Mark Drummond works on his roping skills before the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo in Carbondale, Colo. The weekly rodeo is in its 13th year at its current location and runs from June through mid-August. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A bird’s-eye view of cowboys herding sheep out of an enclosure after the “Mutton Bustin’” event at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

It’s the end of July in a place known as “The Ultimate Rocky Mountain Hideout,” the tiny town of Carbondale, Colo., tucked beneath the soaring mountains just north of Aspen. Winter sports and the cold snows are absent. Summer around here is considered “Cowboy Christmas,” when the landscape is dotted with homegrown rodeos that have cowboys and crowds wandering from one small town to another.

The Carbondale Wild West Rodeo, a weekly event, has people like Erica Andrade and Oscar Soto embracing each other as they gather with friends and family to tailgate, many in the crowd decked out in large white cowboy hats, blue jeans and boots. Mark Drummond works on his roping skills against a steel-gray sky. Eleven-year-old Clayton Rossi looks like a miniature version of him.

These are not like the rodeos you watch on television; these are family affairs. In Snowmass Village, a horde of children chases calves around the arena, hoping to snatch one of the ribbons tied to their tails. Evan Koster tends to his horse as his wife, Maggee, holds their 1-year-old daughter, Raelyn, who is staring up — eyes wide — at the magnificent horses.

This is the West, a rugged and beautiful landscape that has created traditions and mystique that are foreign to life on the coasts. These rodeos and communities maintain the traditions, providing a stage for the unique spirit and attitude that define the Rockies.


Clayton Rossi, 11, works on his roping skills in a field at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Evan Koster tends to his horse standing next to J.D. Slagowski as Evan’s wife, Maggee, holds their daughter, Raelyn Koster, 1, before the start of the Snowmass Rodeo in Snowmass Village, Colo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Strider Leverton, of Vernal, Utah, center, drinks beers with other participants at the Snowmass Rodeo. This weekly rodeo, in its 44th year, runs from mid-June through August. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Children take part in the calf scramble at the Snowmass Rodeo. The goal is to grab one of the ribbons tied to the tails of the calves. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Participants pray before competing in the Snowmass Rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

A cowboy in the team roping event prepares to compete at the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Garrett Buckley competes in the saddle bronc riding competition at the Snowmass Rodeo. Buckley rode again after this first ride ended quickly when the horse he was riding flew straight up and over after coming out of the gate. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Ryder Martin, 1, is held by his mother’s friend Ginny Harrington as they watch the Carbondale Wild West rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Katie Ford, center, conducts business in a shed used for rodeo participants to sign up for competitions at the Snowmass Rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Erica Andrade, bottom right, embraces Oscar Soto as they join others to watch the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

People gather under a threatening sky that produced rain showers during the Snowmass Rodeo. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

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