2016 Winter Carnival: Ladies Rec Club keeps Steamboat Winter Carnival tradition alive

Tom Ross
Members of the Ladies Recreation Club in Steamboat Springs practice their kick turns under the supervision of an instructor.
Tread of Pioneers Museum; courtesy

— When the 103rd Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival Parade gets underway at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 7, the Ladies Recreation Club, one of Steamboat’s most enduring institutions, will be there to celebrate its historic role in creating the “diamond hitch” pattern for traditional parade floats.

Current members meet weekly at the Scott Community Center on Rollingstone Drive.  Members take turns providing a brunch meal.

Their annual activities include decorating a tree for the Tread of Pioneers Museum Festival of Trees and participating in the Winter Carnival Parade. The club’s 2015 owl-themed parade entry, “Steamboat Hoots Whoooo,” won the peoples’ choice award.

The diamond hitch came about in 1927 when members of the Ladies Recreation Club decided to add some color and life to the parade by donning themed costumes and skiing in a pattern behind a team of horses or sleigh.

The chosen diamond hitch pattern has long been used as one of the most effective ways to lash a pack to a pack animal. It’s a little different in the parade — with each of four skiers hanging onto a loop knotted in a rope in just the right place to cause it to stretch into a diamond shape.

The diamond hitch is one of the time-honored traditions that makes Steamboat’s mid-winter parade unique.

Early diamond hitch floats relied heavily on patriotic themes — Uncle Sam, the Statue of Liberty, Martha and George Washington.

In 1931, a group of young girls including Gloria Gossard, Doris Harwood and Annabeth Light dressed as Valentine cards and won a prize.

The Ladies Recreation Club has its roots in 1917 when a predecessor, the S.K.I. Club was formed to balance out the all-male status of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which formed in 1914 to organize the first Winter Carnival. The purpose of S.K.I. was to be an auxiliary to the Winter Sports Club and create, develop and sustain interest in “ladies’” skiing. The two clubs merged in 1927.

Karl Howelsen famously guided members of the club on ski trips all the way through Strawberry Park to the hot springs.

On Jan. 31, 1931, five women gathered to consider reorganizing the ladies’ club, according to current LRC member Christine McKelvie.

They were Antoinette Welton, Audrey Light, Amanda Gregg, Hazel Cozand and Mary Fick. On Jan. 24 of that year, the same five women elected officers and agreed to notify former members of the S.K.I. Club that they could enter the new club.

On Feb. 21, 1931, 12 women attended and became charter members of the new Ladies Recreation Club, and the rest is history.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.