Steamboat Springs For Jayne Hill, Steamboat Springs' annual Yule Log Hunt is a year-round affair.
"People talk to me about it all year long. It's amazing," said Hill. "The people who are really into it are aware of it all year long."
Hill has been hassled for months by those hoping to get a leg up on the contest, but the 29th annual Yule Log Hunt, sponsored by the Tread of Pioneers Museum and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, doesn't officially begin until Tuesday. That's when the first of 10 clues will start participants on their search for the 3-foot-long, 50-pound log hidden somewhere in city limits.
The chase begins at last year's hiding place, Rita Valentine Park. A new clue will be announced each weekday in the Steamboat Today and on local radio stations. The person who finds the yule log will win a $150 gift certificate from the Chamber and a framed historical photograph from Tread of Pioneers Museum to commemorate the victory.
Hill, a museum board member, long has been given the tasks of writing the clues, hiding the log and trudging out to its hiding place nightly to uncover the log from recent snowfall. At least a portion of the log, which distinctively is marked with the words "Yule Log," is always visible from its hiding place.
In recent years, however, Hill has spread the work around.
"We decided younger people needed to hide it," Hill, who is in her 70s, said about the hefty prize.
The clues also are written a bit differently this year because Hill collaborated with other museum officials.
Clues often include information that refers to community history and landmarks. The log will not be hidden inside buildings or areas that charge fees to enter. When the log is found, it must be physically presented to a Tread of Pioneers Museum employee.
"Even a lot of people who don't go out and hunt it have fun with the clues," said Hill, who said many people enjoy pondering the clues and figuring out the log's location even if they have no intention of physically searching for it. "You don't have to be out in the cold to enjoy it. You can be one of those vicarious hunters. : I think it's just part of Christmas in this community."
Brian and Shaunna Watterson brought an end to last year's hunt when they spotted the log in Rita Valentine Park after clue No. 6:
"Square or bowed, take your pick,
Left or right - one does the trick.
Down where the big run takes the fill,
Or up where the smaller comes downhill?"
"It says 'square or bowed, take your pick' - that sounded like knots to us," Shaunna Watterson said after last year's hunt. "So we were thinking Boy Scouts, sailors, fishermen : so we looked on the map and found Anglers Drive.
"'Left or right - one does the trick' - so we went left (on U.S. Highway 40) onto Anglers Drive," she said.