing with some of the pro tour guys for the past 10-15 years and, “It’s pretty cool to all come together and do something that we love and get competitive with it.” 

Garret Driller is currently the U.S. national parallel champion. He won the parallel championships as part of U.S. Nationals in 2019. In talking with Garret Driller about the lack of fans, he said he will definitely miss having spectators in person, but has lots of friends and family who will be watching online and he will get support that way. He’s just super pumped to race as this has been a weird year.

Robert Cone is from Killington, Vt. and is the reigning tour champion from last season. He was also the NCAA champion in 2015. This will be Cone’s third season racing on the World Pro Ski Tour. “I am excited to get together with all these competitors which I have been racing with for over a decade. Despite everything this season, the pro tour will bring us together to compete and we are all looking forward to that.”

Simon Breitfuss-Kammerlander will be representing Bolivia this weekend. He has been trying to get as many races as possible under his belt and has been traveling around the U.S. with his Dad in an RV. Breitfuss-Kammerlander says, “I’m always with my dad, he’s always been my coach and my serviceman. We are a good team.” He loves the dual format of racing and says it is, “pure racing under totally fair conditions, no politics, and the race results cannot be foreseen.  It’s pretty simple, you go fast or you don’t.”

Nolan Kasper won the tour in 2018 and is a three-time Olympian, representing the U.S. in 2010, 2014 and 2018. He also finished in the top 10 in five World Cup slalom races, taking second place in Kranjska Gora.

‘Life In Between Gates’

Viewers can follow the lives of the athletes when they aren’t racing through the reality show “Life In Between Gates.” Last season, the show aired on Outside Television, NBC Regional Sports Net, and was syndicated to 75 million homes.  Jon Franklin, World Pro Ski Tour CEO says that the show was a huge success last year and they are excited to be bringing it back.

Making the best of a tough year

This year has brought many difficult circumstances to the ski racing world.

“In a year that has been marked by severe challenges with the virus and with the economy and travel,” Franklin said, “We are here, moving forward and providing a great venue for the athletes to try and make some money. We are not only surviving but getting bigger and better and running great races in this environment.”

A little-known story about Howelsen Hill from Billy Kidd

Billy Kidd, who won the World Pro Ski Tour in 1970 in Verbier, Switzerland, says, “It is so great to have the kickoff of the World Pro Ski Tour in Steamboat because Steamboat has such a great history of skiing, competitions, and ski racing.”

Howelsen Hill, where the Pro Tour will be taking place this weekend, has a story that not many people know, says Kidd. When Carl Howelsen, ski jumping champion from Norway, came to Steamboat in 1913, he built ski jumps and taught all the local kids how to ski. This was the beginning of Steamboat producing all of the Olympic skiers they are known for today.

Prior to that, in 1905, Carl Howelsen came to America from Norway and built a ski jump in Chicago. He was approached by a member of Barnum and Bailey Circus who asked if he could jump inside of a tent. This led to Carl being a star for the circus and performing for over 4.5 million people over the course of a few years. 

Thank you, Steamboat

The World Pro Ski Tour would like to give a special thanks to the City of Steamboat Springs, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and commissioners of Routt County for not only their willingness to host the Pro Tour, but all of their hard work to make the race happen, as well as their commitment to keeping everyone safe.

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