Steamboat Springs As a warm wind whipped over Steamboat Lake on Saturday afternoon, children tried their hand at snowball and beanbag throws, and local dogs pulled their owners on a comically small sled.
But sitting unassumingly in the parking lot at the inaugural North Routt Snow Carnival was the event’s guest of honor: a red, PistenBully snowcat named “Kitty.”
Kitty was the first snow groomer purchased by the Steamboat Lake Snow Club, an organization responsible for the maintenance of 147 miles of multi-use trails in North Routt County.
After 10 years on the job, she’s rolling slowly toward retirement.
The snow carnival was an opportunity for the North Routt community to get together for an afternoon of outdoor activities to raise money for a new snowcat, a purchase that is part of a statewide effort to update the grooming fleet of 29 snowmobile clubs that are responsible for trail maintenance across the state.
Snow Club President Mike Swinsick said while dreary weather and wind might have kept some carnival-goers at bay, it was a fun afternoon after weeks of hard work putting the event together.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We’ll try to keep it going and hopefully get better weather and turnout next year.”
Hungry Dog provided hot dogs and there were activities for all ages, including a Carnival Queen contest won by Jaelyn Kohl, 15.
Steamboat Lake State Park Manager Julie Arington stopped by with her 15-month-old son to support the club, which works in close partnership with the park rangers and U.S. Forest Service.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she said about the event. “It’s nice to get people aware of the Snow Club and get them involved. So many people come out here to use the trails, but it’s great for them to see how much work really goes into it.”
Heidi Andre, 6, came out to the carnival with her family and was treated to a full day of fun.
“We like to play in the snow,” Heidi said. “We like to play all sorts of games.”
She won a small stuffed animal for her participation in some of the carnival games, and took a ride on Kitty.
She and her younger sister, Nikita, were named the North Routt Snow Carnival princesses out of a field of five girls, impressing the judges with their “We love Steamboat snowmobiles” cheers, which occasionally were just shouts of “snowmobiles!” accompanied by a fist pump.
Their father, Scott Andre, a North Routt resident and Snow Club member, said he was grateful for the opportunity to spend a day having fun and supporting the club.
“We do a lot of skiing and it’s nice having good trails,” he said. “It’s great to see a multi-use group like this. It’s got fun stuff for everyone.”
In the background of the carnival, snowmobiles could be heard in the distance and several groups of ice fishers were gathered in clumps on the lake.
As he strapped on his snowshoes to begin tearing down the carnival tents, Swinsick said the carnival was about much more than Kitty.
“It’s all about community and supporting that community through the grooming of the trail system we have here,” he said.
The event continued into the evening hours at Steamboat Lake Outfitters, where local band Ragweed played and a live auction and silent auction would add to the Kitty retirement fund.
Final fundraising numbers were not available by press time.
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@SteamboatToday.com