When the puck drops at 5 p.m., signaling the start of the fourth annual Pabst Blue Ribbon Colorado Pond Hockey Tournament, it will also be the mark of an event that's grown rapidly from its roots.
More than 100 teams are registered for the weekend event, a 20 percent increase over last year, and nearly four times the size of the tournament when it began with 30 teams playing on the ice in Frisco four years ago.
That includes players from 30 states outside of Colorado, plus teams from three Canadian provinces.
"It's exactly where we wanted it to go," tournament organizer David Janowiec said. "We wanted to make it a unique event. ... What better place than Ski Country USA?"
With Wildernest Lodging as the lodging partner, many of the teams have booked in the hillside condominiums. It's no vacancy through the company, Janowiec said.
It has become a more festival-like atmosphere, too, the organizer said. Last year, ice fishing was added as an adjunct activity, bringing a few dozen anglers into the mix. Beer is for sale, fire pits are set up on the ice to keep spectators warm and new this year, someone will be playing hockey game tunes on the electric organ. The University of Colorado-Boulder freestyle ski team is also slated to do a rail jam from 1-2:30 p.m. at the pond.
On Saturday night at 7:30, the Silverthorne Pavilion is hosting a party for players, family, friends and anyone from the public interested in joining the fun. Love Brothers and Something Underground will be playing at the event.
Because of the number of teams, the event has also expanded to Friday night and extended play on Sunday.
Play runs from 5-9 Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, with playoff brackets scheduled for 3 p.m. Each team has six players, and games are run in 15-minute halves with gentlemen's rules - players call fouls on each other and themselves. There are no penalties, just goals awarded for foul play.
The Town of Silverthorne has been working in conjunction with Janowiec to get the pond ice ready for play. There are nine rinks on the ice, plus space for public skating. With the recent cold weather, ice is 20 inches thick, making for a safe and fun environment.
"We couldn't do this without the town," Janowiec said. "They're the MVP. It's a blessing to have those guys support us so much."
Janowiec hopes to attract the public as spectators.
"It's definitely a different type of event for Summit County," he said, adding that players will get a chance to play, and spectators will get a chance to watch, Olympic snowboarder and X Games gold medalist Steve Fisher. He's on one of the teams playing this weekend, as is a group of veterans who are out raising awareness for the disabled in their ranks.