How does all that snow get on Lincoln Ave. for Winter Carnival’s street events? |

How does all that snow get on Lincoln Ave. for Winter Carnival’s street events?

Steamboat Mountain School might have had a record long diamond hitch with six full hitches of skiers towed by a sleigh and team of horses, flanked with dancing penguins at the 109th Annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Typically, the goal of a plow driver is to clear snow off the roads.

Doing just that has street crews across Routt County working overtime this year. The first pay period in 2023 had about 50 hours of overtime just for Steamboat Springs plow drivers. 

“We have plowed more than we have since probably 2010 or 2011,” said David Van Winkle, Steamboat’s streets superintendent.

But each year during Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, the same streets team is tasked with doing quite the opposite to get ready for the street events on Lincoln Avenue. When it’s snowing, they sometimes have to plow roads and fill the highway with snow on the same night.  

The process to get snow on Lincoln Avenue early on the Saturday of Winter Carnival starts weeks in advance, with crews at Howelsen Hill making snow specifically for that purpose.

Van Winkle, who has been with the city for 28 years, said they opt for man-made snow even in great snow years simply because it is safer. While there is plenty of natural stuff to use, using snow from an untouched pile ensures there isn’t any debris mixed in that could potentially injure one of the people or horses participating in the festivities.

“It just helps eliminate that risk,” he said. “It would be nice if we could use some of our piles that are stored around, because we’ve certainly got plenty of those right now.”

Early on the first morning of the street events, Van Winkle, members of his street team and about eight different local contract trucks all meet up at around 1 a.m. to start hauling snow to Steamboat’s main drag.

2023 Winter Carnival Schedule

See a full schedule of events here:

Typically, these crews spend about five hours bringing about 150 truckloads worth of snow from the rodeo grounds over to Lincoln. Van Winkle estimated there is about 2,500 cubic yards of snow in all.

Then, the city streets team uses its own snowcat to groom out the surface and leave the perfect corduroy surface for skijoring, shovel races and the donkey jump. The city’s groomer is often used for clearing streets.

When the festivities end for the day, the street crew gets back to work, this time clearing the snow off of Lincoln to reopen the highway for the evening. The snow from the day is simply pushed to the side where it waits to be put back in place for Sunday’s events.

“On Sunday morning we come back and just spread it back out,” Van Winkle said. “Then if there’s any light areas, we’ll haul a couple more loads in just to fill things in.”

The amount of supplemental snow needed often relies on the weather. If it’s warm and a bunch of the snow melts they need to bring more over, but if it’s colder, they don’t need much.

“It takes about two to three hours to spread it back out and get it groomed again,” Van Winkle said.

Following Sunday’s events, Van Winkle said they bring the trucks back over to haul the snow away from the road once again. If it’s snowing, that can mean more work for street crews, but Van Winkle said they generally enjoy the special task.

“This year, the guys are getting a little tired,” Van Winkle said. “But it’s always kind of gratifying to get it done and see all the people out there enjoying it.”

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