Of all the activities, adventures, and all-around good times that Durango offers, Snowdown is my absolute favorite. It’s so quintessentially small mountain town culture. It’s my favorite because it’s so hard to explain to non-Durangoans. It’s like Mardi Gras, Halloween, the Beer Olympics all rolled into one. How do you explain a week-long theme party in a mountain town to outsiders? You end up saying, “Ugh, it’s just so cool,” which no one believes. It’s so uniquely Durango even compared to other small mountain town festivals. There’s the parade with fire and lights, the only way to keep warm being a pocket stash of Fireball. There’s the costumes that get crazier and crazier as the week goes on. There’s the whole week of crazy events and bar games. There’s the putt-putt bar crawl. There’s the Follies, oh the Follies! There’s events at all hours; all over town it’s so hard to keep up and keep going. Like a lot of events in Durango, you can get lost in all the activity, so it’s best to have a strategy. Here are some pointers:
Go with the flow: One way to experience the week is just completely go with the flow. Take Friday off work, wander around till you find an event that looks fun, then let the day take you the rest of the way.
My last year in Durango I got scooped up in the putt-putt bar crawl and ended up following that crew around for the rest of the day. The reality is that everyone participating in Snowdown is ready for a good time and as long as you’re chill, you’ll fit in.
But plan some things: There is a program for Snowdown with all of the events listed for each day and it’s possible to do almost all of it just by showing up – events like the Follies, putt-putt, and other more structured events. But most of them are free and most of them are open for walk-in participation. If you make yourself a list and try to hit a few specific events each day, you can enjoy some activities without feeling too overwhelmed. When scheduling conflicts between a few events happen, just pick the one that fits your vibe and be confident in your decision. Don’t fall into the FOMO trap. I highly recommend the opening fashion show at La Plata County Fairgrounds, bartenders contest at Moes, the Iron Mixologist at El Moro, and the Snowdown Jokedown at Derailed.
Do: Spend time with friends. Some of my best adventures in Durango have been Snowdown shenanigans with my friends. Walking into a bar with your crew with all your costumes on point is super invigorating and the journey from place to place is often more important. Whether we were piling seven-deep into an Uber to go down the street, or walking 10 blocks to an after-party, having that tight group of friends was really awesome.
Don’t: Be afraid to hang out with strangers and make new friends. This is especially true at the more structured events like the Follies. It always helps to have some ice breakers like a pre-rolled joint, some edibles, or nips of liquor on you to share. You’ll be everyone’s best friend.
Do: Dress up. I always liked having multiple costumes. The year the theme was the ’80s, I went as something different every night. I started as a high school PE coach, then coke dealer, then Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” Seriously, such a blast. This year’s theme is a little trickier, but I’d definitely suggest getting a tuxedo T-shirt so you can go out in costume on a whim. I’d seriously consider renting a tux for the week (cheaper than buying an elaborate costume). I’ve seen some awesome spandex body suit tuxedos on the cheap as well.
Don’t: Stress too hard about dressing up. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Just try and people will dig it.
Do: Avoid your exes. Just kidding, that’s impossible in Durango! Buy them a shot and enjoy the party.
Don’t: Start shit. There are so many dumb fights during Snowdown over the dumbest stuff. I’ve seen shot glasses thrown through windows, people thrown out on their tukus over being too pushy in line to get drinks, and shit going down in bathrooms over the things that go down in bathrooms. The best thing to do is keep a little nip of liquor on you so you don’t get so angry over waiting in line to get drinks. Be patient in lines, don’t be a dick, and let things go when people are dicks to you. You’re going to be partying with these people all week and they are likely your neighbor. So chill out, and praise Ullr.
Robbie Wendeborn is the head brewer at Svendæle Brewing in Millerton, New York. He is also a former beer plumber at Ska Brewing.