Snowdown is here, and if you're like us, you're ready – you're ready for this. You've been hanging on the edge of your seat. Down to Main Avenue you're going to zip, as the light parade rolls down the street.
Durango's original “cabin fever reliever” is back for the 42nd year and “live in costume.” This year's theme is “A Rockin' Snowdown,” so break out whatever duds you've got that celebrate the 70-year-old musical genre.
But take it easy, too. Don't let the sound of downtown revelry drive you crazy.
“We see a lot of one-event wonders out there who go and put it all on the line for that one event,” says Snowdown spokesman Dave Imming. “And then they don't experience any of the other 161 events.”
Anyone who says Snowdown isn't a drinking festival is being at least a bit disingenuous. Even when they aren't specifically based around alcohol consumption, several dozen events take are centered around Durango's bar scene.
Then again, Snowdown has certainly mellowed out over the past four decades – past events may have had revelers jumping into pools of beer in various states of undress. These days it includes a plethora of family friendly events denoted by the “Healthy Event Seal of Approval” in the official schedule. There are also events that subvert the drinking theme, such as this year's Mock and Roll event. The non-alcoholic pub crawl sponsored by Young People in Recovery begins at the Strater Hotel at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and takes participants to various venues featuring mocktail menus.
Even this year's Snowdown beer was crafted with relative sobriety in mind.
Ska Brewing Co.'s Tutti Frutti Oh Rudie is a fruited India pale ale based on SKA's Rudie Session IPA. The difference between the ale and its forebearer, the “tutti frutti” comes from hints of mango and passion fruit. The beer also has a notably low ABV for an IPA at 5%.
“It's a really nice IPA and at 5%, it's not too overpowering, especially for Snowdown, when you tend to drink more than one beer in a row,” said Kristen Muraro, Ska's Sales and Marketing Director.
The beer can be found at Ska's Headquarters in Bodo Park as well as liquor stores around Durango. The company plans to run out of the brew by or during Snowdown – if you see it anywhere, know that there is a finite supply.
I want it allAccording to Imming, the most essential tool for maximizing your Snowdown experience is the official schedule.
“Get it, mark it with the things you want to do, keep it in your pocket,” he advised.
“There's so many things going on, you can't possibly remember them all,” she said.
She also advises having a warm costume change on hand.
“I remember some years when, at the parade, it was like 10 degrees, freezing.”
Speaking of costumes, if you slacked off and didn't prepare one in advance, there are a number of places around town to find something spandex or animal print to rock. A good starting place would be Animas Trading Co., which always stocks Snowdown costume accessories.
Wondering which events to check out? Out of all the events, there are four that stand out every year – the Four Horsemen of the Snowdowncalypse if you will: The Follies, Fashion Do's and Don'ts, the Outlaw Josie Pete Golf Tournament, and the Light Parade.
By the time you read this, if you don't have tickets to the Follies or Fashion Do's and Don'ts, it's probably a lost cause. Both began selling long before Snowdown started and at this point you'll need to sell your soul to get into the Follies. If you're dead set on seeing them, you can catch a live videocast of it at the Animas City Theatre.
The golf tournament begins at noon on Saturday and has holes all over town. Entry is $75 for a team of four people, and you supply your own putters and golf balls. If you don't want to go through the hassle of actually competing, you can spectate from any of the holes.
There's only so much that can be said about the light parade on Friday at dusk (think 6 p.m.-ish). It's easily the largest parade in Durango, if not the best-attended single event in Durango, and the only parade held at night. Durangoans pour their creativity into the floats and it is truly spectacular.
If you're planning on going (and if you're not, what's wrong with you?), don't drive if at all possible. City buses, including the trolley, will be free all day long on every route. The last ones leave the transit center at 8:30 p.m. From 3 to 9 p.m., there will be two special shuttles ferrying people to and from the transit center, the La Plata County Fairgrounds, and Three Springs and Mercy Hospital. The Fairgrounds shuttle will leave once every 20 minutes; the Three Springs one leaves once every 45 minutes.
(Keep in mind that in addition to alleviating the parking nightmare that is Downtown Durango, these buses can deliver weary day-drinkers home, assuming you live in town and don't plan to stay out very late. If you're going to rock a low-level buzz all day Friday, please take the bus.)
Outside of the big four, there are a number of perennial favorite events returning this year.
Thursday features the Hot Wing Eating Contest at Animas City Theatre, the Rockin' Rollin' Oyster Slurpin' Contest at Highway 3 Roadhouse, the Rocky Mountain Oyster Eat Off at Derailed Pour House, and the results of the Beard Growing Competition at Carver Brewing Co. (which, in addition to length often features a Nickelodeon Double Dare-style absorbency challenge – people have been known to drink the beer squeezed out of beards, says Carver's Head Brewer Patrick Jose).
Friday has the Service Industry Scramble (which is a fantastic spectator sport even if you don't compete) in the alley behind Steamworks Brewing Co., and the Bed Races between 7th and 8th streets on Main Avenue.
Saturday brings the Chili Cook-Off and Bloody Mary Contest at the Fairgrounds, the Canine Fashion Show at McDonald's, Outhouse Stuffing at Gazpacho Restaurant, and the Quaffing Competition at 11th Street Station.
When it comes to the new events added this year, Imming recommends Rock Stop and Roll on Wednesday at Durango High School. The DHS Orchestra will play a rockin' concert followed by a dinner and children's costume contest. We're also interested in the Drink Up Relay on Friday at Fired Up Pizzeria.
Break on through (to the other side)If, despite our warnings, you wake up with that telltale headache, nausea, and light sensitivity after hitting Durango a bit too hard, Jose has a whole regimen for “slaying the hangover beast,” but wants everyone to remember he's a brewer, not a doctor: “Take a variety of vitamins alongside 400 to 600 mg of ibuprofen. Chase that with a liter of alkaline water, followed by a deluxe bloody and breakfast at Carver's. You can always add a touch of edibles or flower to this prescription for a smooth exit from the fog.”
(We'd like to add that there are also dozens of other breakfast spots to help ease your hangover woes. They'll all, including Carver's, be full of people, but they're there.)
Muraro added that staying hydrated and possibly sleeping between events may help you last until the end of the weekend.
When it comes to surviving the festival in a literal sense, there are a number of things you can do to make sure this Snowdown isn't your last. Members of Durango's medical community wouldn't speak to us on the record – they're reluctant to publicly associate themselves with events in which participants have a penchant for overindulging – but they sent over some tips.
They want to encourage a “sober-curious” festival and encourage people to tryout the aforementioned mocktails, especially if they're in recovery. The medical community also wanted us to remind you that binge drinking – having five drinks for men or four drinks for women within a two-hour period – can result in alcohol poisoning, injuries, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease, cancer, brain damage and death. Young People In Recovery and the Animas Alano Club are resources for people who need support in preventing high-risk behaviors. Alcohol can also interact with medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood-stabilizers. If you or someone else is in crisis, the 24/7 Axis Care Connect Line is (970) 247-5245.
San Juan Basin Public Health also expressed that it'd be a good idea to get your flu shots at least a couple weeks before Snowdown. Hopefully you did that cause by the time of this publication it will be too late.
La Plata County Search and Rescue hosts a pancake breakfast and silent auction from 7 a.m. to noon on Sunday. Outside of sleeping in, we can't think of a better way to end Snowdown – especially if you're a sports fan and heading straight into a Super Bowl watch party.