Cowboy Downhill to celebrate its 40th year in Steamboat |

Cowboy Downhill to celebrate its 40th year in Steamboat

Luke Graham

Clint Cannon, a bareback rider from Waller, Texas, showed the crowd at the 39th annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill just how tough he was by making his run without a shirt Monday afternoon. The annual event is back in Steamboat for its 40th year starting at 1 p.m. Monday.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect a change in the band that will headline Monday’s concert. Banks & Shane will be performing instead of Shooter Jennings.

As Steamboat Ski Area Director of Skiing Billy Kidd sees it, Monday's 40th annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill was built for those rodeo daredevils.

Just as riding a bull takes a special breed, hopping on skis for the first time, navigating gates, flying off a 6-foot jump and making it down in one piece seems rational for those rodeo types.

"When the cowboys come and we teach them to turn, they say ‘We don't want to learn to turn. Turning slows you down,'" Kidd said. "They love adrenaline. They want to go as fast as they can all the time."

And for the past 39 years, the Cowboy Downhill has become a fixture at Steamboat Ski Area.

It draws cowboys from across the world and runs along with the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo in Denver. Cowboys must be entered in that or be a member of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association or Professional Bull Riders.

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"It started as a fun way to teach a few cowboys to ski and has turned into an event that draws people from all over," said Mike Lane, the ski area's public relations director.

The event, in its rawest form, is a debacle — a show of athleticism and cynicism all wrapped into a can't-miss event.

Simply put, it's a must-see.

The event begins at 1 p.m. Monday with the dual slalom race. Cowboys must maneuver the gates, go over a 6-foot jump, lasso a person, saddle a horse and cross the finish line.

The event is followed by the Western stampede. It's a mass start where all the cowboys compete in a race to the bottom.

Following the event, Banks and Shane will open up the Bud Light Rocks the Boat Free Concert series. Shooter Jennings was scheduled to perform but had to cancel due to travel complications.

To commemorate the anniversary, the ski area will host a new Balloon Glow and Cowboy Up Party on Sunday.

At about 5:30 p.m., six hot air balloons will be lit up across the base area. Starting at 6 p.m., Banks & Shane will put on a show at the Bear River Bar & Grill.

In addition, six-time world champion Larry Mahan, bareback world champion J.C. Trujillo and world champions Lewis Field and Charles Sampson are expected to be on hand.

The event started when Mahan called Kidd and wanted to learn how to ski. Kidd said he had never seen anyone learn as quick.

The next year, Mahan brought several friends up and the event was born.

"When you get a few cowboys together, you have a contest," Kidd said. "Whether it's who can drink the most beer or who can dance on the tables the longest, cowboys are always in competition."

And after 39 years, Kidd said his strategy for first-timers and veterans always remains the same.

"Keep it simple," he said. "In bull riding, don't fall off. In ski racing, don't fall down. In sports, like anything, don't be thinking negatives. In skiing, don't think 'Don't fall down.' You want to think keep the painted sides up. Keep it simple."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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