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Simon Breitfuss Kammerlander takes a run down the Eldora downhill course. He will be representing Bolivia in the next Winter Olympics. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Some of the world’s best skiers, including two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time World Cup Champion Ted Ligety, are set to kick off the first Colorado Pro Open at Eldora Mountain Resort on Friday, and while the competition will be stiff, the contest is open to all.

First started in 1969 as World Pro Skiing, the race circuit introduced a head-to-head racing format to the professional ranks with the winner of each round advancing deeper into the five-round bracket. The race circuit went bankrupt after Fox Broadcasting Company stopped syndicating it in 1998, but several organizers of smaller American ski race circuits banded together and found the necessary sponsorship to revive World Pro Skiing as the World Pro Ski Tour in 2017.

When they did, it added another novel twist to traditional racing by creating the super slalom and super giant slalom disciplines, which incorporate jumps into the courses for an added dimension of difficulty.

While some racers, like Ligety, Billy Kid, Jean-Claude Killy, and Spider Sabich, raced on both the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit and the World Pro Ski Tour, for less accomplished skiers the World Pro Ski Tour offers a chance for up-and-comers to compete against the sport’s elite and potentially make a name for themselves.

It’s also an opportunity for semi-retired pro skiers, like Jake Jacobs, who now works construction in New York, to continue to chase his passion for snow and speed.

“I work all summer building fireplaces and chimney sweeping and save up my money and blow it all in the winter ski racing,” he said. “It’s a really good gig. I’ve done every race (since they brought it back in 2017.)”

“As I can tell,” Sam Bass, a spokesman for Eldora Mountain Resort, wrote in an email, “it’s like a ski racing version of a traveling rodeo cowboy — just going from stop to stop trying to win money to support a racing habit and afford food.”

Simon Breitfuss-Kammerlander, an Austrian born 27-year-old who serves as the sole member of the Bolivian Ski Team, has joined the tour this year after failing to qualify for the World Cup after the International Federation of Skiing amended its point system to limit the number of starts at each race.

While Breitfuss-Kammerlander had raced in the World Cup for two years before representing Bolivia in the 2018 Olympics, he feels he’s just starting to reach his prime. For him the World Pro Tour is shot at redemption.

“I had some good contracts to sign, but everything stopped because I didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” he said. “Then we thought about the Pro Tour, found some sponsors to help with plane tickets and equipment and I said let’s do this.

“Now the plan is to focus on the Pro Tour and get the points back for the World Cup because I have already qualified for the next World Championships and in all four disciplines for the next Olympics.”

While the winner of each race wins $10,000, without the major sponsors he would have signed with on the World Cup, to make all of the stops along the World Pro Tour, he and his dad, Rainer Breitfuss, who skied professionally in the 80’s, drive from race to race in an RV.

“For us, the RV was the only way, because everything is so expensive,” Breitfuss-Kammerlander. “Skiing is a family thing, I started skiing when I was 2, started racing when I was 3 and when everybody my age was figuring out what they wanted to study or do for work, I was like, I’m going to be a ski racer. So I’m used to being with my dad, he’s always been my coach. It’s fun”

So far this season, Breitfuss-Kammerlander made it to the semi-finals of the World Pro Ski Tour’s Pepi Gramshammer Cup in Vail and to the round of 16 at the Moose Barrows’ Trophy at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, where he lost to Ligety.

“It’s good to race against someone like that,” he said. “I finally feel like I have arrived at the competition and showed that I’m fast because I beat (Ligety) on the first run. He really turned it on in the second run (to advance to the next round,) but at least I showed that I’m fast.”

Following the Colorado Pro Open at Eldora this weekend, Breitfuss-Kammerlander will travel back to Europe for some FIS Alpine European Cup where he could accumulate some points for regaining his spot on the World Cup Circuit, before coming back to the states for the Eastern Pro Championships in Water Valley New Hampshire, The World Pro Ski Tour Championship at Sunday River in Maine and finally the World Championships at Taos Ski Area in New Mexico, which carried a $50,000 prize for each discipline, starting on April 10.

Following the tour, Breitfuss-Kammerlander hopes to be back on the World Cup next year, and ready for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“The plan is to focus on the World Cup and get some good results, so I’ll be ready to not just show up to the Olympics, but to actually compete for a medal,” he said.

Those interested in watching the races are encouraged to be at the base of Eldora at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Those interested in participating in race can register online at worldproskitour.com, or at the base of Eldora at from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday, prior to the qualification runs, which begin at 6 p.m. under the lights.

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