Breckenridge residents and tourists tilt up hundreds of bolted-together skis for a group shot of spearmint schnapps at the 2016 Ullr Fest.
Breckenridge residents and tourists tilt up hundreds of bolted-together skis for a group shot of spearmint schnapps at the 2016 Ullr Fest.

How to Pull Off a World-Record Shot Ski

A Breckenridge distillery accidentally started an international competition that involves lining up hundreds of people to all do a shot of alcohol at the same time. Now the town has to defend the title.

Breckenridge residents and tourists tilt up hundreds of bolted-together skis for a group shot of spearmint schnapps at the 2016 Ullr Fest.

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Every January for the past 53 years, residents and tourists in Breckenridge, Colorado, have gathered on Main Street to fete Ullr, the Norse god of snow, with a parade.

The main event of the weeklong Ullr Fest includes floats constructed in good taste (like a mini-ski jump built on a trailer pulled by a vintage pickup, with participants catching air as the truck rolls down the street) and bad (like the two wooden dogs mating, again and again, as someone thrusts them into each other with a handle). There are bikinis, and hot tubs, and enough booze to fill those hot tubs. It’s no coincidence Ullr Fest has been called “the most intoxicating short parade in North America.”

For the past four years, the afternoon has also included a world-record shot ski attempt organized by the Breckenridge Distillery. For the uninitiated, a shot ski is a ski with shot glasses affixed to it—usually either glued on or bracketed in. Typically a few people line up, hold the ski, and, when the ski tilts, take the shot at the same time.

“Hope you don’t mind drinking off a Rossignol.”

And so, on Thursday at precisely 4:20 p.m., 831 people, this reporter included, stood shoulder to shoulder for a quarter-mile (1,301 feet if you’re counting), chanting “Ullr!” in anticipation of breaking the previous record—set last year—of 777. “Hope you don’t mind drinking off a Rossignol,” the stranger next to me said, before we tipped back the 277 skis en masse and swallowed a cup of spearmint Schnapps.

If it’s hard to imagine how it’s possible to organize more than 800 people to do a synchronized shot (the skis are bolted together) without some accidentally pouring booze down their chest or on their foreheads, we’ve made it easy. Here’s a handy FAQ with answers in case you want to join the fun next year.

How does it work?

Participants sign up in advance or on the day of the event at a downtown concert hall: show your ID; pay $5; take a clear plastic cup and string of beads to wear around your neck (proving you’ve paid your entry fee); grab a ski from the pile; find two partners to share said ski; then walk a half-block to Main Street. There, participants, many wearing horns like Ullr himself, are supplied with small hex bolts and wing nuts to affix the skis together, tip to tail. Each cup has a piece of Velcro on the bottom to keep it in place on the ski. Twenty Breckenridge Distillery employees and volunteers fill the cups, then the parade emcee counts down from five to one, at which point everyone tips back their ski and drinks.

Wait, you have to pay money for this? I thought this was for ski bums?

Calm down, dude. The entry fees support the Breckenridge Mountain Rotary Club, which, according to Litch Polich, a Breck Distillery partner who organizes the annual record attempt, uses the funds to put on a dry party for local high school students on prom night. “It’s kind of ironic that we’re raising money by boozing to keep kids from boozing,” Polich said.

Does Guinness really have a category for the longest shot-ski imbibed at once?

No. The organizers inquired and found that the world record keeper doesn’t recognize booze-related records. But you’d never know that from how popular this pseudo competition has become. After Breckenridge’s first attempt in 2013 drew 192 people and spanned 313 feet, some tourists from Iowa who participated in the event went home and organized their own mass shot ski. In early March of that year, they broke Breckenridge’s record at Sundown Mountain in Dubuque with 350 people. Later that month, 522 people in Fernie, B.C., broke the Iowans’ mark. “After that, we were like, screw this, we’re just going to crush them,” Polich said.

And they did. In 2014, Breck set a new standard with 666 people. In 2015, they upped the numbers to 777 people as Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel handled the countdown.

How do they keep stragglers from jumping into the line?

The beads, first off. In past years, local bar staffs have been known to hop into the fracas with their own shot ski at the last second, duct tape it to the rest, and imbibe with the other hundreds of people. This year, Polich was required to get a liquor permit and the Breckenridge Tourism Office hired eight security guards to help maintain order.

Where do they get the old skis?

Local ski shops donated many of them the first year, then the town started including a bin on Town Cleanup Day each spring so that residents could add to the stock. People also drop them off throughout the year at the distillery.

What about next year?

Polich said he's worried about boosting the number of participants too much each year. He turned away 200 people on Thursday to keep next year's record within reach. “If we keep going up so fast, we might run out of people eventually,” he said. They might run out of Main Street sooner.