World record firework attempt still on in Steamboat despite winter storm

Fireworks expert Tim Borden still plans to attempt his world record-breaking firework attempt on Saturday, despite a winter storm. He and his team have been making final preparations for the event and feel good about their chances of success.
Derek Maiolo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Snow storms have not deterred Steamboat Springs’ local firework aficionado from preparing his world record-breaking attempt Saturday at Howelsen Hill during the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza

Tim Borden, who is making his second attempt following a failed launch last year, has been busy readying his largest firework yet, which weighed in at almost 2,800 pounds. A Guinness World Records adjudicator has verified the 62-inch shell is indeed the world’s largest, but to claim the record, it has to lift off the ground and explode in the air. 

Inclement weather has been a concern as Borden considers whether he will follow through with the launch. 

“We hope we will have a clear enough night without too much wind,” he said.

If the wind clocks in at more than 20 mph, Borden said he likely would cancel the launch. If visibility is low and people cannot see it explode, he also would consider postponing the event. 

“That will be a judgment call to make on the scene,” Borden said.

A longtime fireworks guru, Borden has spent the last seven years working with three fellow experts developing ever-larger shells. This latest one is covered in more than 60 miles of tape, according to Borden. His friend and teammate Jim Widmann drove all the way to Wisconsin two weeks ago to pick up more tape to reinforce the shell. 

Borden also glued four firework comets onto the outside of the shell, which will spew colors and enable viewers to trace its trajectory until it bursts about 2,000 feet above the ground.

“Otherwise you just see the fire at the mortar, and you might not see it until it explodes,” Borden said.

If you go

What: Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8
Where: Howelsen Hill Ski Area

Ed MacArthur, owner of Native Excavating and another member of Borden’s team, has been preparing the launch site for Saturday night. 

“Everything looks secure and ready to go,” MacArthur said.

On Saturday morning, he plans to use an excavator to transport the shell up Blackmer Drive Trail. For now, the shell is resting in a cradle made especially for it to prevent any damage. Borden has kept the shell locked up in his barn, where it will stay until its first and only journey.

When it comes time to launch the shell, marking the finale of the Night Extravaganza, Borden will be at the top of the Howelsen Hill poma lift with his team, the Guinness adjudicator and news crews. A documentary team will be filming the event, Borden said. He will use a wireless detonation system to launch the firework from a safe distance, about a half-mile from the mortar. 

He and the others plan to shelter themselves under a snow cat for protection from any falling debris. 

People planning to attend the Night Extravaganza should be aware of new parking restrictions and traffic controls in effect this year. 

The two parking areas nearest Howelsen Hill Lodge will be closed Saturday night, according to Rory Clow, marketing director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. The large parking lot near the baseball fields will be open, but vehicle access will be restricted from 5 to 9 p.m. to ensure emergency vehicles can get through. An exception allows vehicles with handicap access to enter the area throughout the night.

People are encouraged to park at the Howelsen Ice Arena, the rodeo grounds or downtown. A drop-off and turnaround zone in front of the Howelsen Hill tennis courts will be available for athletes and members of the public, Clow said. Shuttle buses can drop off passengers at that location, but they should make arrangements to pick people up along Yampa Street or Lincoln Avenue.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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