Steamboat Springs Willy Gunn's ride left without him Saturday morning.
In his haste to get to the finish line, the 4-year-old's furry friend took off at the start of the Dog Dash and never looked back.
Had the malamute turned around, he would have noticed his tiny rider sitting near the starting line in a mass of snow that was Lincoln Avenue.
Gunn, who completed the race on foot, gave the crowds lined along the street nothing but smiles as he crossed the finish line.
Saturday morning, after all, was all about fun and games.
Crews closed off downtown Steamboat Springs to through traffic and brought in piles of snow to bathe Lincoln Avenue in white for the Winter Carnival's popular street events.
People on horseback replaced cars, family pets pulled tots in sleds and dads raced each other, with children in tow, for the bragging rights to the fastest father on all fours.
"You go as fast as you can," said Alan Keeffe, who arrived with kneepads for the perilous 25 yards of parental huffing and puffing.
That's exactly what Andy Picking did.
He pulled his niece, Kelsey Brotcoletti, to victory, much to the chagrin of dads like Jim Gallagher, who promised to do better the second time around.
"Next year, we're going full barrel," Gallagher said.
In the midst of several individual competitions, one event required a team effort.
Lexie Baden, 7, and Summer Smalley, 8, joined forces to win the 5 to 8-year-old division of the three-legged race.
The girls took home a second place ribbon in the same event last year.
They credited their win to the strategy of last year's winners, who wore cross county skis instead of alpine skis.
On cross country skis, the girls moved easily through the snow and easily pulled away from their competition.
Baden and Smalley intended to share news of their win with family and friends, but the their newfound strategy, they added, would be kept under wraps.
"We'll keep it a secret," Smalley said.
Skiers and snowboarders held tightly to a rope as riders on horseback pulled them down Lincoln Avenue over, under and through obstacles.
Their need for speed never allowed the horses' adrenaline to wane.
Hobey Early offered encouragement and advice to children before they embarked on their ride through the snowy streets.
Organizers try to match skiers' ability with a horse's speed, Early said.
Participants could request a slow, medium or fast ride.
Early rallied the crowd's support before each contestant took off on a ride that would test their ability and nerve at ring races, "skijoring," the street slalom and the donkey jump.
Horse-drawn contestants in the donkey jump tackled a two-foot ramp.
Graceful landings and big air earned the crowd's applause.
Occasional wipeouts elicited a round of groans.
Josiah Bartlett tested his snowboard on the slick ramp.
More speed meant more air, Bartlett said.
Saturday was Bartlett's first try at the donkey ramp.
He and his family moved to Steamboat Springs last year.
His mother, Debbie Bartlett, said she was amazed by downtown Steamboat's transformation into an image of the Old West.
"I've never seen anything like this," she said.
Sam Harrelson caught some air as he flew over the donkey jump and landed safely on the other side.
The key, the 7-year-old said, was to stay to the right of the horse and release the rope at just the right time.
Despite the morning snowfall, wind and cold temperatures that added to the already snowy landscape, the crowds grew throughout the morning.
Tripp Harrelson, with16 Winter Carnivals under his belt, watched as Sam sailed over the ramp.
He still looks forward to the February tradition, he said, whether the weekend bring sun or snow.
"It's almost expected that you are going to freeze," he said. "But it's a big deal for the kids."
To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4208
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