When the worst of winter hits Wyoming, many anticipate the arrival of spring. Many others will check a Wyoming Department of Transportation webcam to see if a stop sign is buried in snow.
Tuesday is the last day to enter the Wind River Outdoor Company’s sixth annual Stop Sign Snow Challenge. The premise is simple: submit a guess for which day the sign at Wind River Lake in the Togwotee Pass will be completely buried in natural snowfall this winter.
There is no cash prize, but serious swag awaits whoever is lucky enough to pick the right date when the sign is no longer visible.
Simple Snowy Fun
Ron Hansen, owner of the Wind River Outdoor Co. in Lander, started the challenge in 2017 as a well-intentioned way to get more social media engagement for his business.
“We wanted to give people something that wasn’t political or confrontational,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Something they could have fun with that would garner repeat visits to our website to check on the status of something.”
One day, Hansen and his team marveled at how much snow was falling at the top of Togwotee Pass on U.S. Highway 26/287. Hansen kept checking the WYDOT webcam to see the height of the snow, using the stop sign as a measuring stick.
“I looked at this webcam three or four times a day to see how much snow it got. And I thought, ‘Why not do something fun around this?’ Everyone knows where that stop sign is,” he said.
The Stop Sign Snow Challenge gets most of its participation from locals and other Wyoming residents but reaches much further. Hansen says people from Nebraska, Texas, and several other states participated in the challenge as well.
More than 500 people participated last winter, and Hansen expects at least that many this winter.
“It took on a life of its own,” he said.
The premise of the Wind River Outdoor Company’s Stop Sign Snow Challenge is simple but with an entertaining edge of uncertainty. There’s no way to know precisely when or if the snow will bury the sign.
Hansen says the stop sign has only been buried once, in 2019. Despite the ferocity of the last winter season, the sign remained unburied for the duration.
“Togwotee was one of the few places that didn’t receive the gigantic snowfall everyone else had,” he said.
Furthermore, it must all be natural snowfall. If anyone attempts to alter the outcome or bury the stop sign artificially, that year’s contest is null and void, and nobody wins.
After the first snowfall, an update on the stop sign’s status is posted several times a week. By January, Hansen shares pictures almost daily on the Wind River Outdoor Company’s Facebook page as the snow inches towards the top.
The first three people to guess the correct date will win an e-card to purchase merchandise at the Wind River Outdoor Company, a hooded sweatshirt, and a ballcap. Nine other winners will get a T-shirt.
The Insider Tip
After several years of the Stop Sign Snow Challenge, Hansen can’t say when the sign will be buried. But he has some suggestions for anyone serious about Wind River Outdoor Company swag.
“Historically, it’s always been late in the season,” he said. “Last year, in early February, I thought it (would be buried) for sure. Lander and Pinedale were getting several inches to a foot of snow every day. If I were going to put my guess in, I would say mid-February since everything is eerily similar to last year.”
Hansen’s happy the challenge has become an amusing annual tradition for so many. While the Wind River Outdoor Company benefits from hosting the challenge, he feels the important thing is giving people a simple, wholesome thing to add to their day and social media feeds.
“It’s meant to be fun and good-spirited. We’re not trying to drive a product or service by this. It’s meant to be something fun online, something different that might make people a little less edgy and have a little more fun,” he said.
Entries for the Stop Sign Snow Challenge can be submitted on the Wind River Outdoor Company's website, and a link is available on the company's Facebook page.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at email@example.com.