And this year's Lunar Cup, held Sunday in Savage Basin, lived up to its tradition of being a high-altitude bash for fun-loving folks.
The race was a spectator's smorgasbord, with Wonder Woman Emily Morgan in her shiny red-and-blue pleather suit taking the ride of a lifetime thanks to her super-sonically slick pants. And while Greg "Prom King" Deame didn't lay down the fastest run, in his powder-blue leisure suit he sure looked good doing it.
On the competitive front, Team Rasta's flowing dredlocks made it difficult for Team Green to break through the high-altitude haze, while Team Fried Chicken tossed the skilled Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club Team a bone on the mashed potato-like course.
Roby Peabody and Jenny Page became the most-anticipated duals match of the day, and both competitors tackled the course with brazen abandon.
Elvis spun tunes, dogs ran amuck and there was not an exposed patch of skin to be found that had not turned cherry red before the day was done.
"It was the best Lunar Cup I've ever been a part of," gushed event organizer Herb Manning. "There was a great turnout this year, with wonderful weather." And despite the high percentage of "raspberries" worn proudly on the exposed body parts of competitors, Manning expressed relief that there were no "real injuries."
Lunar Cup began in the wee hours of the morning for most participants, as they gathered skis and boards for the trek up to Savage Basin, but the very brave set up camp the night before near the 13,000-foot course.
By the time the sun peeked over Imogene Pass ridge, glinting off the dusty white patches of remaining snow, the normally vacant landscape was dotted with camp chairs, fluorescent one-piece ski suits and feather boas. With sunscreen slathered and coolers stocked, lovers of the Lunar Cup filed in by the truck full to pay homage to Telluride's oldest grassroots tradition.
Outrageous costumes, spectator-friendly side-by-side duals racing and plenty of summertime on-snow merrymaking have marked Lunar Cup festivities in recent years. Since its rebirth seven years ago, the event has drawn consistently larger crowds and gained a strong reputation as one of the best locals-friendly events.
The Lunar Cup was not always the laid-back bash it is today, however. In fact, the race began in the early 1970s as a sanctioned Pro Am World Cup points series race, before disappearing all together. When Manning moved here in the early 90s, the Lunar Cup existed only in memories.
Lifelong Tellurider Josh Williams often celebrated Lunar Cup solo, however, when the race fell by the wayside. "I would just come up here and camp out and barbecue and have my own personal Lunar Cup," he said.
Then, in 1999 in cooperation with Paragon Ski and Sport owner J. Michael Brown, Manning helped resuscitate the race.
"It's been a labor of love," Manning said, referring to the many hours he and other volunteers have devoted to the event in recent years. Although there is a fee to enter the race, the Lunar Cup rarely breaks even financially.
Volunteers arrive the evening before the race to set the course and spend the day of the event timing racers and judging costumes, then spend hours afterward cleaning up the Lunar Cup camp.
Jeci Arguelles, who has spent most of her life in Telluride but never attended a Lunar Cup until this year, was impressed with the event.
"I never knew it was this big a deal," she said. "I'm definitely bringing my skis and racing next year."
The hope of a next year is what keeps many skiers sane through Telluride summers. "The Lunar Cup is one of the last local traditions," Manning said.
The event has been embraced by recent Telluride transplants and longtime residents alike. It's a race that allows ex-World Cup skiers as well as racing neophytes of every age a level playing field, and a place that enables a grown man to wear a child's duck costume all day.
This was Manning's last Lunar Cup as organizer, he said, "It was a tradition that was passed on to me, but now I am saying farewell and must pass the tradition on to someone else. I'm entertaining lots of options of who to pass it on to."
The highlight of Manning's final Lunar Cup was seeing the newest members of the tradition take to the course. Racers in the kids' division, Lucas Foster, Emma Spaulding and Cedar Palmer, upped the cute factor considerably on Sunday, while offering hope that the event will continue.
"The Team Gravity kids showed up and really represented for the younger generation," Manning said. "It was a good reminder that Telluride has some really talented young kids, and I hope they have started a new Lunar Cup tradition."