Richard Kirkpatrick, from the team “Shovelin’ Elvi.” © Andrew Stemple/ESPN
Sometimes called the “drunken person’s game,” this rare sport attracts the true lovers of adrenaline. At up to seventy mph speeds, with little to no control over maneuvering down an icy mountain, snow-shovel racing demands contestants with unique personalities. But first, some background to whet your appetites.
Around the 1970’s at the Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico, ski resort workers grooming slopes found that they could move faster on shovel, increasing their grooming efficiencies. In 1997 shovel racing entered into the arena of mainstream sports, where snow-shovel racing was featured in ESPN’s Winter X Games. Sadly, by this time, the nonchalant shovel racing had been altered. Racing buffs began designing modified “shovels,” with better speed capacity and hydraulic machinery. In the X Games of 1997, John Strader, a shovel racing contestant, experienced a massive wipeout, resulting in the sport’s omission from the X Games, on account of safety issues. Even in New Mexico, the sport’s World Championship was paused in 2005, for safety concerns due to these altered shovels. Fortunately for the enthusiasts, 2010 marked the re-opening of the Championship, with a catch: only traditional shovels were permitted.
To this day, Angel Fire Resort annually hosts the World Championship. Only allowing traditional shovels, with optative customizations of paint and wax, the sport’s safety has increased dramatically, to the point where six-year-olds compete, too. Just last February, John Strader, whose 1997 wipeout had diminished the sport’s national coverage, won the World Championship at 67.74 mph.
Whenever you’re next in New Mexico in February, and you’re feeling particularly pumped, snow-shovel racing may just be the way to go, if curling cannot satiate your appetite for adrenaline.