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Snow Fighter Roadeo

September 26, 2012, 10:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

Snow Fighter Roadeo

When you think of a rodeo in South Dakota, you probably think of bull fighters. But the state Department of Transportation is hosting a rodeo of its own where the participants are called snow fighters.

Welcome to the Snow Fighter Roadeo, a friendly competition where plow drivers navigate their way through various obstacles.

"There's no secrets to it.  After all summer long, it sharpens our skills, getting ready to operate the snow plow," Steve Schneider said.

"The roadeo is a chance for us to get in the winter mode.  We get drivers some experience in the trucks, experienced drivers and some of the new guys that haven't spent a lot of time in the trucks," Department of Transportation Regional Engineer Craig Smith said.

Steve Scheider has seven years experience, but even he says it's always good to get time behind the plow when you can.

"Last winter was pretty mild, so we didn't drive a whole lot.  We did some, but not like years past," Schneider said.

This is not barrel racing. Each driver is given points as they carefully snake their way through the barriers, but they can lose points if they hit any.

Don Jorgensen: How did you do?
Scheider: I don't know; I hit a few things.

Each driver is timed, but unlike a cowboy rodeo, there are no eight-second rides here.  Drivers are given eight minutes to complete the course.  And because it's a game of inches, it can be stressful.

"When they are operating in reverse backing up, use their mirrors.  That's especially challenging for anyone, let alone an experienced guy," Smith said.

But nothing compares to the real thing.

"Out in a blizzard, way more stressful.  You got co-workers here harassing you a little bit if you hit something, but way more stressful on the road," Schneider said.

The winner of Wednesday's regional competition will go on to compete in the statewide event in Pierre in a few weeks.

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