Winter Carnival 2013: Museum pays unique tribute to legend

Brent Boyer

Winter Carnival ski exhibit at the Tread of Pioneers Museum

The Tread of Pioneers Museum in downtown Steamboat Springs will unveil its new Ski Town USA exhibit during Winter Carnival beginning Feb. 6. The museum will be open during Winter Carnival week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 10. Admission will be free for all visitors.

The museum plans a grand opening celebration of its new collections storage space as well as its revamped exhibit space later in February.

For more information, call 970-879-2214 or visit

Tread of Pioneers Museum’s newest artifact is an original Barnum & Bailey circus poster featuring Carl Howelsen’s ski jumping act that toured the country beginning in 1907.

Carl Howelsen may be the father of ski jumping in Steamboat Springs and the founder of its Winter Carnival, but he was renowned as The Flying Norseman long before he happened upon Northwest Colorado.

Need proof? Look no further than the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s newest artifact: an original Barnum & Bailey circus poster featuring Howelsen’s ski jumping act that toured the country beginning in 1907.

The poster, acquired at auction within the past two months, is a highlight of the museum’s new Ski Town USA exhibit, which opens to the public Feb. 6 to coincide with the 100th Winter Carnival. Candice Bannister, the museum’s executive director, said only two or three original versions of the poster have surfaced in the past three decades. The museum, with funding from Howelsen Place’s public art fund and a private donation in memory of Dorothy Wither, jumped at the opportunity to nab such a unique tribute to the man who introduced recreational skiing to Steamboat Springs and jump-started the Nordic skiing tradition that remains alive and well here.

The poster has been restored and protected with archival-quality materials, Bannister said. And through a special arrangement with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the museum is selling reproductions of the poster as a fundraiser.

Bannister is quick to point out that the museum’s Ski Town USA exhibit offers much more than the prized Carl Howelsen circus poster. The exhibit traces Steamboat’s skiing history, from its roots here as an essential mode of winter transportation, to Howelsen’s introduction of recreational skiing and ski jumping, to the founding of Steamboat Ski Area 50 years ago, to Steamboat’s role in the invention of snowboarding, to the city’s proud Olympic heritage, highlighted by the Nordic combined team’s medal-winning performances at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Other exhibit features include a six-minute video showcasing the history of skiing in Steamboat and Winter Carnival-specific artifacts like historic buttons and images. Museum visitors also can venture into the research center to flip through Winter Carnival programs and fliers dating to 1915, the second year of the annual midwinter celebration.

The museum will operate under special hours during Winter Carnival week, and admission is free to everyone. The Tread of Pioneers Museum, at Eighth and Oak streets downtown, will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday of Winter Carnival week, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 10.

The unveiling of the Ski Town USA exhibit for Winter Carnival week is just a prelude for the museum’s main attraction: a planned late-February grand opening celebration of the museum’s new collections house as well as its renovated exhibit spaces.

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