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Challenges of winter

Snow shovel racing.

It’s one of those quirky, fun little things that for whatever reason has been a big deal at Angel Fire Resort and virtually nowhere else.

The resort is celebrating its 40th running on Feb. 9 – there were several years when the race disappeared.

See angelfireresort.com/event/40th-world-championship-shovel-races.

“Where else can you show up and become a World Champion in one race?” asked Ruth Worden, Angel Fire marketing manager. “We are one of only a handful of resorts worldwide where they offer shovel racing as a competitive sport. We’d love to encourage anyone who has heard about shovel racing or who would like to try to come give it a shot to register now. Everyone has to try it once. It’s a great event to participate in or come out and cheer them on as a spectator.”

The event annually draws hundreds of competitors and even more spectators line the hill to watch the brave and brazen plant themselves on the business end of a snow shovel to wildly careen pell-mell toward the finish.

There would seem to be little science behind the competition, but that isn’t quite accurate, said longtime rider John “shovel meister” Strader, who recently put together a retrospective of the past 40 years (https://youtu.be/o6GYDJH1oKo).

“The first thing is experience,” he said. “You have to be willing to let it go. The thing about snow shovel racing, anyone can do it, but to go top speed you have to be able to relax and stay in form. You can’t have your legs spread apart, you have to be as aerodynamic as possible.”

While air friction is so important that Strader wears a special speed suit to cut down on wind resistance, curtailing friction between the snow and shovel is far more significant.

“You have to have a good wax concoction,” he said. “Wax really matters a lot. I’ve seen a lot of different things. People have painted the shovels, rubbed Pam on it. I still use ski wax. There’s nothing better.”

In the top categories, however, every millisecond counts, said Strader, who ought to know, since he’s won it twice and was runner-up nine times.

“The time difference between first and fifth is less than half a second,” he said. “Any tiny, little aerodynamic matters.”

With speeds that approach 70 mph, nerves of steel certainly help, as well.

“You have to fearless,” Strader said. “It’s not really dangerous, but that speed is scary if you’re not prepared for how fast you’re going to go. It’s faster than a skier or snowboarder. No skier can beat us. No way if they start from a static start like we do, we’ll beat them every time because we’re on the ground. There’s nothing between us and the snow but a thin layer of aluminum. It’s wicked fast. You have to be ready to go wicked fast. If you’re afraid of speed, it’s not the sport for you.”

A variety of categories opens up the competition for just about anybody: Little Scoops (ages 6-9); Youth (ages 10-13); Junior (ages 14-17); Media (open to men or women currently working in TV, print or radio); Adult Women (ages 18+); Adult Men (ages 18-44); Master Men (ages 45+); Pro Men; Pro Women; as well as the Team (4-person team – best of top 3 times) category.

Strader did scoff at the media because “they ride from the Scoops hill. They should ride from the top like the rest of us.”

If after enough wipeouts another outdoor adventure is on tap, it’s just a short trip over to Eagle’s Nest Lake, where ice fishing has been top-notch, said Timothy Urtiaga, owner of Eagle Nest Fly Shack (

).

“Show up dressed warm and comfortable, ready to fish,” he said. “Our guides have all of the gear, fishing rods, bait, an ice tent with heater to warm up. They are there to help supervise and help give tips and tricks to help catch fish through the ice.”

Kokonee salmon, rainbow trout and yellow perch have been the main catches, Urtiaga said.

“The fishing has been good,” he said.

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