Cowboy Downhill

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The great thing about Steamboat Colorado is that no matter how big our little town gets, we always hold onto and celebrate our roots. Once a year, we combine our agricultural heritage and our ski bum industry into a wild, crazy event called the Cowboy Downhill. That’s right, yesterday we asked our local Cowboys and Cowgirls to give up their saddles for a pair of skis and race down the hill. So what you say? Not only do most of these guys lack the capability of turning around the race course set up for them, but they are also hurtled over a good 5 foot drop for our amusement. (Don’t tell the cowboys, but all of their skis were set to a Din of 2; in other words, those skis are lucky to stay on their feet when even the slightest breeze touching them.)

Essentially, these men and women who excel at barrel racing and can even stay on a raging bull for 8 seconds are turned into clowns that most of us can outski. It’s fantastic! Racing against each other, the cowboys hurtle down the hill in a beginner’s tuck, trying not to cross their tips as they are forced to go into a wobbly snow plow before the big crux:

I’ll be honest, hurtling over that ‘jump’ doesn’t look like an easy task, and I’ve been skiing since I was 2. Definitely doable, but when you combine the awkwardly flat landing with the surprise of hitting it in the first place, not to mention chaps entangling your legs, I think these bull riders are in for quite the rodeo!

Many simply abandoned their skis after coming to a crash landing at the bottom of the jump. Running down the course actually looked easier for most of them, despite their slippery ski boots. I’d say each cowboy spent 30% of his time on the course laying prone on the ground actually. Getting to the bottom of the run wasn’t the end of the race either. These racers next had to lasso a lady (willing, mind you), and then saddle a horse (not so willing).

For the grand finale, all the cowboys were sent down the course a second time at once. I would compare it to a kid throwing toy army men off of a chair; the first ones down looked good doing it, but as the masses were chucked over the edge, some hit together, some miraculously landed on their feet, and most landed in a pile of skis, poles, and cowboy hats. Now THAT’s what I call a rodeo.

Rory Clow

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