For many Steamboat adults, the Winter Carnival shovel race is a rite of passage. And it's only one of many unique and entertaining street events held on Lincoln Avenue each February.
Held on the Saturday and Sunday mornings of the Winter Carnival, the street events embrace all ages -- and many species -- with the doggy dash, the daddy dash and donkey jump.
The real test of courage for mountain men and women is to show up on Lincoln Avenue with a coal shovel and a heart the size of a lion. The shovel handle will be tied to a rope, the other end of which is looped securely around the pommel of a saddle, which is cinched to a supercharged quarterhorse. Helmets are a must for this event, and goggles are strongly encouraged. Lie down on the shovel or sit in it like a chair, but whatever you do, hold on tight.
One of the most popular activities during Winter Carnival, the street events can attract more than 250 participants younger than 14. The most hotly contested events, of course, are those that involve horses.
A part of Winter Carnival since 1915, the street events tie together Steamboat's two traditions: ranching and skiing.
In the early years of ranching, a natural way to travel was riding on skis while being pulled by a horse. In 1913, legendary Norwegian skier Carl Howelsen introduced Northwest Colorado to the sport of skijoring, during which skiers hold onto a rope tied to a running horse.
Although horses pulling skiers might not be the most popular transportation on ranches these days, it thrives during Winter Carnival.
The street events have young skiers pulled by horses jumping off ramps, navigating a slalom course, dropping rings in boxes, collecting rings on a spear and having an old-fashioned skijoring race down Lincoln Avenue.
Ranchers from across Routt County bring their horses into town to help host the street events. The city's Public Works Department hauls in more than 400 tons of snow needed to cover the streets for the event.
All street events need snow, but not all require horses. In the 25-yard dog and dad dash, children 5 and younger are pulled in a sled or toboggan by the family dog or dad. There also are events just on skis, such as the three-legged race, 50-yard dash and obstacle course.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and First National Bank of Steamboat Springs sponsor the street events.
For the horse events, the Chamber usually has a limit of 20 to 30 participants for each event. Non-horse events, such as the three-legged race or 50-yard dash, are open to as many people as want to participate. The only adult horse race, the shovel race, has a limit of five, so not to tire out the horses.
Pre-registration is mandatory on all horse events, and those participants must wear goggles and a helmet. Shovel contestants must provide their own shovels and wear helmets.
All participants also must have a Winter Carnival button, which can be purchased for $7 at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
To register for the street events, call the Chamber at 879-0882. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Feb. 2. The events for children fill up quickly. The Chamber asks that participants be at the registration table 15 minutes before their event starts.