Denver Sunday did not mark the first time I've ever worn underpants on my head. But it was certainly the first time I've ever done so in front of several hundred strangers.
Let me explain. The occasion was the 10th annual Colorado SnowSports Expo at the Denver Convention Center. And there's a perfectly good reason why I placed a pair of dalmatian-print fleece boxers on top of my noggin.
For those of you who do not follow the latest trends in ski fashions, "Buttlecaps" are poised to sweep the mountains.
Buttlecaps are the creation of a charming New Yorker named Tina Hasty.
Ms. Hasty is not afraid to admit that on more than one occasion in the past, she has gazed upon a pair of boxer shorts and been struck by the notion that the elastic waste band would allow them to fit upside down on her head.
Hasty was displaying brightly colored fleece boxers with Velcro fastening waistbands at the expo. The boxers are meant to be worn on one's head while skiing or snowboarding.
"Take that private pleasure and make it public," Hasty encouraged.
I tried on a pair, looked at myself in a hand mirror, then gazed at several people nearby who were staring at me with looks of horror on their faces.
I did not make a purchase. But I just know Buttlecaps will be the next big thing.
A guy can run into many fascinating people at the SnowSports Expo some of them strangers, some of them familiar faces. Billy Kidd was there and I am pleased to report he was not wearing boxer shorts on his head. Billy was wearing his trademark Stetson and signing posters for a long line of admirers. Every time I have a chance to observe Mr. Kidd in a professional setting outside of Steamboat, I am struck by his enduring popularity. Surely, no other personality represents skiing in North America like this man.
Some of the people waiting to get Billy's "William Kidd" on a poster were lured there by a blimp. No foolin' Steamboat has a blimp! I know it for certain because I interviewed the blimp's pilot, Mr. Joe Pirozzoli.
"This is our 10th year flying this convention for Steamboat," Joe said proudly. "I think they like the way it builds traffic."
Truth be told, the blimp is only about 9 feet long and Joe pilots it not from a cockpit, but from the convention floor via remote control.
Here's the deal. The blimp, bearing a Steamboat banner, is battery operated and can be steered via several sets of small fans on its fuselage. The pilot can guide it throughout the large convention hall.
Joe also has a control that allows him to drop gift certificates from the blimp's cabin. The certificates are redeemable for lift tickets, hats and videos if the lucky people who catch them take them back to the Steamboat booth.
"Sometimes we got a whole crowd of people following the blimp," Joe related. "It can get ugly out there."
I didn't see anything ugly at the SnowSports Expo well, maybe I saw some ugly sunglasses but mostly I was astounded at the thousands of people who went inside on a hot Sunday in November and paid $10 (nearly the full price of a lift ticket at Winter Park) to ogle the latest skis and absorb the sales pitches from the resorts.
I learned another thing about Steamboat that I did not know before. The mountain's new "superpipe" for snowboarders has been dubbed "Mavericks." On the surface, it sounds like just another western name for the ski area that trades on its cowboy image. But Mavericks is also the name of a legendary big-wave surf break in California.
Steamboat hopes members of the X-Games generation get the play on words when they drop into Mavericks' 15-foot walls that go on for 550 feet.
Steamboat will have to duke it out with Copper Mountain if it hopes to claim a big share of the youth market. Get a load of Copper's new slogan:
And that brings me back to the first time I wore underwear on my head. The truth is, all American men have, at on time or another, turned a pair of boxers upside down and placed them on their head to the delight of their families.
If they deny it, leave a pair of Buttlecaps under the tree Dec. 25.
Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.