Calling all kayakers: Steamboat’s inaugural snow kayak race takes off Sunday |

Calling all kayakers: Steamboat’s inaugural snow kayak race takes off Sunday

Yampa resident Stevo Parker kayaks in Charlie's Hole on the Yampa River.
Matt Stensland
If you go: What: CMC Paddling Club presents Steamboat's 1st annual Snow Kayak Race When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 25 Where: Howelsen Hill, 845 Howelsen Pkwy. To register, sign up from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Cost is $15 and free for CMC students.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — River runners dreaming of warm summer days and a flowing river may need to dust off those kayaks sooner rather than later to compete in the inaugural Snow Kayak Race from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Howelsen Hill.

Snow kayaking is exactly as it sounds — grab a kayak, wax it for speed, drag it uphill, climb in and get ready for a wild ride.

The new event, which is hosted by the Paddling Club at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, will also feature live entertainment from Three Wire Winter as well as drawings for prizes from Grass Sticks, Love Climbing Gym, Big Agnes, Honey Stinger, Paramount, T-Bar, Slopeside, Ohana, Ski Haus, Soda Creek Pizza, Winona’s, Hydrologic, Mountain Kayak School and BRICK.

“We wanted to find a way to connect the mountains, the rivers and all the people in between,” said Ryan Doughty, CMC Paddling Club president who also led efforts in organizing the race. “It’s a transitional time right now from winter to spring, and we wanted to create a way to welcome the passing of skiing to kayaking.”

Contestants in kayaks will race head to head — similar to a ski cross event — down the course of five bank turns to a pond skim at the bottom. The finish line at the base of Howelsen, according to Doughty, will be the best place to catch all the action.

Each heats will consist of four racers, and the top two will advance to the next round through a bracket system. Each racer will get at least two heats and will be out of the competition if they lose twice.

Doughty first came across the idea watching footage from a snow kayak race at Monarch Mountain in Salida.

“When we saw footage from the races there, we asked ourselves, ‘Why not have one of those here in Steamboat?’” Doughty said.

The club was looking for a new fundraising event as well as a way to raise awareness about the state of rivers.

At first, it seemed like a crazy idea, but after talking with the city of Steamboat Springs, Doughty said organizers realized the event could be a reality.

“Before we knew it, we had an event planned and people on board supporting us along the way,” Doughty said.

As far as what kind of kayaks to use, Doughty said any kayak would do but a whitewater kayak, creek boat or play boat would provide the speed competitors are looking for.

“My hope is that this event will become an annual tradition for all the ski bums out there gearing up for the river season,” Doughty said. “But also, I hope it inspires those who have thought about kayaking but haven’t known where to start to get into a boat and maybe have kayaking be their new thing.”

Up to the challenge?

Race registration will be open from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Practice runs will start shortly after, and the race will officially start at noon. Anyone can register for the event. The cost is $15 and free for CMC students. Required equipment includes: kayak, PFD, helmet and paddle.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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