Steamboat Stories — Barb & John Shipley
Local Ranchers, Cowboy Downhill Announcer & Organizer

Barb & John Shipley raised their family in Steamboat Springs, running their ranch just south of town. Many may recognize John’s voice if you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying an evening at the Steamboat Rodeo. He announces cowboys and cowgirls from atop the rodeo grounds on Fridays and Saturdays throughout out the Summer. Anytime the Bud Light Cowboy Downhilll comes up, Barb and John are always ready to get to work. John describes the event as “the most fun you can have with chaps, skis, and cowboy hats”, while Barb recounts a story from January 1975 when she was tasked to acquire unique “prizes” awarded to winners and the “best crash”. In its 48th year (2023), this is one of Steamboat’s must-see events, and always a perfect display of Steamboat’s western heritage.

The Bud Light Cowboy Downhill has been coined as “the biggest organized ski accident in history.” Billy Kidd (Silver Medalist Olympian & World Professional Ski Champion 1970) and Larry Mahan (Six-Time All-Round Professional Rodeo Champion 1966-70 and ’73) continue to host professional rodeo cowboys each year competing in Denver’s National Western Stock Show. Cowboys & Cowgirls are invited to participate in a timed downhill ski race that begins by negotiating a giant slalom course, which includes a humbling ski jump. Next, they’re challenged to lasso a ski instructress, then saddle a horse, and ride across the finish line. Perhaps in an effort to reclaim their pride, finally they are invited to take the hill in a massive single-start downhill race that results in don’t miss ski-carnage entertainment for onlookers and participants alike.

To help celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Steamboat Resort, we have complied stories of people who have shaped the mountain from its humble beginnings to the resort of today, sharing their deep roots, traditions, and memories.

If you would like to add your own stories and memories of Steamboat, please tag your social media posts with #steamboat60.