Saturday, February 8, 2003
Steamboat Springs Woe to the fools who do not raise their children in Steamboat Springs.
On Saturday morning, despite temperatures that loomed around zero, Lincoln Avenue was lined with shouting spectators. The object of their attention: skiers -- some as young as 6 -- holding onto a rope for dear life as a galloping horse pulled them down the snowpacked street toward a 2-foot ramp known as the donkey jump.
Competitors ran every one of the stop lights on Lincoln Avenue, which was blocked to traffic to accommodate the annual Winter Carnival street events.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department had its large, white, speed-limit display box set at the end of the course, but it wasn't turned on to clock the horses and skiers galloping toward it.
Almost everyone landed the jump perfectly and skated off the course to prepare for their next event.
"Carl Howelsen would be proud," the announcer shouted.
The donkey jump is a modified version of skijoring -- which involves the horse and skier, but no jump -- a sport introduced to Northwest Colorado by legendary Steamboat resident Carl Howelsen in 1913.
Back in Steamboat's early ranching days, being pulled by a horse while traveling on skis was a sensible way to travel in winter. That tradition lived again on Lincoln Avenue Saturday, although the speeds were faster, the jumps are bigger -- and shovels had been added to the equation.
Saturday's other street events had young skiers navigating a slalom course, dropping rings in a box while skiing past, and the hilarious 25-yard Dog and Dad Dash where skiers 5 and younger were pulled, dogsled style, by dad or the family dog.
There was also a three-legged ski race. As if skiing wasn't hard enough, children 5 to 8 and then an older group of 9- to 11-year-olds, struggled to half-skate, half-limp down Lincoln on skis while tied at the knee to a partner.
As soon as the whistle blew, one two-girl team glided in front of the sputtering, tripping three-legged crowd.
Their center skis acted as one as their outside legs pushed them forward.
The secret to their success was skating technique, first-place winner Charlotte Letson said.
"It's about teamwork," said her partner, Heidi Cordell. "We won last year, too."
The morning ended with the famous "adults making fools of themselves" event -- the Shovel Race.
"It's the highlight of the day, but those guys are crazy," a voice from the crowd said.