The annual Ford Slush Cup in Ellicottville comes with an added bonus this year: world-class skiers.
Hamburg native Erik Schlopy and Thomas Vonn of Newburgh represented the United States at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, and both are going to race this weekend at Holiday Valley and Holimont.
Other U.S. Ski Team members in the field of 330 junior and master men and women are Ted Ligety and Andrew Weibrecht of Lake Placid and Chelsea and Cody Marshall of Vermont. Ligety was the 2004 winner of the Europa Cup and is 22nd in the world in slalom.
Some of the top local racers are also skiing. Nate Schwing of East Aurora, who races out of Park City, Utah, is back. Paige and Maura Baritot-Finnerty of Orchard Park, who led the University at Buffalo to the college level championships, are also entered. Also coming is Division I champion Janice Kingsbury of the University of Vermont.
Slalom races will be held at Holiday Valley and the giant slaloms at Holimont. The men will ski the slalom Saturday and the GS on Sunday, and the women will do the opposite. Racing starts both days at 9 a.m. There will be two races held each day.
All events are United States Ski and Snowboard Association points races. Having stronger racers in the field raises the competitive level and increases the rating of everybody entered. This can help racers, especially younger ones moving into the higher classes, improve starting positions next season.
Organizers were able to attract such a strong field with the help of the Nordica Racing Department, which is sending some of the top racers it has under contract. Spectators can take part in a full schedule of on-snow demos, parties and social events surrounding the races. Holiday Valley will close for the season Monday.
In other skiing news, Jake Hipps of Buffalo is taking part in the 19th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass in Colorado.
Hipps is an adaptive skier. The event wraps up today.
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