It really is the Wild Wild West

I had a conversation the other day with my friend who had spent time on the East Coast, about how they are convinced out there that Colorado is some sort of crazy hick back-in-time cowboy rodeo land. We spent not an insignificant amount of time laughingly raving about how that was totally ridiculous, how they didn't understand how awesome we are out here and how few cowboys there are in everyday Colorado life (at least in the part we grew up in).

Of course, three day days later I stood watching a race where they strap skis and snowboards to actual, real-life cowboys and cowgirls, and then hurtle them down a mountain while a crowd watches and hollers at them when they fall.

 Cowgirl Royalty showed up for the event  — Miss Rodeo Nebraska, Virginia, and Kansas.

Cowgirl Royalty showed up for the event  — Miss Rodeo Nebraska, Virginia, and Kansas.

The gist of the thing is that cowboys make an annual three hour trip up from the National Western Stock show in Denver, which they've been doing for more than 40 years now. They proceed to take skis over steeds for a weekend to give into their über-competitive impulses, and regardless of ability or experience aim their tips down the mountain as fast as they can, through the slaloms and over a small jump. Then they arrive at the bottom of the hill and if can manage to stop themselves before clothes-lining the horses that are positioned at the bottom (yes, there are real horses on the ski hill and they're super adorable), they have to lasso a duster-clad cowgirl and then saddle the horse before covering the last twenty feet to the finish line — on their skiis, snowboards, feet, back, or stomachs.

The race was originally started by Billy Kidd, World Cup and Olympic alpine ski racer and Director of Skiing at the Steamboat Resort, and Larry Mahan, the World All-Around Rodeo Champion record holder for more than 20 years, during his prime. What was originally just a fun invite to the rodeo riders to take a different kind of ride than they were used to down the mountain, has turned into an annual all-out brawl for the best time by this year 97 participants. 

The most famous part of the event is The Stampede, where all of the competitors are sent out the gate at once, colliding all together in a churning mass of skis, fringed chaps, fallen hats, and a little bit of blood. This year they also added a third event, three cowboys base jumping from a helicopter onto a ski jump, wearing GoPro parachutes and bright orange smoke grenades.

Even though I think all of the participants won just by being able to somehow get down the ski hill wearing chaps and cowboy hats, the slalom winner's name is Marc Gil and he's a bullfighter from Laramie Wyoming. He won by doing the race in 28.67 seconds, which was only 2/10th of a second longer than the runner-up.

After the race at the bottom of the hill, the participants and audience joined in together for some brews courtesy of the oh-so-subtle sponsor, Bud Light (I dare you to count how many times you see their logo in the pictures I've included here. Then take that and multiply by 1000). There was also some nice live country music in the chilly mountain afternoon, but I couldn't stay for that because I had lost all sensation in my toes. It's damn hard to dance country if you can't feel your feet.

 The three part race: cowboys ski a slalom, lasso a filly, and saddle a horse.

The three part race: cowboys ski a slalom, lasso a filly, and saddle a horse.

 People definitely dress up for the event. We applauded the buckaroo on the left, who left his hands bare for a really long time so that he could more quickly unbuckle his snowboard and get his cowboy business done at the bottom of the hill. That's commitment. 

People definitely dress up for the event. We applauded the buckaroo on the left, who left his hands bare for a really long time so that he could more quickly unbuckle his snowboard and get his cowboy business done at the bottom of the hill. That's commitment. 

 Wipouts widely applauded — the lady on the right crashed straight into the audience maybe ten feet away from us. Also notice the blood on the guy who got run over during the stampede on the top left.

Wipouts widely applauded — the lady on the right crashed straight into the audience maybe ten feet away from us. Also notice the blood on the guy who got run over during the stampede on the top left.

 Done with the finish line, time for beer and country music.

Done with the finish line, time for beer and country music.

 Obviously someone needed base jump from a helicopter onto the ski jump, just to keep things exciting.

Obviously someone needed base jump from a helicopter onto the ski jump, just to keep things exciting.

 A successful landing, and my favorite shot of the day. What a beard, what an outfit, what a man.

A successful landing, and my favorite shot of the day. What a beard, what an outfit, what a man.