The Yule Log has been found in Steamboat Springs |

The Yule Log has been found in Steamboat Springs

Skyler Nelson triumphantly hoists the Yule Log into the air after finding it with his father Randy. It was the 24-year-old's first time finding the Yule Log, and his dad's third.
Courtesy photo

The search for the Yule Log is done. 

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, the father-and-son duo of Randy and Skyler Nelson discovered the log mostly buried in a pile of snow by the maintenance shed in Dr. Rich Weiss Park, just behind the iconic Rabbit Ears Motel.

This was the 43rd annual Yule Log Hunt. Each year the Tread of Pioneers Museum challenges the community to search for a three-foot, 25-pound log marked with the words, “Yule Log,” in red letters. 

For the hunt, a cryptic clue is released every day that leads log hunters from where the log was found the previous year — The Depot Art Center — to another location that has some historical connection to a person or event from Steamboat’s past.

The log isn’t put out until after the sixth clue is released to minimize the chance of someone stumbling upon it without following the clues. 

“It’s a favorite family pre-holiday tradition,” said Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. 

Eight clues were written to eventually lead people to the Yule Log, but Randy and Skyler found it after the sixth clue was revealed. 

“Clue No. 6 was still a ways away from the Yule Log,” Bannister said. 

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To find the log, Randy said he worked with Nina and Randy Cochran, two former locals who cooperated over the phone from their new home on the East Coast. Randy said he and the Cochrans believed the Yule Log was hidden somewhere around Old Town and used a combination of riddle-solving, deductive logic and gut instinct to find it. 

“Historically, the Yule Log, I would say around 50% of the time, is placed in a park or on the edge of a park because that’s public property,” Randy said.

He added that early on in the search, the Cochrans predicted the log would be somewhere around Old Town Hot Springs, which proved accurate. 

However, Bannister is still careful to hide the log in a place that’s inconspicuous.

“I’m in the cloak of darkness hiding this log in four feet of snow,” she said. 

After Randy gave up searching for the log on Tuesday, he said he picked up the search again the following day with the purpose of tracing Bannister’s route.

“I just kind of looked at it with new eyes and figured out what I think was the route that she had taken, which was basically through town, out into Strawberry Park, around the schools, back on Amethyst,” he said.

Randy recalled how he parked behind Old Town Hot Springs and began searching through piles of snow. Then he looked across the street and saw the sign for Dr. Rich Weiss Park. At that point, he thought to himself that the park was so close he might as well go check it out. 

After crossing the street and approaching a maintenance shed in the park, he noticed an appropriately shaped pile of snow about six feet away from him. 

Traditionally, the log isn’t fully buried in the snow, but this year’s winter storms almost covered the treasure completely, Randy said. 

Randy didn’t necessarily spot the log, but an appropriately sized mound of snow. He said it was a great sensation to wipe away the snow and see that he had found the much-sought treasure.
Randy Nelson/Courtesy photo

“In my head, I said, ‘That is the right shape,’” Randy continued. “So I just walked over and pushed the snow off the top of it and sure enough, it’s got the big ‘Yule Log’ written on the top side.”

Randy has searched for the Yule Log since the late 1980s and found it in 1995, 2008 and a third time this year. 

The last time he found it in 2008, his son Skyler was only 10 years old, and despite coming very close several times, this is the first year they found the log as a team. 

“To come home with it this year was pretty awesome,” Skyler said. 

For the past 10 years, Bannister and the museum’s curator Katie Adams have written the Yule Log clues, and Randy describes Bannister as someone who doesn’t give anything away. 

“She doesn’t take a bribe,” Randy said jokingly. 

And Bannister relishes that reputation.

“I love to stump the readers,” she said.

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