Winter Carnival will continue but with many changes; its spirit and history still on display
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 108th year of Winter Carnival will see some changes due to COVID-19, but the show will go on. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which hosts the event, has worked tirelessly during the past few months to ensure the safety of their athletes and the community while planning the annual event.
The Carnival, slated for Feb. 3 to 7, typically features on-snow sporting events put on by SSWSC athletes. This year, spectator events will be non-existent, but outdoor events will continue in a safe capacity.
“We are excited to continue with the tradition of the carnival this year in order to give the kids the experience of participating in this annual event,” said SSWSC Executive Director Sarah Floyd. “Our main focus is on the safety of our athletes and our community.”
It was a group effort to maintain this safety, with key leaders of the SSWSC meeting with city and Steamboat Springs Chamber staff to determine what the event would look like this year.
The Soda Pop Slalom, a popular event for children, is open to the community, but signing up for a time slot is required. Blair Seymour, SSWSC youth program director, explained that what used to be a one-and-done event will now take place over the course of three or four hours, with participants signing up for a time slot and racing at that specific time.
Other outdoor youth events will continue, such as various age groups descending down Howelsen Hill Ski Area, but only with the group they regularly train with throughout the week.
“During the night of their regular training, the different groups will get a chance to do some kind of fun activity,” Seymour explained. “It might be a fun mogul event or a rail jam or skiing down mile run in the dark with flares. It’s going to be something that’s festive for them.”
“We can’t have athletes congregating at the top of the hill, and we can’t have crowds spectating at the bottom,” Floyd said. “So right now, the athletes will still be able to participate, just in smaller groups and with masks and distancing.”
And while spectators aren’t encouraged, community members can still enjoy many of the traditions of Winter Carnival. Snow sculptures, sponsored by Steamboat Creates, can be enjoyed throughout downtown, and a partnership with The Tread of Pioneers Museum will provide a Friday night Steamboat ski movie for people to view on the museum’s Youtube channel and Facebook page.
The traditional opening ceremony will be held outside at Howelsen Hill for the Winter Carnival royalty and grand marshals and their families and friends.
And while the usual Saturday Night Extravaganza, featuring a spectacular pyrotechnic show, the lighted man, fiery hoop jumpers and LED skiers will be missed, there will still be fireworks over Howelsen Hill, with spectators encouraged to watch on their own, from wherever they please.
“We may not be able to host a full Winter Carnival, but we are grateful to still be able to provide some opportunities to celebrate the traditions of Winter Carnival,” said Seymour.
Memorabilia will be available for purchase as well — the traditional Winter Carnival poster, this year designed by local artist Sarah Juschka, and a new addition of neck gaiters, with the same design on them as the poster. The Winter Carnival buttons, previously purchased as an entrance fee to events, will be limited to 500 “collector’s items.”
“Since we can’t have spectators at the events, we’re not selling buttons for entry, but we’re very aware that some people have every button from Winter Carnivals past and want to keep up that tradition,” Floyd said. “We wanted to still give them the opportunity to have that memorabilia from this year, even if it looks a little bit different.”
The buttons will sell for $10 and neck gaiters for $15; purchase of either will grant free entry to skiing on Howelsen Hill from Feb. 3 to 6. Both can be purchased at the snack bar at Howelsen.
And while the popular Street Events will be on hiatus this year, due to the concern of congregating crowds, this year’s focus is more on the athletes of SSWSC.
“We’re doing this for the kids to have the experience of being a part of it,” Floyd said. “Our theme this year is ‘Happy Outside’. We want it to be just that and to celebrate all that can do and continue on with this tradition.
“We can’t wait to do it big in 2022,” she added.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.