It’s all Downhill for annual event |

It’s all Downhill for annual event

PRCA cowboys, cowgirls take on 32nd annual Cowboy Downhill

Michael Sisk had a message for the 60 other cowboys and cowgirls gathered in Steamboat Springs for Tuesday’s 32nd annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill.

“This is my mountain,” he said.

Sisk is not only a great skier but also a competitive saddle bronc rider and local orthopedic surgeon. On Tuesday, he won his third Cowboy Downhill Stampede title, beating nearly 60 other skiers and snowboarders down Headwall ski run in a winner-takes-all race.

He won by several ski lengths.

“I’m sure he cheated,” joked Andy Kurtz, another Steamboat Springs cowboy and fellow saddle bronc rider.

Sisk found a spot as far from his competitors — and the jump built in the middle of the dual slalom run — as possible.

“Skier’s right has always been good to me,” he said.

Sisk may have gotten a bit of a head start, but Tuesday’s event wasn’t exactly monitored, and his competition wasn’t exactly 2006 gold medal hopefuls Bode Miller or Daron Rahlves.

“We are just here to have fun,” Sisk said.

Some, such as world champion saddle bronc rider Jeff Willert, also were here to take major spills, much to the delight of the crowd. Willert, who won more than $278,000 in 2005, also won Tuesday’s Best Crash honor for his head-over-heels stumble down Headwall.

For those who wouldn’t plant a foot in the saddle of a mechanical bull — let alone get on a real one in the chutes — Tuesday’s event was a chance to see some of the world’s most fearless athletes out of their element.

“Everybody loves it,” Kurtz said. “They come up here and have a wild time. There isn’t a lot of opportunity to do a lot of other things during rodeo season.”

Before the Stampede, the Cowboy Downhill began with the dual slalom race. Cowboys and cowgirls on skis or snowboards had to navigate around gates, go over a jump, lasso a Steamboat Ambassador and saddle a horse before crossing the finish line.

Kyle Bowers, a bareback rider from Alberta, Canada, won in 31.50 seconds. Trad-itionally, the Canadian cowboys fare well, and this year was no different with three placing in the top 10. But Kurtz and Sisk did Steamboat proud, finishing second and third, respectively. Kurtz finished in 32.28. Sisk was just behind him in 32.33.

West Burns, a saddle bronc rider from Canyon, Texas, was the only cowboy from a southern state to finish in the top 10.

But Lexie Bath did all Southerners proud. The barrel racer from Westpoint, Miss., landed her first-ever jump during Tuesday’s race, competing against friend and fellow barrel racer Kelley Lacy.

Bath’s skiing background is minimal.

“I missed two gates,” she said. “I didn’t care. I landed my jump.”

Lacy wasn’t so lucky, but both had a good time.

This year’s field included top cowboys such as Willert and Will Lowe, a three-time World Champion cowboy. It also included bullrider Judd Mortensen, who opted to go right between the horse’s legs after saddling it, so he wouldn’t have to unstrap from his snowboard.

JD Garrett, a bareback rider, didn’t even bother lassoing a lady or saddling a horse. As soon as he was done getting through the slalom gates, he sat back on his skis and went right through the horse’s legs and across the finish line.

Although it was impressive, he was disqualified.

In addition to the actual race rules, Tuesday’s cowboys and cowgirls needed to wear cowboy hats and chaps. The participants also had to be entered in the National Western Stock Show going on in Denver and be members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Professional Bull Riders.

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