The story behind the Winter Carnival crown
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was 1971 when Birgitta Lindgren was an attendant in the Queen’s Court during that year’s Winter Carnival.
“My mother was involved — all mothers were involved at that time — in putting on the ceremony,” she remembers. “She felt badly that the queen didn’t have a nice crown. At the time, it was more like a cheap tiara.”
So Bitte Wiik, Lindgren’s mother, and her father Sven Wiik decided to donate a Swedish wedding crown the following year for the queen to wear and keep.
“My mother wanted something more memorable for the queen,” Lindgren said. “And this crown was even something that could be worn again, at her wedding for example.”
Lindgren’s father was originally from Sweden, and for several years, the family special ordered a crown each year to give to the queen.
“The Swedish wedding crowns are more ornate and beautiful,” Lindgren said of the traditional piece worn by brides in Sweden.
The crown that the family donated has a sterling silver base and is topped with pearls.
When Lindgren herself became queen in 1973, she wore the crown, which she still has to this day. She also wore it at her wedding many years later.
But after a few years, the price of gold and silver, which the crown was made of, got to be too expensive, so in 1975, the Wiik family donated one last crown to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which was to be passed down from queen to queen.
It was a memorable donation from a family who was ingrained in the skiing world, both in Steamboat and beyond.
Sven Wiik moved to the United States in 1948. He was a ski coach and professor at Western State College in Gunnison. When he took a sabbatical and went home for a year, he met Bitte, who he married six months later.
“At that time, everyone wanted to go to the U.S., so they decided to go back for a year, but they ended up staying,” Lindgren said.
The family moved to Steamboat in 1968 and built the Scandinavian Lodge. That year, Lindgren joined the Winter Sports Club’s Alpine program but decided after a year that she would rather do Nordic skiing.
“At the time, there were no girls in Nordic skiing,” she remembered. “I was the only female competing all through junior high and high school with just boys.”
But Lindgren was a natural, following in her father’s footsteps. Wiik, who died in 2016, will be long remembered as a proponent for cross country skiing in Colorado. Additionally, he coached the 1960 U.S. Olympic cross country ski team and the 1958 World Champion team.
With the whole family involved in Nordic skiing, in 1980, they were asked to run the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, which Lindgren still does to this day.
And while she isn’t as involved in Winter Carnival as she once was, she does have fond memories.
“Prior to my family even moving to Steamboat, we would come here for Winter Carnival each year because my dad’s team would participate,” Lindgren explained. “It’s a tradition that is so important not only to Steamboat but also to the sport of skiing itself. I feel it’s my duty to give back to the organization that gave so much to me.”
Winter Carnival Queens still wear the crown that Bitte and Sven Wiik donated many years ago — another piece of carnival history that will not be forgotten.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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