Our View: Saluting Winter Carnival

Unique Steamboat event is as successful as ever

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The Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival is coming off one of its most successful runs ever.

Despite often warm, wet weather, the winter celebration saw some of its biggest crowds ever. And those crowds got to see great events, including a spectacular lighted skiing exhibition and fireworks show Saturday night. It was nothing short of impressive.

The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, the beneficiary of Winter Carnival proceeds, reported that buttons - the pass to all carnival events - sold out for the first time in recent memory, bringing in more than $40,000 for the club.

Our only complaint is the absence of chariot racing for the second straight year. The Yampa Valley Cutter and Chariot Racing Association and the city of Steamboat Springs blamed one another for poor snow conditions in the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena that caused the cancellation of the chariot races. We think the chariot races are an important tradition and that the city and the association should start working on a way to ensure the races come off in 2008.

But other than the chariot racing hiccup, the carnival was again a success and the event organizers deserve a pat on the back.

That the Winter Carnival is still such a vibrant event nearly a century after it began is testament that as much as Steamboat Springs has changed, the core values and traditions of the community remain.

When the first Winter Carnival was held in February 1914, it featured competition on Woodchuck Hill, where Colorado Mountain College now stands. The carnival was designed to give people a respite from the snow and cold and give them a reason to come off the ranch and gather with their neighbors in town. In the early days, Winter Carnival featured ski jumping, cross-country skiing and shooting competitions. Street events were added in the event's infancy, as was a parade.

As this past weekend proved, the Winter Carnival remains the perfect marriage of our ranching and skiing heritages. Though times have changed, many of the events have not. The 2007 carnival was not so different from those 80 years ago with ski jumping, the street events, a parade, cross-country skiing and the Muzzle Loading Biathlon.

Watching ski joring, the donkey jump or the diamond hitch parade - even in the rain - is like watching history pass on Lincoln Avenue.

The Winter Carnival has evolved through the years to include events such as fiery hoop jumping, the Lighted Man, bicycle racing on snow, tubing parties, a pancake breakfast and fireworks. But at its core, the Winter Carnival's top draw remains the unique events down Lincoln Avenue that combine skiing and ranching - there simply isn't anything like it anywhere.

The best part of Winter Carnival is it supports a terrific cause - the Winter Sports Club. The community should be proud the buttons sold out this year, and that the 2007 Winter Carnival was as uniquely Steamboat as it was nearly 100 years ago.

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