Slushy snow buckles Dorothy's ruby slipper

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— We thought duct tape would be the best way to get sheets of cardboard down a slushy ski trail. After all, it wouldn't absorb water, it would slide well, and it wouldn't come apart.

Looking back, we probably should have planned a little better.

As the Steamboat Pilot & Today's Saturday reporter, I am accustomed to spending my days taking notes about the fun things other people get to do on weekends. So it was a nice reprieve when several of my colleagues and I decided to recycle our Wizard of Oz costumes from Halloween and put them to use for the 26th annual SmartWool Cardboard Classic.

The Cardboard Classic is an end-of-the-ski-season rite of passage that features lots of cardboard, duct tape, paint and creativity. The object of the classic -- held Saturday at Steamboat Ski Area -- isn't necessarily to finish the race, but to design and construct the most impressive hunk of cardboard possible.

Walking the course and admiring the creativity exhibited in the cardboard crafts, I couldn't help but laugh at some, admire others and be appalled by a few.

There was a hot dog, a "Sled Zeppelin" band stage, a bar, the Chelsea's dragon from Oak Creek's Chinese restaurant of the same name, bobsleds, go-karts, tanks, a house, a school bus, and a Bedrock (as in Flinstones) car, among others.

Although I'd like to say our team's glittery red shoe full of Wizard of Oz characters was the best, I would be remiss if I didn't compliment the life-size Hummer H2.

The yellow Hummer, which sat atop Headwall like the king of the mountain, actually was six inches longer than a real Hummer H2, but Jim Fletcher, one of its cardboard creators, said the rest of the car was just like a real Hummer.

The cardboard replica comfortably seated nine passengers, had spinning wheels, functioning windows and even displayed a parking ticket.

Fletcher said he began working on the Hummer more than a month ago, much sooner than the women of the Pilot began their shoe (Read: 9 p.m. Friday).

"Some people do puzzles. We like to drink beers and cut cardboard," Fletcher said.

Those who frequent the Card--board Classic may remember Fletcher and his crew's cardboard creation last year that wowed judges -- a replica of one of Steamboat's gondola cars.

Fletcher said part of enjoying the event is planning ahead.

"We gear up for it all year," he said.

Although I did not see the Hummer make its run down the race course, I hear it did quite well, only losing one wheel.

Fletcher said the key to a stable structure is cardboard triangles. He said the triangle method reinforces the craft better than duct tape or multiple layers of cardboard.

Several of the crafts were good enough to make it down the entire course. Those crafts included a pencil that traveled at an unbelievable speed, a lacrosse field and a "Git-er-Done" tribute craft.

Our version of Dorothy's red shoe wasn't as fortunate.

We made it about one-third of the way down the course before an inexplicable mishap occurred and we crashed into a wall of snow. Meanwhile, the bystanders who lined each side of the course -- and who were told repeatedly not to throw snowballs -- pelted us, and every other Cardboard Classic participant, with slushballs that, upon impact, felt like ice balls.

We tried to right ourselves and our craft, and we even made it a few feet farther down Headwall before our shoe split at the seams and Dorothy, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, a Munchkin and the Wicked Witch of the West were left to run the rest of the course.

We made it to the bottom and congratulated the cardboard Cadillac in which the Pink Ladies from "Grease" rode. They easily passed us about 30 seconds after we began our run.

But we weren't the only ones who had a rough start. I know the Coors six-pack broke, as did the Newcastle six-pack they raced against. Some of the crafts made it down in one piece even if they did get spun around and traveled most of the course backward.

And some didn't make it down at all.

Next year, ladies, we're trying the triangle reinforcement method. Thanks, Fletcher.

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