North Routt to host Snow Carnival | SteamboatToday.com

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North Routt to host Snow Carnival

Event to raise funds for groomer for ski, snowmobile trails

— While many Routt County residents are hunkering down at home on frigid winter nights, Billy Dines often is just starting his work shift and driving slowly through the North Routt backcountry under the moon, grooming trails for skiers and snowmobilers in a lumbering PistenBully snowcat.

He goes out several nights a week, starting after dark. He grooms until the night's job is done — some trips take four hours, others much longer.

Dines covers 147 miles of trails, ranging from the Sand Mountain area to the Wyoming border to Big Red Park and around Steamboat Lake.

He's been doing it for about 20 years.

"We call it 'Billy and the Bully,'" North Routt resident Barbara McNary joked.

But the Bully is getting old.

In an effort to raise funds for a new trail groomer, the Steamboat Lake Snow Club is hosting a winter carnival of its own — Snow Carnival — Feb. 19 at Steamboat Lake State Park, Steamboat Lake Outfitters and on trails across North Routt. The daylong event includes a "Poker Run" for skiers and snowmobilers in which participants pick up playing cards at checkpoints along trails and vie for the best poker hand; a variety of races and winter games; a carnival queen contest open to all comers, including male entrants who dress for the occasion; a live auction; food; and music and dancing with the bluegrass band Ragweed. A $20 entry fee covers all events.

All winter long, there's no cost to use the trails Dines grooms. Snowmobilers can purchase their registration for about $30 at the Steamboat Lake State Park visitors center where parking costs $7 a day. But otherwise, the trails are free.

McNary, the Snow Club's fundraiser, said 31 members pay a $35 membership fee that goes toward paying Dines and maintaining the groomer. Those fees don't go very far, she said. The club also receives some funding from other events, such as the annual North Routt Coureur des Bois cross-country ski race, dinners and auctions.

McNary and other organizers hope Snow Carnival can put a dent in the $125,000 or so needed for a new groomer — that's half the machine's cost, she said. State grants could pay the other half if the Snow Club can provide matching funds.

"I'd be ecstatic if we got $10,000," McNary said Thurs­day about the carnival.

The event also could revive an old tradition. McNary said some longtime North Routt ranchers remember days when the area would hold its own winter celebration, separate from the annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival that's under way this week.

Dave Marshall was skiing near Steamboat Lake on Thursday with his wife, Dagmar. He'll be judging the carnival queen contest and said the Snow Carnival sounds like a nice way to raise funds for a needy cause.

"Everyone's very happy to come up and jump on skis and snowmobiles, but there's a lot of work going on," Marshall said. "Hopefully a lot of people will come up and contribute."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com