World Cup regulars will align to kick off 2011 with the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships in Maine Sunday through Saturday, Jan. 2-8.
The U.S. Ski Team headliners will include returning U.S. champion Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) as well as Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) and Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID).
Both Hamilton and Arritola are members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation's Olympic Development Team.
Stephen and Arritola are coming off their career-best World Cup finishes Dec. 18 in the FIS Cross Country World Cup women's 15-kilometer freestyle mass start event at La Clusaz, France.
The U.S. National short course event at Rumford, Maine includes two sprint and two distance races.
Officials expect good snow conditions for the races beginning just after New Year's.
"We certainly do have snow at the venue! The weather is predicted to be favorable for making and keeping snow, with additional natural accumulation also expected," said Roger Arsenault, Organizing Committee Chairman.
He added, "We're looking forward to hosting the Championships and having everyone here in Rumford. As Chummy would say, we're going to have a great race!"
Black Mountain of Maine has made several changes since last hosting the U.S. Championships in 2004, including widening the trails and expanding the stadium to accommodate the growth of the sport as well as to meet the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and International Ski Federation (FIS) regulations.
The snow making system has also been expanded over the years to cover up to 5 kilometers of the trail network, providing a great insurance policy for an early January event like this in the Northeast.
"The Chisholm Ski Club is very excited to play host to the 2011 U.S. Cross Country Championships at Black Mountain of Maine. We last hosted this event in 2004 when the field exploded to over 500 racers," said Arsenault.
The field will be stacked with 2010 two-time U.S. Champion Hamilton, Stephen, Arritola and Hoffman leading the charge as they vie for U.S. Championship titles.
Also looking to take top podium spots are USSA Super Tour leaders Lars Flora (Anchorage) and Holly Brooks (Anchorage) who have been posting strong results in the USSA Super Tour and Canadian NorAm circuits this fall.
In addition to the titles on the line, the U.S. Championships are the official trials for the Junior and U-23 Cross Country World Ski Championship teams, as well as the Junior Scandinavian Championships trip where athletes 17-and-younger are eligible.
Not only is this the one chance to win a 2011 U.S. Championship title, it is also the final USSA National Ranking List races to be scored before the 2011 Nordic World Ski Championships team selection. The 2011 Nordic World Ski Championships will be in Olso, Norway Feb. 23-March 6.
The 2011 U.S. Cross Country Championships marks the fourth time that the Chisholm Ski Club will host the event. The Club has also committed to holding the event in 2012.
The championship series kicks off Sunday, Jan. 2 with the men's and women's 1k classic sprint race.
More information is at www.uscrosscountryskichampionships2011.org. Fans can also follow the event on the U.S. Cross Country Championships Facebook fan page.