Life in Sundance, Wyoming is usually pretty laid-back. It hasn’t always been that way though. Sundance is the real home of the Sundance Kid, as well as a sacred location for American Indians to hold their Sun-dance ceremony. Things used to get quite “western” at times—and during their Annual Winter Festival it still does!
This wild-west festival has many “events” within it. The wildest is skijoring! Originally a Scandinavian sport, it’s become popular in “small-town” America, especially in the Western mountain states—where there’s (usually) a lot of snow. If you’ve never watched it, you’re missing out. To describe it simply; it’s a rider on a horse running full speed, pulling a skier, through an obstacle course, on a street piled high with snow. Sound crazy? It is! This course takes place on Main Street in Sundance. It’s piled high with about 3 to 4 feet of snow and goes slightly uphill. There are 3 jumps, a couple of cones that the skier must go around slalom-style, and 3 rings the skier “catches” on his or her right arm. The rider tries to keep the horse running straight at a steady, fast speed, as well as keeping an eye on their skier—who sometimes crashes. The team with the fastest time wins.
Spectators have a grand time, hooting and hollering for the teams as they race by! You can even bet on the teams in the Calcutta before the races begin. While it’s definitely a family friendly atmosphere, it can get a bit rowdy as the day goes on. The “make-your-own” Bloody Mary’s, Hot Buttered Rum and beer they sell on the street helps. It’s “open-container” all the time in Sundance.
The other very entertaining competition is the Barstool Race! Imagine your favorite barstool—with skis attached and maybe even some sort of “theme”. The course starts at the top of a man-made snow hill with two lanes. Competitors run two at a same time, each with a “Pusher” that starts them down the hill, with the first across the line winning. Many participants have costumes and are “named” too. One example is “Maniac Mayor”. Yes, the Mayor of Sundance actually won a race. However, he was disqualified because his “Pusher” crossed the line! Quite entertaining.
The wide, welcoming streets of Sundance house some wonderful history, delicious dining and exceptional art galleries. After the excitement of skijoring and the hilarious barstool races, I found satisfaction in filling that empty spot in my belly at the Longhorn Restaurant & Saloon; a family-owned place right on Main Street where locals and visitors become friends over good drinks and great food.
A stroll around the block revealed the 1875 Gallery where I discovered beautiful, one-of-a-kind works of art. They were offering a wine and homemade chocolate pairing as a fund-raiser for the Crook County Museum. This museum includes a truly great gathering of western cowboy, ranch and pioneer pieces that will soon find their permanent home in a historic sandstone building.
As evening came on, I retired to my cozy cabin at Bearlodge Mountain Resort—located just a few minutes from downtown in a quiet valley where wildlife is viewed from your front door and the almost full moon shines brightly on a tranquil landscape. Here I found all the comforts of home; comfy bed, full bath, kitchenette and even a flat-screen TV over a (electric) fireplace! Needless to say, I slept soundly.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the 2nd day of events; Jeremiah Jundt Memorial Snowmobile Poker Run and Nordic Ski Race. Even if snow has been scarce in the town of Sundance, it’s plentiful on the Bear Lodge Mountains and they were expecting a good turn-out.
I’m looking forward to my next visit. Make sure you explore all that Sundance has to offer at www.sundancewyoming.com