Leadville News – August 5

Get Your Ass Up The Pass – It’s Leadville Boom Days!

When you consider Leadville’s rich heritage, it’s no wonder so many things can be traced right back here to The Cloud City. So if you’re in town for Leadville Boom Days this weekend, be sure to catch the official Colorado Heritage Sport: Pack Burro Racing. After last weekend’s record-breaking burro race in Fairplay which had 90 entries, get ready for a super-sized event in Leadville Today! It’s time to get your ass up the pass!


If they can make it around that first course obstacle – The Manhattan Bar – then they usually have a pretty good chance of coming back home to Leadville. The Burro Races start at 11 a.m. sharp on Sunday, August 5.

This Colorado activity dates back to the 19th century when miners used burros to haul their mining tools and supplies across the Rocky Mountains.  And here’s where the Leadville connection comes in – legend has it that two miners panning up in California Gulch, found gold in the same location and raced each other back to town in order to be the first to stake the claim at the Assayer’s Office, thus giving them the legal rights to the find.

Since then, the activity became formalized as a way of keeping Leadville’s mining history alive, as well as having some good old-fashioned Wild West fun! So, thanks to Colorado State Representative Millie Hamner for formalizing Colorado’s love of these beasts of burden by carrying the legislation which became law on May 29, 2012, making Pack Burro racing the state’s official summer heritage sport! 


It was State Representative Mille Hamner who made Pack Burro Racing Colorado’s Official State Sport in 2012. Photo: Leadville Today/Kathy Bedell.

Come and watch these beasts of burden, along with their runners in Leadville Today at the Leadville International Pack-Burro Race on Sunday, August 5.

While pack burros have been a Colorado workhorse for more than 100 years, racing pack burros has been part of the local scene since about 1949, with the first Leadville – Fairplay race. The Leadville – Fairplay race started in Leadville and ended 22 miles away in Fairplay. And from the very beginning, these pack-burro races were serious business. 

Leadville and Fairplay switched starting points each year, and eventually went their separate ways, creating two races instead of one. When Fairplay changed the courses in the early ’70s, the race was dubbed the World Champi­onship Pack Burro RaceCoupled with the Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race next Saturday, the three races now make up the Triple Crown.

As Pack Burro Racing continues to grow in popularity and noteriety, so does the field of competitors. Women started entering the races around 1951, and as the event grew in popularity, more races started to include separate categories for men and women. However this year, as a nod to political correctness, the burro race will just categorize things as the “long” and “short” course race, rather than separate and constrain by gender.
Burro race Map

The long course – which will start first – is 21 miles summiting at Mosquito Pass to the east side of Leadville. The short course loops around Ball Mountain and is 15 miles long. Runners and burros will all find their way back on to Harrison Avenue with fans cheering them on at the courthouse, often times with the human teammate pushing and pulling the stubborn beasts across the finish line. These last few feet of the compeition can be a real game changer. As a general rule, spectators can anticipate that the lead teams will be closing in on the finish line at about 1:30 p.m.

Boom Days organizers said that they anticipate a record number of entrants (68 and counting!) in today’s Leadville competition (Go Smokey and Sweet Pea!). So don’t miss out on all the action – It’s Leadville Boom Days! See you on the Avenue!

Here’s a Look at Last Year’s Race!

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