North Routt St. Paddy's Day in North Routt County is not for the faint of heart.
Saint Paddy's Day at Steamboat Lake Marina means watching a galloping horse and rider take a tumble in the snow. It means chowing down on a steaming plate of corned beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes in a driving snow squall. And it means watching grown men who should be pretty well sick of their snow shovels at this point in the winter, riding them like horse-powered sleds.
The Steamboat Lake Snow Club hosted a benefit on Sunday that was billed as the Extreme Snow Challenge. The parking lot was packed with about 50 vehicles, all driven by rugged individualists. Many folks emerged from their vehicles to haul rugged toddler individualists across the snow in sleds.
On a day when the skies over Steamboat were threatening but the streets were at least dry, winter was in full force at Steamboat Lake. If you think winter is a drawn out affair in the 'Boat, you ought to contemplate cabin fever north of Willow Creek Pass.
The Extreme Snow Challenge was like a mini-Winter Carnival in some ways. There were even horse drawn ski-joring events. Ray Heid was trailing Chris Gander behind his Quarter horse by a length of rope, and Gander was making good time in the ski-joring event when Ray's horse lost his footing and went down like he'd been shot. Ray, who ain't a kid anymore, rolled clear of the animal and bounced to his feet with a grin on his face.
"Oh, that's happened before," Ray allowed. Besides, "he went down real smooth."
"That was my big chance to pull my father-in-law off his horse," Gander chuckled. "It's fun. We'll find some more stupid things to do." Yep, Chris is married to Ray's daughter.
Larry De Andrade was less concerned with his raw time in the ski-joring event than he was in turning in a stylish performance. As the horse pulled him down the course, De Andrade carved sweet little telemark turns, resembling a water skier crossing the wake of a boat.
"I used to do this out at Vista Verde, De Andrade said, "It's so much fun."
Across the parking lot, Skyler Hughes was using yellow dye to lay out a snow golf course. He had a paint bucket full of yellow golf balls. Grandma Judy Copeland brought along her "cowboy putter," a crude affair made out of a scraggly stick and a dinky pine log with a smooth putting head planed off one side.
I guess if you're gonna play golf in the snow, you might as well use a rustic putter.
Rich Landon, 46, won the ski-joring snow shovel race, as expected. Rich is as close as they come to a professional shovel racer. He and Steamboat resident Scott Flower make it a tradition to take part in the annual Winter Carnival shovel race on Lincoln Avenue, even though they are old enough to know better.
What Landon does know for certain, is that the way to win the race is to ask the wranglers in advance who has the fastest steed. Next, you calculate the rotation of horses and take a place in line that assures that same caballo will be your personal means of locomotion.
The best shovel racers lie prone on their hardware, and the other thing Landon has learned is to stuff a pair of gloves down his pants before the big race, so as to ensure the continuation of his lineage, if you get what I mean. He isn't particular about the brand, any gloves in the back of the pickup will do, as long as they are thick gloves.
Chef Andy McIlvaine from Glen Eden made the corned beef for Sunday's snowy buffet, and I must say he demonstrated a nice touch with the vegetables for a Scotsman. Of course, he had help from an Irish friend who goes by the name "Mole."
Finally, I met a really cool dog in the parking lot Sunday. Moo Shoo is an Anatolian Shepherd of Turkish extraction, but he seemed plenty happy to eat a scrap of Irish corned beef. In fact, Moo Shoo got his name from an incident that took place when he was just a pup. Seems Moo Shoo snarfed an entire carton of Chinese takeout it was an order of Moo Shoo pork.
Although Moo Shoo's breed is recognized for its ability to guard livestock, he says he is best known in North Routt for an incident that took place while he was hiking the Pack Creek Trail a couple years back.
"I came to this little pond that was full of brook trout fingerlings," Moo Shoo said. "I jumped right in and splashed until there was a handful of brookies on the bank, much to my master's delight. Ever since, I've been known as 'Moo Shoo the Chinese food eating trout dog.'"
If this week's column seems more than a bit scattered, it's because when it's March in North Routt, you must embrace life the same way you accept the weather. You've got to take it as it comes, baby.