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Adventure, Alpine, Travel / July 9, 2014

Fairplay’s Burro Days

Written by: Matt Minich

The Colorado mountain man is a dying breed. Yes, there are more hikers, climbers, and skiers than ever. But we mean real, old-school mountain men. The guys with big beards and tanned deer hides and unconventional steeds.

In a world overrun by ultralight toothbrushes and compression underpants, Colorado’s mountain men keep as secret as Sasquatch. Until July 26-27, that is, when they will gather in Southern Colorado to practice the state’s oldest sport at the 66th annual Fairplay Burro Days.

The sport is Pack Burro Racing, and it has its roots in the state’s frontier days (surprise), when prospectors would drag their ore-laden mules as fast as they could to stake a claim. Modern practitioners load their burros with a pick, shovel and gold pan (weighing at least 33 pounds), and push, pull or drag (but not ride) the animal along a 30-mile course.

These races (scheduled for Sunday morning) are the main attraction at Burro Days, but the weekend also holds llama races, dog races, music, barbecue, and a wheeled outhouse race. See a full schedule.

If you go: It’s not absolutely required that you bring your own burro or llama to the event — there are often plenty around to borrow. Registration is done on race day, and costs $40. For a taste of the scene, check out the preview for Trevor Velin’s documentary “Haulin Ass.”

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about the author

Matt Minich

Matt Minich is Editorial Director for Shoulders of Giants. He has spent more than a decade writing, editing, and curating content about outdoor sports and adventure. As an adventure journalist he has climbed peaks in Patagonia, rappelled waterfalls in Colorado, B.A.S.E. jumped in Moab, and sampled fermented horse milk in Kyrgyzstan.

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