Biggest in the world: Record-setting firework launch succeeds in Steamboat (with video)

? In case you missed it… here's video from tonight's launch of the new world record breaker for largest aerial firework in the world at Howelsen Hill. (Video by Steamboat Pilot & Today)

Posted by Steamboat Pilot & Today on Saturday, February 8, 2020

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs has officially taken the throne as the site of the world’s largest aerial firework.

Local pyrotechnic aficionado Tim Borden celebrated the successful launch of his almost 2,800 pound firework Saturday, Feb. 8, which burst in a dazzling display of red and white over Howelsen Hill at the finale of the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza.  

For Borden and his team, including Jim Widmann, Eric Krug and Ed MacArthur, those fleeting seconds of color and clamor were the culmination of seven years of hard work, hundreds of pages of engineering and countless obstacles. 

The world’s largest firework explodes over Howelsen Hill on Saturday night, briefly turning the sky a bright red. A team of firework experts, including Steamboat Springs local Tim Borden, have spent the last year preparing for the launch.
Derek Maiolo

Last year, his first attempt at the world record ended in failure when the shell exploded inside the mortar without lifting off the ground. Guinness World Records, which adjudicated both launches, requires the shell to leave the ground and explode in the air to consider it a success. 

“Most people would balk at the idea of coming back and trying to launch such a tremendously large firework just a year later,” Guinness adjudicator Christina Conlon said during an award ceremony inside Howelsen Hill Lodge following the launch.

“But this team displayed all the qualities that we at Guinness World Records love to celebrate,” Conlon continued, among them tenacity, perseverance and a dogged determination to achieve the seemingly impossible.

The 62-inch shell hurtled 2,200 feet in the air before it exploded, according to Borden. Its weight, as well as all of its component parts, had to be carefully examined before the launch to ensure it followed Federal Aviation Administration regulations. 

Conlon checked the shell herself to verify it was indeed the world’s largest. 

“They let me peek right over the edge when it was loaded in (the mortar),” she said. 

Someone beside her remarked that it was like staring down the barrel of the world’s largest gun. 

“It was really freaking cool,” Conlon said. 

Fireworks explode over Howelsen Hill during Saturday’s Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza.
Derek Maiolo

Borden’s success was not without its challenges. A heavy winter storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow on the mortar and made transporting the shell impossible without extensive machine work.

“Getting it plowed out was much more trouble than getting the firework set up,” Borden said. 

He also was worried inclement weather or high winds could cancel the launch. As the night drew on, the top of Mount Werner disappeared from view behind thick clouds. A storm was rolling in, but the air was free of snow as Borden prepared to press the button that would send a wireless signal to detonate the explosives. 

News crews faced their cameras toward the launch site. A reporter from CBS was there, as was a documentary crew following Borden’s world record pursuit. 

Fireworks explode over Steamboat Springs during Saturday’s Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza.
Derek Maiolo

Just before 8 p.m., Borden initiated the countdown. When he hit the button, it took less than a second for bright sparks to fly from the mortar. For several more seconds, nothing else happened. Some murmured concern it would be a repeat of last year’s bust. 

Then a large orb of light flashed as the shell exploded, sending a reverberation that could be felt thousands of feet away. 

“That was officially amazing,” Conlon said.

As if on cue, snowflakes started falling almost immediately after the explosion as kids scrambled up the face of Howelsen Hill and sledded down in ecstatic celebration. Snow fell even harder as Borden and his team received certificates of success on behalf of Guinness World Records from the warmth of Olympian Hall. 

At that point, it did not matter what the weather did. Borden had made history, and to him, the world was bright as sunshine. 

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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.