Saturday, February 2, 2008
Tom Ross' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Tom here.
Please refrain from simmering wieners and preparing soft-boiled eggs in the hot spring. Thanks in advance for your cooperation - the management.
Of all the eye-popping images contained in Friday's historic Winter Carnival film fest, I think the hot dogs in the hot springs made the biggest impression on me.
The Tread of Pioneers Museum hosted the brief cinema event at noon and again at 5 p.m. in Centennial Hall. Museum Executive Director Candice Lombardo said the film was really an edited compilation of home movies, promotional films and documentaries made across the span of six decades.
The film only lasts 45 minutes, but it will permanently alter your perception of the historical roots of skiing in Steamboat Springs. I promise. It also could give you ideas about how to prepare a picnic of Vienna sausages and deviled eggs.
Midway through the compilation, a film made in the late 1940s on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce is introduced. Film historian and documentarian F.M. "Smokey" Vandergrift said the film also is referred to as the Luekens film after an early mayor and tireless promoter of Steamboat, Claude Luekens.
In that era, summer was the primary tourism season and the only time visitors appeared on Lincoln Avenue was during Winter Carnival.
The hot dogs in the hot springs scene begins with a close-up of a painted signboard, which I'm going to presume was a fake, set up for the film (however, I could be badly mistaken).
The sign reads: "No campfire here is necessary - the boiling spring will soon cook your dinner."
Steamboat historian Bill Fetcher isn't certain if the sign was fake, but he assures me that par-boiling eggs in the Strawberry Park Hot Springs was the focal point of many picnics.
"It was common to coddle eggs in the 140-degree water," Fetcher said.
The scene cuts to a group of merry picnickers bobbing around in the hot springs for hot dogs and eggs!
A subsequent scene is introduced with a shot of a pair of bare female feet on a snow-covered diving board and scenes of people swimming at the downtown pool in the middle of winter.
The early film compilation includes a documentary by Jim Temple, who not only pioneered Storm Mountain Ski Area (which became the Steamboat Ski Area) but also was an accomplished cinematographer. In a period interview on film, Temple introduces footage of early trips made from Rabbit Ears Pass to explore the potential for a ski area on Storm Mountain (now Mount Werner). There is stunning historic footage of ancient little snowcats pulling skiers on ropes across firmly packed snow.
The Winter Carnival footage includes early ski jumpers swinging their arms wildly in windmill fashion to keep their balance.
The film reveals that many early carnival traditions are no longer observed. We still pack Lincoln Avenue to watching skijoring (skiers pulled by riders on horseback). However, the race in which one horse pulls three skiers arm-in arm has gone by the wayside. Also disappeared is the skijoring slalom race in which skiers had to negotiate a double-hairpin turn around stacked cardboard boxes as the quarterhorse wheeled on its haunches.
Colorado Ski Hall of Fame member Loris Werner explains that Winter Carnival street events were such a focal point during his youth that every youngster knew precisely which horse he wanted to pull him down Lincoln Avenue.
We get to watch Vernon Summer explain how one Winter Carnival, he cleaned up in the street events, winning a flashlight in the cross-country ski race down Steamboat's main drag and a whole pound of cheese for being the winning horseback rider in the women's skijoring slalom.
I can't close this column without mentioning the footage of a steam engine passing a wooden water tower before pulling into the depot on 13th Street. And the jaw-dropping shot of the north face of Emerald Mountain when it was laced with ski runs from the top.
If you missed Friday's screenings, there's good news. Lombardo said the film would most certainly be shown in advance of the 2009 Winter Carnival. But visitors to the museum's research room can ask to pop the DVD into a viewer any time during regular hours. The museum is open 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Routt County residents are admitted to the museum at no charge. Use of the research room is free to all.
Friday's historic film compilation left me with strong impressions.
The first is that the continuous evolution of Winter Carnival is a rope running straight back to the emergence of Ski Town USA in the early twentieth century.
The second is that all of us have a chance to become part of the remarkable history of skiing in Steamboat Springs by participating in next week's carnival events.
- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205
or e-mail email@example.com