100s flock to Steamboat Ski Area to witness Cowboy Downhill | SteamboatToday.com

100s flock to Steamboat Ski Area to witness Cowboy Downhill

Saddle bronc rider Dean Wadsworth crashes after going off a jump during the 38th Annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill on Tuesday at Steamboat Ski Area. Cowboys from the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo visit Steamboat Springs for the race every January. This year's winners included Blake Knowles, who won the stampede, and Dakota Eldridge, who took top honors in the timed slalom event.

— For an hour Tuesday, Steamboat Ski Area belonged to the cowboys.

"It's carnage. It's entertainment. It's just fun," retired bull rider Jed Moore said after he raced in a slalom event against 53 other cowboys and cowgirls from across the country in the 38th annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill. "This is my 16th year (in the race), and I'll be back for another 20."

The riders, who are members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Professional Bull Riders, skied or snowboarded down a slalom course on Stampede to the delight of hundreds of spectators. Many cowboy hats didn't make the trip down the course that had the cowboys launching off a 5-foot jump, lassoing a cowgirl and saddling a horse before crossing the finish line.

"I don't plan on ever missing another one of these," calf roper Dakota Eldridge, of Elkno, Nev., said after his inaugural Cowboy Downhill. He had a lot to smile about at an award ceremony in the Bear River Bar & Grill on Tuesday night after he posted a first-place finish in the slalom race.

Many of the bull riders, barrel racers and calf ropers who raced Tuesday had only hours to learn how to ski before the event, and many stumbled early in the slalom course. Undaunted, several of the cowboys won cheers from the crowd with their crashes.

Steamboat Ski Area Director of Skiing Billy Kidd, who helped start the event in 1973, said Tuesday's race was another success.

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"The cowboys had a great time here," he said, adding that the snowstorm that hit the ski area Monday bolstered the event. "When you can have a foot of powder and sunshine, it's just ideal."

In the early years of the event, jumping over a beer can was enough of an obstacle for the cowboys, Kidd said, but as the tradition evolved, so did the course and the height of the jump. He said the thrills always have been a selling point for cowboys who enter the race.

"Cowboys have no fear when it comes to skiing because they think if they get bucked off skis, there's no bull around to try and kill them," he said. "They don't land the jumps quite like Bode Miller, but they have an incredible focus because of their rodeo experience."

He said many of the riders share a common passion.

"These cowboys love adrenaline," he said.

Spectators Lisa and Bill Bardin, who traveled to Steamboat from Madison, Miss., said the Cowboy Downhill's finale proved to be its highlight.

"We love the stampede," Bill Bardin said about the last stage of the event that had all of the cowboys leave the starting gates simultaneously in a frenzied fight for the finish.

"If you like a rodeo, you will love this," Lisa Bardin added.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

By the numbers

Top 10 slalom finishers

Rider, time (seconds), hometown

1 Dakota Eldridge, 24.76, Elkno, Nev.

2 Mark Gill, 25.8, Laramie, Wyo.

3 Ben Londo, 25.85, Athena, Ore.

4 CL Morgan, 27.91, Avondale

5 TJ Korkow, 28.18, Pierre, S.D.

6 Kelly Barker, 0.14, Prineville, Ore.

7 Joel Schlegel, 30.3, Burns

8 Blake Knowles, 32.66, Heppner, Ore.

9 Taylor Price, 33.73, Huntsville, Texas

10 Casey Colletti, 34.14, Pueblo

Stampede winner: Blake Knowles

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