Steamboat Springs Beginning Monday, be on the lookout for a 3-foot-long, 50-pound yule log hidden somewhere within city limits.
The 28th annual Yule Log Hunt, sponsored by the Tread of Pioneers Museum and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, is a long-standing holiday tradition in town. Seekers will get one clue each weekday, until Dec. 21, to guide them to the log's hiding place.
The series of 10 clues will move seekers step-by-step through town, starting at last year's hiding place in Memorial Park, to the secret location where the yule log has been stashed this year, museum Executive Director Candice Lombardo said.
A new clue will be announced each weekday in the Steamboat Today and announced on local radio stations. The person who finds the yule log will win a $150 gift certificate from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and a framed historical photograph commemorating their victory from Tread of Pioneers.
Many of the clues will contain references to historical places, landmarks and community lore, Lombardo said.
Museum board member Jayne Hill, a retired Steamboat Springs librarian, has been tasked with choosing a hiding place and writing the clues for more than a decade, a process she begins months in advance of the annual Yule Log Hunt.
"I'll go by the site where the log's going to be early in the fall and take some notes," Hill said. "It needs to be in a public place where anybody can get to it, which eliminates a lot of things, and it needs to be in a place where it isn't covered with snow because it needs to be visible."
In some years past, Hill has had to act as the yule log's caretaker, heading out nightly at 11 p.m. to uncover the log from recent snowfall, and sweeping away her tracks to avoid giving away the location.
Hill said she gets peppered with questions from friends and strangers alike during the Yule Log Hunt every year, both from those out physically searching for the log and from those who just take pleasure in figuring out the clues.
"Everywhere I go during the Yule Log Hunt, to the grocery store and the post office, people are asking me questions - just one little tidbit to help them," Hill said.
In 2006, Steamboat Springs community service officers Tom Whiddon and Scott Schaffer unearthed the yule log at Memorial Park, behind Steamboat Springs High School, after seven clues.
When the yule log's hiding place is discovered, the finder should contact Tread of Pioneers immediately to claim their prizes - and call off the hunt.
In years past, people have held onto the yule log after finding it, leaving other seekers to continuing hunting for a log that is no longer there, Lombardo said.