Winter Carnival 2017: Ingenuity, skill and guts rule in dual bike slalom |

Winter Carnival 2017: Ingenuity, skill and guts rule in dual bike slalom

Rob Peterson falls during Friday's Winter Carnival bike slalom at Howelsen Hill. The event has been a part of Winter Carnival for 20 years.
Matt Stensland

— Of course, Duct tape is involved. With something as original and demanding of both talent and ingenuity, how could it not be?

Wheels Bike Shop in downtown Steamboat Springs has been the sponsor for the annual dual slalom bicycle race at Howelsen Hill for 20 years and Wheels owner Chris Johns said those who do well in the event usually have one thing in common: studded tires.

Many people stud their own tires by drilling screws from the inside of the tire out, exposing between 1/4 and 3/4 of an inch of screw to the snow for some sensational handling even on the steep, icy hillside.

"They then will usually cover the inside of the tire with several layers of Duct tape," Johns said.

It's not exactly a science. Leave too much screw exposed, especially on the back of a bike frame, and the tire won't have enough clearance to go all the way around through the frame.

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Leave too little clearance, too little gripping power, and the ride down Howelsen won't last long at all.

Falling also isn’t a good idea, especially with those suddenly sharp tires involved. Helmets are required and pads and snow gear are highly recommended, but they can only do so much.

"You don't want to crash with those studs on your bike," Johns said. "You might permanently damage your clothing or your body."

The carnage — so long as it keep from being the "permanently damange your body" kind — is half the fun of the annual event, and that fun starts even before the race.

The course starts halfway up the face of Howelsen Hill, an extremely steep slope that regularly proves a challenge for competitive skiers. Many of the night's bikers will try to ride the Pomalift, but only the most skilled will have much success at it. The rest struggle to push their way up.

Coming down is no breeze, either, of course.

"There are some really killer athletes in town and you can see even for them the course is very difficult at times," Johns said.

Racers will tackle the course in a dual slalom format, zipping between gates to beat the rider lined up next to them. They will then proceed through a bracket to determine the champion.

"About 10 percent of the riders are pretty high performance skilled athletes that can put on a clinic every year," Johns said.

The rest? Well, they have fun, too, especially if they remember the Duct tape.

"It's a fun format that people don't see often, down a steep slope with snow," Johns said. "A lot of my customers and employees love it, and they always like to participate or volunteer."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

If you go

What: Wheels Bike Shop Dual Slalom Bicycle Race

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Howelsen Hill

More information: Age 12 and older. An exciting on-snow, mountain bike event down the face of Howelsen Hill. Event includes practice, qualifying and final competition rounds. Register the night of the event at 5:30 p.m. in the Fireplace Room at Howelsen Hill Lodge. For more information, call Chris Johns with Wheels Bike Shop at 970-846-7433.

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