Those mad Steamboat Springs locals sure know how to have a good time, writes Andrew Louis.

Make sure you have a steady hand and nerves of steel if you go to Sunpie's Bistro bar in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The owner named the bar after a New Orleans jazz musician whose nickname is "Sunpie". When we arrive, the bar is full of locals and Americans from other states. The walls are lined with flags, street signs and various sports memorabilia. A disco ball with an American flag hangs from the ceiling but there's no room for dancing.

After buying a beer, I hear a loud crash followed by laughter and loud jeering nearby. Curious, I walk past the small bar to find a back room with a group of people drinking and sitting along the walls. In the centre is a table on which two guys are building a large tower of wooden blocks. They are playing a giant version of Jenga.

Despite my objections, Dan, one of the players, drags me into the next game. He introduces me to the other players: George, 1.9m and built like a brick outhouse - but size means nothing in this game of skill - and another player, "Crazy Girl", who has no fear of pulling blocks out from any level.


I know the basic principles to Jenga, but Dan tells me there are some extra rules for this game. One hand must be holding your drink at all times, the other hand can do whatever you like. No taking blocks from the top three full levels. The loser buys shots.

Dan starts, followed by the others. When my turn comes around, I find they have used the wobbliest table in Colorado and the tower sways simply by the force of my tread as I walk around. The blocks are 30cm lengths of 2x4 and are heavily worn and weathered from countless games.

Crazy Girl gives me some advice. Tap the end of the blocks to find any loose ones. This proves to be the best tactic in the beginning. As the tower gets more unsteady, tap at your peril. I feel like Indiana Jones finding the block that opens a secret doorway. Crazy Girl lives up to her name and grabs any block and yanks it out.

Unfortunately for Dan, the tower proves too much and it tumbles in slow-motion as he attempts to pull a side block. The loud crash of blocks on wooden floor is followed by even louder laughter. Even though my luck lasts, I call it quits after the second game as I have a big day skiing tomorrow.

Sunpie's is great fun with cheap drinks; $3 for a bottle of Miller's High Life is cheaper than the tap beer at $4 and that's not even during happy hour - which, happily, runs for three hours from 3pm to 6pm. They also have food available.

During summer; doors are open to the backyard, which backs on to the Yampa River. Definitely one of the best down-to-earth pubs in Steamboat Springs to meet locals and relax after a hard day's skiing or even if the mountain is closed.

Just keep a steady hand.

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies direct to Los Angeles and San Francisco five to seven times a week, with connections to Denver with partner airlines.

Further information: See and for more on visiting Colorado.

The writer travelled courtesy of Colorado Ski Country USA and Travelplan Ski.