Family tradition, skiing and good horse connections drive Steamboat Mountain School in parade |

Family tradition, skiing and good horse connections drive Steamboat Mountain School in parade

Trenia Sanford takes the front seat in this horse-drawn wagon for her 15th Winter Carnival Parade with Steamboat Mountain School on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023.
Kit Geary/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Ricky and Renee, two 4A Belgian horses from Craig, pulled the Steamboat Mountain School down Lincoln Avenue to the tune of the “Mamma Mia” soundtrack Sunday, Feb. 12, during the Winter Carnival Diamond Hitch Parade. The trailer behind them was filled with sequins, sparkly cowboy hats, fake microphones and decades of tradition. 

In her metallic pink cowboy hat, Trenia Sanford — the brains behind the school’s parade entry — sits at the front of the trailer making sure everything goes smoothly. A fourth generation Routt County resident and a third generation Steamboat Mountain School employee, Sanford has spent the last 15 years organizing the school’s parade entry. 

Her great grandfather homesteaded in Routt County in 1886 and helped pull off the first Winter Carnival in Steamboat. For those who worked in agriculture outside of town, the winter could be a desolate time of year. Sanford recalls stories of her family members going months without coming into town or having any socialization outside their family units. 

The locals needed a way to cure cabin fever, so they decided to make one of their favorite pastimes a town-wide event. 

“According to my grandmother, the ladies recreation club got together and said ‘we got horses and skis, we are already pulling ourselves on the skis when we get bored, what if we did this and had a big party downtown,’” Sanford said. “It became a stress relief, people could connect for the first time all winter.”

A century later, the tradition continues. Sanford said history is the driving force behind presentations she puts on at the school to compel students to participate. With her 43-item checklist and some help from students, Sanford’s planning paid off. She managed to pull off a record five-diamond hitch to impress judges for her 15th parade with Mountain School.

With “Mamma Mia” as the chosen theme, Sanford pulled together some related costumes, reached out to her horse contacts, and set the kids up with a horse-drawn wagon. 

Sebbie Morgan, far left, Pia Ostrognai, second from left, and Sienna Litchtenfeld, center in green, perform on the Steamboat Mountain School trailer while being pulled in the Diamond Hitch Parade for the 110th Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“This is a life-changing experience if you are 7, you get to go down the main street of town dressed up and have everyone see you,” Sanford said. “Everyone gets excited to wave at their moms as we drive by.”

Behind that wagon followed 20 skiers, a group made up of students and staff, holding on to harnesses, forming the shape of five diamonds, a record number.

Formally known as the Lowell Whiteman School, Steamboat Mountain School was founded in 1957 and has sent 17 students to the Olympic. The school once had the longest running horse program for a private school in the country, according to Sanford. Nowadays, mostly for liability reasons, the school sticks to skiing and no longer offers horseback riding instruction. 

Luckily, Sanford has what she calls “good horse connections.” She was able to secure Ricky and Renee from the Anson Family Roan Belgium horse farm in Craig.

Keeping her horse connections and her passion for sharing the history of Routt County, Sanford is already beginning to throw out ideas and plan for her 16th Winter Carnival parade in 2024.

Steamboat Mountain School hitches a ride with 4A Belgian horses in the Diamond Hitch Parade along Lincoln Avenue during the 110th Winter Carnival on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023.
Kit Geary/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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