Tracy Barnes missed many a Snowdown in Durango while she competed internationally as a world-class biathlete. Now that she is retired from the sport, she’s ready to put her mark on the annual shenanigans-filled winter celebration in her hometown.
Barnes, who competed in three biathlon events at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Italy, has partnered with local businesses to bring back the Snowdown bed races. Teams of five, with four bed-pushers and one mattress-rider, will race on Main Avenue in the head-to-head challenge. It will be a marquee event of this year’s Snowdown festivities as it will be held at 4 p.m. Friday between Seventh Street and Eighth Street in downtown Durango before the parade and fireworks.
The bed races have had a place in Durango dating back to the first Snowdown 41 years ago. In the 1960s, bed races went down the front hill at Fort Lewis College. Danger assessment later put downhill bed-racing to rest. In more recent years, races have taken place at Gazpacho’s, The Palace and Steamworks Brewing Co. The last bed races were held in 2015 but were not an official Snowdown event. Those races were put together by an event management class at FLC. In true Snowdown fashion, nobody can quite remember when bed races were last held as an official Snowdown event.
Barnes was involved in another Snowdown event last year and met with organizers who expressed a desire for someone to bring back bed-racing. Barnes pulled the trigger.
“I had done a couple of bed races in Maine and Utah when I lived there and was training there,” Barnes said. “I’ve missed a lot of Snowdowns a lot of years being in Europe competing all winter, but I always remembered growing up and hearing about the bed races at the Fort.”
Barnes received funding to build nine new beds – eight to be used and one as a backup – that have been decorated by local businesses. Studs Lumber Co. provided the wood and Elk Run Builders Inc. put them together. The beds will be able to be broken down and stacked to reuse for future years.
“The beds are bombproof and could withstand a hurricane,” Barnes said. “Even if there’s a few inches of snow, you can push them pretty easily with their big caster wheels. We wanted them to be safe and effective for the event to make it through many years. Some events I’ve gone to, people actually brought their own beds, and we saw a lot fall apart halfway through the race. With our beds, we can make it fun and keep it safe.”
A total of 24 teams can compete in the bracket format. Several teams have already signed up, and registration will remain open as long as there are spots to fill.
Medals will be awarded to the first- and second-place teams, and there is a giant trophy that will go to the winners. Between the semifinals and championship round, there will also be a pair of races that pit firefighters against police officers as well as La Plata County employees against Durango city employees. With XRock personality Cody Kopp set to emcee the event, it’s sure to get the Snowdown crowd rocking before the parade.
Across the four lanes of Main Avenue, there will be one bed in each lane with beds facing north and south. The middle of the block is the start/finish line. Teams will race directly against the bed next to them. Races can go on simultaneously, with new races starting every 30 seconds. Teams will push to the end of the block. The mattress rider will be in a onesie suit. At the end of the block, a bed-pusher will have to get into the onesie and change places with the mattress-rider before the teams can turn around and race back down the block.
“The whole plan was to utilize the downtown closure for the parade a bit better with more events prior to the parade to get people set up downtown,” said Chip Lile, president of the Snowdown Board of Directors. “It’s great that we have somebody local like (Barnes) who wants to revive it. I’ve seen bed-racing before, but I haven’t been to one the last 20 years, at least.”
The bed races will truly be a community event. The proceeds raised from the bed sponsorships and team entry fees will go directly to The Hundred Club of Durango, a nonprofit organization that supports first responders and their families in the event of a tragedy in the line of duty.
“It’s going to be a fun community event for people to watch,” Barnes said. “Come watch and cheer for whoever you prefer. No matter where you’re standing, there’s going to be action happening in front of you.”