Steamboat mother and son duo find Yule log Wednesday morning
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs resident Lynne Romeo awoke at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, not from visions of sugarplums dancing in her head, but with an urge to win the annual Yule Log Hunt.
Finding the log, which has been hidden each holiday season for the last 40 years with clues leading people to its location, has been an obsession for Romeo for the last three years. That dogged determination paid off later that morning, after Romeo and her son Mirko Erspamer became this year’s winners of the hunt.
The accomplishment was the culmination of careful research into Steamboat’s history and creative problem solving akin to a Sherlock Holmes whodunit mystery. But before cracking the clues, Romeo lay wide-eyed in bed, certain that someone already had uncovered the hiding place.
“There were so many people out looking for it (Tuesday) night,” she said.
Nevertheless, Romeo arose to read the latest clue, which Steamboat Pilot & Today published at 6 a.m. that morning. The Tread of Pioneers Museum organizes the holiday hunt and crafts the clues around local history. The log is hidden after the sixth clue goes public in an attempt to avoid someone accidentally stumbling across it.
Sharing a similar dream of finding the log, Erspamer was out of bed, too, ready to search.
Together, they read the seventh clue:
Slip and slide, right in town
Glide and shoot, sit on down.
Olympic dreams, a rare feat.
Look around, they can’t be beat.
The mother and son duo braved the biting cold and headed to Howelsen Hill. “Slip and slide” had to be talking about the Alpine Slide, a mountain coaster that runs below the Barrows Lift, they thought. The line about “Olympic dreams” made them think of the ski jumps and the 88 Olympians who have come out of Steamboat, many of them Nordic combined athletes who trained on the hill.
“Glide and shoot” evoked images of a biathlon in Romeo’s mind. She and Erspamer searched the Nordic trails to no avail. Then they checked the rodeo grounds. Romeo climbed into the grandstands to survey the area. She noticed the Howelsen Ice Arena just a few hundred feet away. Erspamer did, too.
Suddenly, the two had an epiphany — training 88 Olympians on Howelsen Hill was an incredible accomplishment, but it was no “rare feat.” Had Steamboat produced any Olympic hockey players or figure skaters? Romeo and her son could not think of any. “Slip and slide” could just as easily apply to skating as to the slide.
“I knew we were on it,” Romeo said.
The two rushed to the ice rink, perusing the area around the building. Romeo saw her son duck under a pine tree near the entrance. Erspamer had sighted the corner of a block of wood that certainly had not fallen from the tree. He reached under and pulled it out. It was covered in names and dates stretching back to the 1980s.
On the other side, in large red letters, were two words: YULE LOG.
“I about died. I could not believe it,” Romeo said of the find.
Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum who hid this year’s log, applauded the hard work Romeo and her son put into their search. Bannister placed most of the past winners into one of two categories, researchers and hunters.
“They really did their research,” Bannister said of Romeo and Erspamer.
Doing the search that way, Bannister added, takes participants on a journey through “the rabbit hole of history.” The clues begin at the site of the previous year’s Yule log — this year that journey started at the Bud Werner Memorial Library — and get progressively closer to the hiding spot.
The process delighted the curiosities of Romeo and Erspamer, who discovered tidbits about Steamboat’s past they never would have otherwise. For example, they learned Nordic skier Carl Howelsen first built a ski jump at the site of the Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs campus before he established a better jump on his namesake hill.
Romeo was so happy she won and appreciative of the annual hunt that she offered to donate her winnings, a $150 gift card from the Steamboat Springs Chamber. Bannister urged her simply to enjoy the prize. Instead, Romeo expressed an interest in becoming a supporting member of the museum and making a donation.
Finally, Romeo and her son added their names to the list of past winners on the Yule Log.
“I am officially in the history of Steamboat,” Romeo said.
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