Steamboat Springs Each year, eight lucky 5-year-old girls from the Little Toots ski program are chosen to be princesses for the Winter Carnival in Steamboat Springs.
Little Toots is a local ski program for 3- to 6-year-old children. Classes for the children are held at the Steamboat Ski Resort and at Howelsen Hill.
"It's always tough to pick," said Heather Yeager, who is helping to choose who will be the princesses this year.
Usually, six girls are chosen from the larger Steamboat Ski Resort classes and two from the Howelsen Hill class.
The requirements to become a princess are based on how long they've been with the Little Toots program and how good a skier the little girls are. Also, the girls must be about 5 years old. Yeager stressed that it is not a competition.
"It's strictly based on participation," she said.
The princesses' duties at the carnival include participating in the opening ceremonies as part of the queen's court. They also are at the queen's side during the night events on Saturday.
On Sunday, the girls ride in a special float for the princesses, wearing their special capes and crowns.
The rest of the Little Toots Crew, which is about 130 boys and girls, either ski behind the float in the parade or ride in the truck pulling the float.
Besides being able to hang out with the queen and wear the pretty cape and crown, the princesses become eligible to be nominated as queen of the Winter Carnival when they grow up.
As tradition goes, the Winter Carnival queen has to have been a princess when she was a little girl.
Recently, carnival officials have allowed that rule to slide, Yeager said. "Sometimes it just isn't practical," she said.
However, if anything, being a princess puts the little girls in good contention to be queen when they grow up.
While many of the younger girls may aspire to be a princess at 5 years old, Yeager said it's the parents who are the ones excited about their children being chosen.
"The mothers are more heartbroken than the girls when their daughters don't get picked," Yeager said.