CREEDE — For 16 years, the small mountain town of Creede has hosted one of the most scenic pond hockey tournaments to be found anywhere, and it takes place at a stunning 8,900 feet of elevation.
The idea for the annual Golden Pick competition was championed nearly two decades back by two business owners local to the area, Kip Nagy (owner of Kip's Grill) and Brian Brittain (owner of Tommyknocker Tavern).
The critical event that really kicked things into motion was the donation of an old Zamboni from the city of Durango. The Zamboni was then turned towards the task of converting the Willow Creek Drainage Pond into a suitable locale for some good, old-fashioned community bonding (read; pond hockey).
It began as a way to cure some degree of cabin fever for the locals and has since evolved into a beloved annual event that draws teams from across the country and beyond.
"We've got teams from everywhere," commented Brian, one of the referees and primary organizers of the event. "Flagstaff, Arizona. We've got Alaska. We've got a couple that came from Montreal."
The tournament, which is hosted in the shadow of the cliffs that have made Creede famous on more than one occasion, began with only nine teams and a single pond.
This year there are three ponds, two large ponds with some dividers, and more than 31 teams.
"Cowboys, hippies, lowlifes, professionals, we all get along and hit each other and have a good time," commented one long-time competitor.
While the views are striking, many of those taking part, and those tagging along to cheer on their favorite teams, in the competition admit that the biggest thing that keeps them coming back year after year is the sense of comradery and general fun that the tournament seems to be able to foster.
"It's the people," stated one player, "it's everyone coming out here to have a good time."
"I mean," added another, "we don't hang out with any of these people normally and then we come back here, this time every year, and we're all family again! It's really great!"
The Golden Pick typically takes place during the mid-January weekend; hosts say that it will remind you of childhood pickup games.
For more information on the Golden Pick Pond Hockey Tournament, click here.