We were sitting on aluminum bleachers on a cloudy, cool night in the Colorado mountains at a rodeo and the rodeo clown had just struck a home run.
As a rather ornery and recalcitrant bull refused to leave the arena the clown let him have it.
“Hey bull,” he yelled. “Did you know your mama is a cow and your sister is a heifer?” The entire crowd roared.
Cowboys and Greenhorns
Bull riding was the last event of the night at the Beaver Creek rodeo and the crowd was primed after one and a half hours of good, old-fashioned, unplugged entertainment. The evening had kicked off with Bronc Busting, where cowboys try to ride an impossibly agile horse for 8 seconds. Not a one of them had made it, but it got the crowd warmed up.
Next was the calf scramble. This involved about 50 kids from the audience. As they lined up in the dirt of the arena, the rodeo clown put them through some “warm ups,” stretching their arms and legs and then directly them to drop down and do push ups. The kids looked at him as if he was crazy and then tentatively looked to their parents. Finally, one by one, they got down in the dirt. With their summer vacation clothes now properly “rodeo’d” they took off after the calves trying to steal a ribbon from each wagging tail.
The evening continued in this manner, shifting between cowboy and cowgirl competitions and events for spectators.
After the 12 and unders got dirty chasing calves, really little kids (3-5) tried their luck at mutton bustin’ (riding a sheep). Many of them flopped face down into the dirt within seconds, but generally got up happy.
There was even a participatory event for adults, namely Burro Racing. Three teams of three adults each had to catch a burro, get a rider on its back, while the other two team members push and pull the stubborn mule around the arena. The results were predictable and hilarious. Again the crowd was roaring.
The Real Deal
When I told my boys that we were going up to Beaver Creek to see the rodeo, they looked at me like I was crazy. “There is a rodeo in Beaver Creek?” they asked.
I was surprised as well. Beaver Creek is a luxe ski resort, that promises outstanding skiing and service under the motto of “Not Exactly Roughing It.”
But Beaver Creek also sits above the Eagle River valley in Central Colorado, and before this land was a ski resort, the forests and meadows were used by cattle ranchers and shepherds to run stock. There is a long-time ranching tradition in this part of Colorado, and agriculture continues to be part of the local economy.
When the last bull had bucked and the last cowboy had climbed the fence to safety, I took in the crowd as we all stood up to depart. Young, old, male, female, everyone was smiling. Before we arrived, my youngest son said to me “all I remember about rodeos is HOT.” After a thoroughly entertaining evening at the Beaver Creek rodeo, I’m pretty sure all he’ll remember is FUN. I’m also sure we’ll be back.
When You Go…
The Beaver Creek rodeo has a seven week season from late June to mid-August. This year, the 12th season will open on Thursday, June 27th. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. and if you want to sign up for any of the spectator events, get there early. The rodeo starts at 6:00 and is over by 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for teens, with kids 12 and under free.
More Summer Fun
In addition to the rodeo, Beaver Creek has extensive hiking, biking and, of course, chairlift rides. The summer trail map lists trails for all abilities on foot and wheels.
If you’re interested in a big adventure, or you’re in need of gear and guidance, the Beaver Creek Hiking Center offers guided hikes, as they say from “Family to 14’er.” I’ve lived in Colorado all my life and hiked a ton of trails, but I would gladly work with a guide to get my family up an unfamiliar 14’er. It’s a great service.
The Centennial Express Lift has summer operations and takes riders up to Spruce Saddle for lunch, horseshoes and disc golf. Riders 12 and under are free, but must be accompanied by an adult. At the Centennial base, families will find mini-golf, a bungee trampoline and climbing wall. And, of course, outdoor ice skating continues year-round in the village plaza.
A Place to Rest Your Head
Every option, from hotel to home, is available in Beaver Creek and the neighboring town of Avon. We like condos and we stayed at an especially nice condo in The Osprey at Beaver Creek.
The Osprey is a small, friendly, modern hotel that was ranked the #1 Top Resort by readers of Travel + Leisure in 2012. In the summer, it is quiet, high on the mountain away from I-70 and nearly in the thick of the forest.
In the winter, the hotel is only 26 feet from the Strawberry Park Express Lift. Think about that.
And Fill Your Belly
As with lodging, you’ve got every option in Beaver Creek and Avon. Our current favorite is The Metropolitan which was new last year. Dinner is served tapas-style (small plates), so everyone gets a wide variety to sample, the seating is casual with a blend of tables and couches, and the wine selection is extensive. Breakfast is one of the best deals in the village, with breakfast sandwiches from $6-7 and oatmeal and pastries, too.
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