SSWSC sparks magic within each young athlete even with no light show |

SSWSC sparks magic within each young athlete even with no light show

Harrison Schuett leaves the starting gate of the 2020 Christy Sports Soda Pop Slalom. The long-running Winter Carnival tradition draws hundreds of young skiers to the ski area, and for many of them, it's the first time to test their skills on a slalom course.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Once Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes hit the U10 level, they take a big step: they are able to carry a flare.

Every year at the Winter Carnival’s Night Extravaganza, young skiers and boarders put on an incredible light show — some go flying through the air while others serpentine down the historic Howelsen Hill Ski Area carrying bright red flares.

The thrill of creating the spectacle won’t happen this year due to COVID-19 protocols that prohibit large gatherings, but Blair Seymour, youth program director and Night Extravaganza director, is hoping to keep the magic alive by giving some of the youngest SSWSC particpants something special to look forward to throughout the week of Winter Carnival.

“It’ll be different for sure,” Seymour said. “It’s going to be magic in it’s own way, but it’s going to be magic within each child. It’s not going to be as magical as a big group. That’s going to be hard, but it’s the right decision this year to keep everyone safe.”

During the week of Winter Carnival, which runs from Feb. 3 to 7, athletes between the age of 8 and 14 will do something fun during their regularly scheduled training within their groups.

The moguls athletes will have a dual competition, the Nordic combined and ski jumping kids will compete in the Hitchens Brothers Wednesday Night Jump, and the cross country athletes will go through an obstacle course. The U10 athletes will still have the chance to light up the night as they glide down Mile Run, since it’s unlit, with flares in hand.

“For the younger kids, it’s such a huge experience for them,” Seymour said. “They just look forward to it and love it and skip races for it. It’s still making it a kind of fun, exciting endeavor that they’ll still remember.”

Safety is the main priority for Winter Carnival this year, but Seymour and the Winter Sports Club are still trying to make the annual celebration memorable.

The Soda Pop Slalom is still happening, but it won’t draw crowds to the base of Steamboat Resort as it usually does. Instead, it’ll be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 5, at Howelsen Hill. Participants can sign up for small windows of race times, which will allow social distancing and keep crowding to a minimum.

“There will be music going and an announcer that announces their name, and I think the most important thing that they all love is the goody bag at the end with the soda pop,” Seymour said. “As long as they’ve got that, they’re happy as can be.”

Open to the public

The Soda Pop Slalom is usually a crowd-pleaser, with parents and passersby finding joy in watching the young skiers slip and slide over the snow.

This year, there can’t be crowds at the events, but a few are still open to the public for participation or admiration.

At 2:30 p.m. Feb. 5, there will be the Powder Tools Mid-Winter Terrain Park Jam Session open to 20 members of the public of any age.

“We try to make it accessible to all ages and abilities and just get the community together in an outdoor space where they can be separate but still all ride together and enjoy the love of skiing and snowboarding together,” said SSWSC Snowboard Program Director Maddy Schaffrick

People can sign up for the free event via the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club website at All that’s required of participants is a helmet and a Winter Carnival button or buff.

The terrain park is arguably looking better than it ever has, with Howelsen Hill employee Robbie Shine and Mountain Projects owner Nick Roma making the most out of the space and snow available.

“He helped us create bigger jumps — the biggest jumps we’ve ever had Howelsen,” Schaffrick said.

There will also be fireworks Saturday, but spectators are asked to stay home or watch from a crowd-free location.

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