A family Yule Log tradition carries on

Jack Weinstein
Lifelong Steamboat Springs resident Alan Selch once again writes the date of his successful Yule Log hunt on the 50-pound log he found on a berm between Casey's Pond and the Mountain Fire Station on Monday afternoon.
Scott Franz

— Most years, Alan Selch takes the week before Christmas off work to search for the Yule Log. He calls it “standard procedure.”

This year, he found the Yule Log before his vacation even started.

Selch, a lifelong Steamboat Springs resident, found the 50-pound log Monday afternoon under trees on the berm between Casey’s Pond and the Mountain Fire Station. His vacation was supposed to start Tuesday, but he started looking at the clues Monday.

He said many of the first few didn’t make sense to him, but when he reached that day’s clue, the eighth, it clicked.

Pick your lane, or buy a drink.

Enter the cave, and you might sink.

So many ways to hit a ball.

Those in service are always on call.

Selch said “Pick your lane, or buy a drink/Enter the cave, and you might sink,” referred to the old Cave Inn night club at U.S. Highway 40 and Mount Werner Road, which was previously a bowling alley. He said “So many ways to hit a ball/Those in service are always on call,” led him to Casey’s Pond near the Ski Town Fields and the fire station.

“I knew if I didn’t go (Monday), it probably would have been found by somebody else,” he said. “I’m surprised it was still there. I thought some of the folks who were more serious that I am would have gotten there first.”

He was right. Selch said veteran Yule Log hunter Sue Petrillo, who found it the previous two years, told him she was looking at Casey’s Pond at about 3 p.m. Monday, an hour or two after he left with the painted log in tow.

According to Steamboat Today archives, Selch and members of his family have found the Yule Log 14 times during the years. Selch thinks he has found the log alone or working with stepbrother Glen Farrell a total of nine times. He worked alone this year.

Selch said he has participated in the annual hunt, which has taken place since at least 1978, nearly every year since 1983 or 1984.

“I guess it’s just the challenge of it,” he said. “It’s fun to go out and walk around places that people don’t normally go. And I guess there’s a certain amount of expectation that family and friends have. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked at work, ‘Are you going to find that log this year?’ The more times I find it, the more I expect to find it. You just feel like you have to.”

Candice Bannister, director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, which sponsors the hunt and writes the clues, said she was pleased the Yule Log wasn’t found until the release of the eighth clue. Last year, Petrillo and her daughter found it after the fourth clue.

The hunt begins where it ended the previous year and requires participants to decipher clues loaded with historical references and landmarks that take them on a journey through town. For finding the Yule Log, Selch was awarded $150 in Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association bucks and a plaque.

Selch said the prize isn’t the motivation.

“That moment when you see it is like finding buried treasure,” he said. “I guess you could say I do it for the sport of it.”

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email

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