As Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival approaches, many work behind the scenes to host the event |

As Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival approaches, many work behind the scenes to host the event

Aliina Selk, and her co-workers at Colorado Event Rentals were busy Monday setting up the VIP tent at the base of Howelsen Hill for this week’s Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival events. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s not isolated snow showers that land all that snow on Lincoln Avenue for Winter Carnival Street Events, it’s a brigade of 10 Steamboat Springs Street Department employees working through the night.

By the numbers

  • Steamboat Springs Transit buses carried 983 passengers during the busiest hour of Winter Carnival weekend in 2018 and a total of 15,353 passengers over the course of the weekend.
  • Transit buses traveled for a combined total of 333 hours and over 3,376 miles during last year’s Winter Carnival.
  • Howelsen Hill snowmakers made 600 cubic yards or 120 truckloads of snow for this year’s Street Events.
  • Howelsen Hill saw 741 skiers and riders skiing for free with a Winter Carnival button during last year’s weeklong festivities.
  • Snowcats will carry four loads of fireworks up Emerald Mountain for the Night Extravaganza on Saturday evening.
  • The potential world record-setting firework that will conclude the fireworks show will weigh an estimated 2,400 pounds and travel at 300 miles per hour when it leaves the ground.

After months of snowmaking on Howelsen Hill, street department employees will dip into the mound of snow, first for the boxes that form the base of the snow sculptures, then for the Street Events.

The city uses manmade snow to lower the risk of injury.

“If we use snow piles that have already been plowed up, we’re not sure what’s in the snow — if there’s rebar, if there’s broken glass, if there’s anything like that,” Streets Superintendent David Van Winkle said. “We do not want to take the risk of hurting a child or horse.”

On Wednesday, the snow is packed into boxes to form the blocks artists us as their snow-sculpting canvases. Native Excavating and Steamboat Springs Excavating volunteer to help fill and pack down the blocks.

At 2 a.m. Saturday morning, equipment operators will start loading 150 to 175 dump truck loads of snow to be spread on Lincoln Avenue, Van Winkle said.

On Saturday afternoon, city crews push the snow onto the sides of Lincoln Avenue and do the same thing in the wee hours of Sunday morning. By Sunday afternoon, it’s plowed back to the side of the road.

By Monday morning’s commute, all of the snow will be loaded into dump trucks and hauled to the city’s snow pile at the Public Works Shop.

If there’s natural snow, the job only gets harder. The city relies on manmade snow for Winter Carnival, as Mother Nature is too unreliable.

Streets crews will still load, dump and spread the manmade snow, but a layer of natural snow creates a thicker layer. But, while Saturday morning’s goal is to cover the street in snow, there are still the rest of the city’s streets, which are safest when they aren’t snow covered.

“We have a crew on standby ready to plow if there’s a storm that comes in,” Van Winkle said.

The streets crew looks forward to Winter Carnival, Van Winkle said, but they dread the moment a snowstorm blows in and creates a bigger workload for equipment operators.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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