Silvertons notorious Blair Street earned a different sort of notoriety over the weekend, serving as home of the towns second annual skijoring competition.
A far cry from the days when saloons, gambling halls and houses of ill repute dotted the street, this two-day event was pure family fun.
Skijoring is itself an eclectic sport combining skiing and horse racing into a two-person, fast-paced, high-flying and hard-falling event. The person on horseback attempts to ride as fast as possible toward the finish line while the skier in tow attempts to clear a series of obstacles.
Experienced skijorers may race at speeds in excess of 40 mph.
Silvertons competition timed skiers while they slalomed through a series of gates, cleared three jumps and using a wand of sorts, collected three small rings hanging on one side of the four-block course constructed by Silverton resident and race volunteer Bill Alsup.
Contestants failing to complete an obstacle, such as missing a gate or jump or dropping a ring, were penalized with a few seconds added to their total time.
The team completing the course in the shortest amount of time was declared the winner. The top two teams in each division, open and novice, won cash prizes. A total of $2,500 was awarded over the course of the weekend.
A new bridle also was awarded to the rider with the best combined times from both Saturday and Sunday. Winning the award was Eagle resident Dana Stiles and her horse Merlin with a time of 18.21 seconds on Saturday and 17.67 seconds on Sunday.
Durango resident Jeff Dahl, his wife, Chris, and their two sons, Grand Junction resident Greg and Jason from Leadville, traveled to Silverton to compete. In tow were their horses, Red Lodge and Rocket.
A seasoned skijorer, Jeff Dahl said skijoring is something fun he can do with his two sons, both of whom are experienced ski racers.
Its kind of a family deal, you can do it with your kids, Dahl said Sunday. Its a cool thing to do in a mountain town, something you cant do in many other places.
Onlookers watched as Dahl spent the final minutes before the event fitting Rocket with aluminum shoes he said would help the horse maintain traction in the snow.
Chris Dahl said Rocket, just 2 years and 10 months old, had never raced in a skijoring competition.
Thats part of the experience, she said Sunday. Were going to try the baby out today. ... Its going to be fun.
For the Dahl family, the competition was not just fun but lucrative as well.
Jason Dahl, a skier, won second place in the open division on Saturday, netting $160 for his 18.82 second performance.
On Sunday, between Jason, Jeff and Greg, the family won a total of $800 in prize money for a total of $960 over both days.
A skier in the novice division, Hesperus resident Calvin Hinkley wiped out Saturday, slamming his hip into the ground. He returned Sunday, sore but determined.
Its a rush, Hinkley said Sunday before the competition. (Skijoring) is the most fun thing Ive ever done in my entire life.
Hinkleys persistence paid off. In Sundays competition, he won second place in the novice division with a time of 21.92 seconds. Pulling him was Durango resident Anne Rapp atop Count. The two won a combined total of $150.
Once a part of Durangos annual winter festival, Snowdown, the skijoring event found its new home in Silverton last year when it became a part of the towns own winter festival, Snow-scape.
Durango resident and La Plata County Commissioner Kellie Hotter and her husband, Martin, volunteered for the event, serving as timekeepers. The couple even volunteered their hotel room balcony for use by the competitions announcer, Silverton resident Bill Caudle. With greater average snowfall than Durango, Kellie Hotter said holding the event in Silverton just made sense.
Holding it here, its just so much more reliable, she said.
In his first year as the announcer, Caudle said he loves the event because anyone can participate.
You can be a skier, a cowboy or a wannabe like me, he said. Its family fun. ... You cant get better than this.
Between Friday and Sunday, the Snowscape festival drew hundreds to the small mountain town.
Included in the weekends events were a winter golf tournament, shovel race, night skiing, a horseshoe tournament, a snowmobile parade and the cardboard derby, in which contestants raced souped-up cardboard boxes down a snowy slope.