John F. Russell: Traditions continue to live, grow on the streets of Lincoln Avenue
February 9, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Several years ago, area resident Andy Picking went to his wife with a crazy idea.
He wanted to be a part of the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival tradition, and that didn't mean standing on the sidewalk watching his children in the donkey jump or the street slalom.
He wanted to ride a shovel behind a running horse in one of Winter Carnival's must-see events: the shovel race.
"I don't think it surprised anybody when I announced that I wanted to do it," Picking said. "I don't see it as being high risk. It's just a lot of fun."
Picking — along with his brother-in-law Craig Keefe, Chris Paoli and Tim Aigner — decided to give it a try. Keefe, Paoli and Picking still are doing it.
That was four or five years ago, and watching Picking get dragged down Lincoln Avenue has become a tradition for his family and friends.
His wife, Lynn, said she doesn't get nervous anymore but she worries about the day when her son, who is five, comes to her with the idea of following in his father's shovel tracks.
"Then I might get a little nervous," Lynn said.
Street events are one of the reasons thousands of people come to Steamboat Springs each year for Winter Carnival. The riders and skiers are as much a part of Steamboat as the Champagne Powder we ski in every winter.
Sure, there are risks, but the chance to take part has become a right of passage in our mountain town, and it's something that children and a few adults strive to do.
Tim Magill has been taking part in Winter Carnival events since he was four. As a child, he learned the basics of skiing behind a horse. These days, he's about 30 years too old to take part in the street events and has avoided the shovel race, which is the only option for older contestants.
"That's dangerous," the former speed skier and current Gelande jumper said.
This year, he plans to compete in the Gelande jumping events at Howelsen but has no plans to ride a shovel behind a horse or even ski behind a horse.
"Those days were awesome," Magill said. "It's just fun to be a part of what happens during Winter Carnival."
His advice to this year's crop of young skiers who will take their chances in the street events is pretty simple:
"The most important thing is to hang onto the rope," Magill said.
He also advises young riders to get out from behind the horse to where the track is smoother and less dangerous.
"You want to get out from behind the horse our you will get peppered by clumps of snow, and that's no fun," Magill said.
That's great advice, but it's not going to help shovel racers like Picking.
"You have zero control," Picking said.
He said the only real decision he has to make after signing up each year is to figure out whether he’ll be laying or sitting on the shovel.
"I think it's better to sit on the shovel because there is a lot less drag," Picking said. "The event is a lot of fun, and there is not a lot of work."
Win or lose, both men agree there is nothing more important than being part of Steamboat's Winter Carnival tradition, and there is nothing crazy about that idea.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com