On Saturday, 12 highly-decorated ski racers converge at Taos Ski Valley for the next leg of the Jeep King of the Mountain Skiing and Snowboarding World Professional Championships. The cash purse? $450,000, plus $20,000 in bonus cash from John Paul Mitchell Systems and the keys to a new 2007 Jeep Patriot. Local cheers will support Jake Fiala (pictured above), a decade-long member of the U.S. Ski Team who grew up in Taos, where his father instructed skiing. But he's already been edged out once this year by four-time Winter Olympian and defending World Professional Champion Casey Puckett. The men's and women's rosters are littered with gold hardware winners from World Cups, World Championships, Gravity Games, Winter X Games, and freeskiing championships. The National Open Qualifier on the preceding day will allow top-notch amateur and professional ski racers the chance to earn a spot to pit themselves one-on-one against the world's best on the unique course. A dual course of rollers converges like a "Y" into a single course of banked turns, jumps, and tabletops. Athletes "work" the terrain features in order to generate extra speed, draft each other, and race breathing down each other's necks. Based on their wins in the season's first event, Casey Puckett and Ophelie David will wear the coveted black John Paul Mitchell Systems leader bibs. If you can't make it to Taos to watch, you can catch the race on CBS Sports television; it will air on Feb. 18, 2007, from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
- Snow Reports