SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Fall just started and already the South Dakota Department of Transportation is firing up the snowplows.

That’s because drivers are getting ready for the winter months, and they’re having a friendly competition while they’re at it.

Craig Christeson has been driving snow plows for seven years.

Even with all that experience behind the wheel, it’s still important to put your skills to the test.

On Wednesday, the lead highway maintenance worker out of Watertown competed in the DOT’s Snowfighter Roadeo.

It’s a driving course helping plow operators get ready for the real deal come wintertime.

“It’s a little tough. It’s definitely challenging. It challenges your skills, makes you think about things you don’t normally think about when you’re out plowing roads,” SDDOT lead highway maintenance worker Craig Christeson said.

This week, plow drivers in eastern South Dakota are competing.

Next week, it’s all about drivers in central and western South Dakota.

In mid-October there will be a statewide competition for the finalists.

“We try to make it fun, but it’s really trying to get everyone in that mindset. Winter is coming. We’ve got a lot of new drivers. We haven’t done the event for a few years because of COVID,” SDDOT director of operations Craig Smith said.

While bragging rights are on the line, the drivers are focusing on something much more important.

“The biggest thing is safety for us, and our equipment, and the people on the roads. That’s why we do things like this to just get us out of our mindset once in a while to realize we have to stay on alert at all times,” Christeson said.

In addition to the driving course, drivers are also doing classroom work to get ready for winter.