Steamboat Springs Pentathlon canceled after 27 years |

Steamboat Springs Pentathlon canceled after 27 years

Steamboat Springs’ Barkley Robinson runs to the finish of the Steamboat Pentathlon. Robinson was a loyal participant of the Steamboat Pentathlon, which will end its course after 27 years. (File photo by Joel Reichenberger)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After 27 years, the Steamboat Pentathlon has run its course.

Steamboat Springs city officials announced Dec. 21 that the city will no longer sponsor the Pentathlon due to declining participation, scarcity of sponsorships and conflicting events.

“It’s been around awhile,” City of Steamboat Springs marketing and special events coordinator Emily Hines said. “There wasn’t a lot going on in March 27 years ago, now there’s a lot more programming and events taking place the same weekend.”

Hines said the city has kept an eye on the Pentathlon for a few years now and has tried to revive it in a number of ways. When it comes to budgeting, the city has to look at who the event is affecting and if it’s more of an elite or entry-level event. Entry-level events tend to get higher subsidies, since they welcome a larger number of people.

The Pentathlon, hosted every March, included a half-mile Alpine ski or snowboard, 2.45-mile snowshoe, 3.7-mile Nordic ski, 13-mile mountain bike ride and 4-mile run. Hines said the city also incorporated a short course option to help increase participation, which included a 0.33-mile Alpine ski or snowboard, 2 miles of snowshoeing and Nordic skiing, a 7.5-mile mountain bike ride and a 2-mile run.

People were able to enter as individuals or teams. The number of individuals participating from 2015 to 2018 stayed relatively consistent, ranging from 43 to 51 participants. People who competed in the team category could form male, female or coed teams of three to five participants or a duo category that allowed two people to share the weight. Teams could participate on both standard and short courses.

The team category is where the drop was most prevalent. The race went from averaging 32 to 34 teams to only 16 teams in 2018.

“That’s partially due to the fact that there’s a lot going on and it’s not easy to get five to six people to commit to a race,” Hines said. “The years that we’ve had a lot more participation were the years we were able to secure a sponsor to help put together a lot of teams. The years we weren’t able to get that participation saw lower numbers.”

Sponsors face tough decisions when approached about new events that come to town. They have to prioritize which events will give them the most bang for their buck. The Steamboat Pentathlon hosted roughly 200 people over the years, and most were locals.

Barkley Robinson, an avid participant in the Steamboat Pentathlon, has won the event nine times as an individual.

“I’ve seen the participation go down over the years,” Robinson said. “But it was last year in particular where there were a few conflicting events, the numbers were down. That was kind of the nail in the coffin.”

Robinson said he loved the race’s uniqueness, combining a number of sports into one. Howelsen Hill made for a prime location for the Pentathlon, which isn’t commonly found anywhere else.

“It was kind of symbolic of the change of season,” Robinson said. “It bridged that gap between the winter sports and the summer sports season and brought them together. It was a fun community event, brought people out and we had nice weather in March for that race.”

There also was a decline in volunteer participation, which meant the city had to dedicate more hours to setting up the five different courses.

“We used to have volunteers that were more involved, so they helped take ownership of different courses within the event,” Hines said. “That helped take the work off of our staff. It was a great core group, then we kind of lost that and it was not something people were able to take back on.”

But since the event has been a storied tradition in Steamboat Springs for 27 years, Hines hopes it can make a comeback in the future.

“We’re obviously sad to see it go,” Hines said. “We would love if a private organization might be interested in taking it over. We’re an open book and more than happy to talk to anyone.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

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