Steamboat’s Cowboy Downhill is long-running tradition for former professional bull rider

Rodeo queen Jessilea Haga crash lands off the jump during the 43rd Bud Light Cowboy Downhill on the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area last year. This year's Cowboy Downhill is slated to take place at 1 p.m. Monday.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Twenty years ago bull rider Jed Moore showed up at the Cowboy Downhill in Steamboat Springs looking for a good time.

“Everybody on the mountain gets to see the cowboys,” Moore said of the event. “They are yee-hawing as they go over you on the lifts, and it’s a great day to be a cowboy.”

Moore said he was drawn into the event during the early days of his 13-year career riding bulls professionally. He participated in his first Cowboy Downhill in 1999 and has made plans to return every year since then.

“A friend of mine from Cheyenne told me all about the event in 1998,” Moore said. “He told me that I had missed out on a great time in not getting to go, so I made sure to enter around the Cowboy Downhill dates at Denver the next year. I had so much fun that first year that I have not missed one since.”

Moore stopped riding bulls competitively in 2010, but his name remains on the list of more that 100 contestants who normally make their way down the Stampede ski run at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

“A day at the downhill, or weekend at the downhill looks a little different for me now, than it did 20 years  ago,” Moore said. “I’m going to come over Saturday night, so we can get on the hill early enough Sunday morning with my wife and kids.”

Moore still travels to Denver and spends a few days at the National Western Stock Show before traveling to Steamboat. But these days,  he spends most of his time on the outside of the rodeo arena cheering for friends and some of his students who he works with as head rodeo coach at Northwest Colorado Community College in Rangely. 

He also remains active on the rodeo scene not only coaching, but playing a key role in several regional events including Rock N’ Bulls, a Labor Day weekend bull riding event, and Spartan Showdown, a college rodeo hosted by NWCC in Rangely each year. He also runs the Champions Choice Rough Stock School wrapped up last week in Laramie, Wyoming.

But despite his busy schedule, Moore plans to be in the starting gate for the 44th annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill on Monday, competing in the Legends and Founders division.

“I fit in there pretty well,” Moore said. “The division is for cowboys who are not active in say the Denver stock show but have been fixtures in the downhill for years.”

The good news for the other cowboys who take the time to come to Steamboat is that Moore will not be eligible to take home the top prizes.

This year’s spectacle is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in Gondola Square with a 4-H petting zoo, roping clinic and the Denver Bronco cheerleaders.  The race begins at 1 p.m., and after the race, spectators are invited to enjoy a free concert featuring Waterloo Revival as part of the Bud Light Rocks the Boat Concert Series. 

“It is a really popular event, so the resort recommends that people get out a little early and claim a spot,” said Loryn Kasten, senior communications manager for Steamboat Ski Area.

“I love to watch it from the Bear River Terrace, so that you can get the whole view of the entire course,” Kasten said. “Otherwise, I really like to go up on the mountain on the side of the course, right or left works, but just a little bit below the jump. That way you get to see the jump first hand, because that’s where most of the carnage is, and you also get to see the rest of the obstacle course.”

Moore said he is happy just to be a part of the event that began when Billy Kidd, Steamboat’s director of skiing, and Larry Mahan, six-time All-Around World Champion cowboy, decided to invite a few of the cowboys from the National Western Stock Show to Steamboat for a day of skiing.

“When Larry Mahan and his friends came up, it was all about having fun with your rodeo buddies outside of the rodeo arena,” Moore said. “It’s an outlet to get away from the travel and the grind and rodeo competition. All the history that’s behind the event, and all the great cowboys that have competed in that event, it’s such a great day to be a part of.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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