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.

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