Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival's dual slalom bike race renamed in honor of its late founder |

Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival’s dual slalom bike race renamed in honor of its late founder

Peter Hanak wins an early heat during a previous Wheels Bike Shop Dual Slalom Bicycle Race at Howelsen Hill. (Photo by John Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A tradition started by Wheels Bike Shop owner Chris Johns will continue this winter following his death.

The annual Winter Carnival’s dual bike slalom has been renamed the Johnsie Memorial Dual Bike Slalom Bicycle Race in Johns’ honor, and it will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, on Howelsen Hill.

If you go

What: Johnsie Memorial Dual Bike Slalom Bicycle Race
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8
Where: Howelsen Hill, 401 Howelsen Parkway
How to register: Check in at 5 p.m. the day of the event at Howelsen Hill Lodge

Johns passed away last spring following complications from an epileptic seizure. He started the dual slalom bike race as a quirky, fun spectator sport that anyone could participate in at the Winter Carnival.

The competition, which is open to all ages, features two bikers racing through gates down a slalom course on Howelsen Hill through qualification rounds and, ultimately, a single elimination bracket.

“Any bike with wheels is permitted, and people can use fat bikes or skinny tire bikes — depends on what works best each year,” said Cole Wendland, service manager of Wheels Bike Shop, which still sponsors the race. “In the past two years, we’ve had bikes with normal tires, homemade studs or studded tires. Fat bikes float on top of snow better but are a little bit harder to corner.”

Half the battle is even getting up the Poma lift to the top of the hill. Some competitors will ride their bikes while holding onto the lift, others will hold on to the lift with one hand and drag their bike with the other if their bike is too big to ride. This requires either sliding uphill or hopping from one foot to the next like a moonwalk uphill.

“Funniest thing to watch is watching people go up the Poma,” Wendland said. “Some people get frustrated and don’t even try, and hike up next to it.”

The event is notorious for its action-packed crashes, but since it’s open to anyone, it’s fun for spectators to watch their friends and family take their shot at the slope. Spectators can watch from the base of Howelsen Hill, where the bikes will come down the front face.

Cyclists are encouraged to get custom studs for their tires, although they are not required. Participants are also encouraged to practice riding on snow prior to the race.

“Waterproof shoes help because I have frozen my feet before,” Wendland said. “It’s at night and dark and you’re walking around. Bring stuff that’s maneuverable and waterproof and warm.”

There is no entry fee for the event, but participants must have a Winter Carnival button. Registration for the race will begin at 5 p.m. at Howelsen Hill Lodge.

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

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