Winter Carnival’s biggest supporter: Yampa Valley Bank |

Winter Carnival’s biggest supporter: Yampa Valley Bank


PJ Wharton, president and CEO of Yampa Valley Bank (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Since its founding, the only locally-owned community bank in Steamboat Springs has recognized the uniqueness of the annual Winter Carnival, so much so that it has officially been its biggest supporter and sponsor for more than a decade.

Since its formation in 2000, Yampa Valley Bank has been the main sponsor of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Winter Carnival. The sponsorship was a no-brainer for the bank’s board and investors, all who lived and worked in Steamboat, according to PJ Wharton, president and CEO of Yampa Valley Bank.

“We’re very excited to enter our second decade of sponsoring the Winter Carnival,” Wharton said.

The bank’s first chairman, Tim Borden, and his family had been putting on the dazzling fireworks display for the annual winter event. It was recognized as a signature event, one that truly represented Steamboat, so the bank’s leadership reached out to the Winter Sports Club, and the rest is history.

“It’s a great partnership, friendship and we want to do all we can to support the Winter Carnival,” Wharton said.

Yampa Valley Bank maintains a financial sponsors of the event, but it’s also value added, according to Wharton. For years, Borden and his crew would set off the fireworks, shuttle them up the tower and put in a tremendous volunteer effort. But that has since transitioned to a professional crew, now underwritten by the bank.

The bank and its 40 employees also get involved in the traditional Street Events and other opportunities where they can lend a hand or participate.

“It is so unique; it is so distinctively Steamboat,” Wharton said.

Wharton isn’t alone when saying the pinnacle of Winter Carnival is seeing the local youth come down Howelsen Hill, carrying flares and lights, during the popular Night Extravaganza. It’s even more personal for Wharton whose three sons have each participated in the event. He calls it a rite of passage for young Steamboat skiers.

He also enjoys watching the Street Events and seeing the fun associated with the various events stretched out down Lincoln Avenue.

“Our amazing agricultural community and specifically these horse riders and equine families that volunteer to pull the kids for skijoring,” Wharton said. “It’s amazing.”

A special moment was when Borden and his team finally claimed a Guinness World Record at last year’s Night Extravaganza, setting off the world’s largest single firework — after four arduous years of trial and tribulation.

“We were so proud of Tim and his team,” Wharton said. “That was extraordinary.”

An equally memorable occasion was when Wharton’s oldest son had the opportunity to ski off the large jump on Howelsen and launch through a flaming loop during the Night Extravaganza spectacle.

“I could never do that,” he said, laughing.

Wharton also saluted the Tito’s Mountain Soiree, which he said is a fun gathering every year and features “mostly locals.”

“(It’s) so well done — by all volunteers,” he said. “We’re fortunate.”

Because of the ongoing pandemic, this year’s 108th annual Winter Carnival will look very different. There won’t be any Street Events or spectators and no Night Extravaganza, but Wharton said he understands the need for changes.

“Everyone has worked so hard, and I deeply respect the leadership and I get it. I support the changes,” he said. “I desperately want to get back to normal, but we also have to support the process.”

This year will “take a step back,” he said, so that next year’s Winter Carnival can return with a bang.

“Things like the Winter Sports Club and Winter Carnival — (they) are some of the reasons we choose to live here,” Wharton said. “This is so special, so unique. It’s something we strive to show our friends and family and neighbors out of town.”

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