It may not have the same national appeal as the Super Bowl or the Daytona 500, but for a select few, watching the snow pile up to hopefully bury a stop sign in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming is enormously dramatic and gratifying.
And, to put things in terms of the aforementioned events, it’s the 2-minute warning and the white flag is waving for the “Wind River Stop Sign Snow Challenge” at Togwotee Pass.
Every year, since 2015, the Wind River Outdoor Company in Lander has presented a challenge to its patrons: pick the date that snowfall will eventually engulf the lone stop sign perched on top of Togwotee Pass on U.S. Highway 26/287. But the sign must be buried by April 1 or the contest is over.
It doesn’t happen every year, and it is disappointing when it doesn’t, according to the founder of the contest, Ron Hansen. But when it does, it calls for a big celebration.
“It’s very unrefined humor,” Hansen said laughing.
But it’s really caught on. The first year or two, Hansen said, about 50 people signed-up. Now, that number is over 1,500.
“We have people from all over the country signing up for this every year,” he said, mentioning that to watch the action, people just need to go to the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s webcam page and click on the U.S. 26/287 camera.
The idea for the challenge originated over lots of beer, Hansen said. His team was learning how to use social media effectively and it came up with the idea.
“We needed something fun to do,” he said. “It can’t just be about work. And this takes the business out of the business sometimes when you need it.”
The contest has its own page as well with running commentary and screenshots of the stop sign in various stages of snow-cover.
As for this year, it’s going to be tough. Hansen believes Togwotee needs two feet of snow to snuff the sign by April 1 and Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day isn’t optimistic.
Thankfully, the contest has expanded. Now there are two contests: the day the stop sign gets buried and the day when the snow disappears, which is usually in mid-June.
By the way, this isn’t “The Price is Right.” Hansen does not award a prize to the person who comes closest to the date without going over.
“There’s not closest,” he said sternly. “It’s either buried or it’s not.”
As for the grand prize the winner, or winners, gets a swag-bag full of t-shirts, hats, stickers, and other items from the outdoor shop.