Steamboat Springs This was no thrift-store-sale-rack costume contest. The competitors went all out in the first of four 40th Anniversary Costume Contests Saturday. The theme was "1960s and Before." In a contest meant to celebrate Steamboat Springs' past, costumes ranged from Carl Howelsen, one of the founding fathers of skiing in Steamboat, to a man dressed as Captain Morgan (arguably a founding father, as well). Contestants lined up in front of the stage in Gondola Square just as hundreds of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend tourists were sliding off the mountain.
First-day ski school students snowplowed with all their might to keep from running into the crowd gathering at the end of the snow.
Merle Nash dressed up as an "old timer" complete with giant round goggles. Barbara Williams came as the first Steamboat Springs ski instructor -- complete with an authentic uniform -- and Marion Gibson remembered the past by wearing her first ski suit, a vintage one-piece circa 1946.
But in the end, the big hits of the day were Tom and Judy Schwall, who took first and second place, respectively.
Tom Schwall dressed as Carl Howelsen and Judy Schwall dressed as a "working girl" from Brooklyn -- the town's red-light district in the early 1900s -- complete with strap-on skis and a pair of antique ice skates, "ready for any kind of fun."
Her hiked-up, saloon-girl skirt told the story of Steamboat's wilder days across the river just as well as the blurb she prepared for emcee Brian Harvey to read.
In the end, it doesn't matter in what order the three winners -- Bernt Riffe took third -- place, contest organizer Doug LaPlaca said.
Winning any place at all gives them an equal bid for the final round, when they compete for a 2003 Bud Light Bombardier snowmobile.
Everyone who enters the contest, whether they win or not, will be entered into a drawing to win a 2003-04 season pass to the Steamboat Ski Area.
There are three more contests to go. The next one, themed "The Psychedelic '70s" is scheduled for Feb. 8, followed by "The Neon '80s" contest on March 1.
The finals will be held March 29, when the winners from the first three contests are pitted against each other.
Saturday's costume contest was followed by a free concert by Liquid Soul and a big-air aerial skiing performance.
After traveling downhill all day, hundreds of skiers and riders turned around and started walking uphill toward the stage of the All-Star Aerial Show located above the Christie lift.
As darkness fell, a team of Olympic, World Cup and National Team skiers and snowboarders from the United States and Canada thrilled the crowd with 720s and don't-do-this-at-home aerial tricks.
The aerial show is on a winter-long tour of American Skiing Co.'s resorts across America and will be heading to Sunday River in Maine next week.
Emcee "Crazy Kyle" kept shouting to the audience to scream louder, with promises that their enthusiasm would make the skiers "go higher."
"These guys are running on adrenaline," he said.
As the show ended, a display of fireworks lit up the mountain, the crowd and the backs of the flying skiers.
The Steamboat Ski Area's 40th anniversary celebration will continue today with reggae band Inner Circle playing a free concert in Gondola Square at 3 p.m.
Following the concert, a Community-Wide Celebration will feature a video presentation on the Jumbo Tron TV screens, guest speakers and an Aerial Extravaganza with stunt planes and fireworks.