Steamboat’s ‘Super Bowl’: The Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza
A tradition started in 1914 to cure cabin fever, local skiers, ski patrol, and kids with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club put on a memorable, creative ski show that lights up the night sky every year.
Now, the tradition is known as the Night Extravaganza and is a highlight of the Winter Carnival. This year’s edition will take place on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Around 8,000 gather at Howelsen Hill for possibly the only event in the nation that combines fire, creative lights, and trick skiing.
“It’s like putting on a Super Bowl halftime show with no rehearsal,” said Blair Seymour, SSWSC sport development director.
The event kicks off at 6:45 p.m. with local high-level athletes demonstrating what they do in their sport. At 7:30 p.m, the main event begins.
Around 600 members of SSWSC take part. The club utilizes the front-facing trails of Howelsen Hill for the event so no one misses any of the action.
Older kids participate by skiing in the dark carrying a lit road flare. Despite there being no rehearsal, staff do go over safety training, showing kids how to properly hold and handle the flare.
Younger members of the club make their way down the hill in light-up vests. LED lights, glow sticks, and road flares illuminate Howelsen Hill as the event unfolds.
“We use lights creatively and kind of choreograph the night to flow,” Seymour said. “It’s something the kids look forward to. They absolutely love it, they go up, they get ready and goof off while they are waiting, and then they do their big showcase, it’s the highlight of their season.”
Stakes get higher as the local ski patrol takes the hill, launching off a Nordic jump through hoops of fire. The last down the mountain in the group speeds along pulling a fiery toboggan.
“This will be my 36th fiery hoop, I have not missed one in my 36 years on ski patrol. It will also be my 34th time pulling the toboggan,” said John “Pink” Floyd, longtime ski patrol member. “One day we were sitting around talking and we decided it would be funny to one-up ourselves and bring in a toboggan. We put a dried Christmas tree in it with towels and blankets, next we put a gallon of gasoline on it, and light it right before I go.”
Next, a ritual steeped in nearly 100 years of tradition occurs. Claudius Banks first skied down Howelsen Hill with lit poles in 1936. He passed the torch down to his son, Jon, who took over in the early 1970s. Jon put his own spin on the event, adding a lit suit and firework-shooting backpack. Now, his suit is covered with an LED lighting system containing 256 colors, and he has not ditched the fireworks that launch off his back.
To continue this fireworks frenzy, SSWSC lights up Nordic jumps and participants ride up the Poma lift all lit up.
“We also have a fire rail, a ski terrain park rail we light on fire, and the kids snowboard or ski across it. Cross country kids partake by doing figure eights on the mountain, the little ones have little ponchos with lights taped to them,” Seymour said.
As long as there is winter in Routt County, the Winter Carnival will go on. For an event just 40 years younger than Steamboat itself, people will line the streets and crowd Howelsen just to experience a small piece of this 110-year-old local treasure.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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