Shawn Tompkins grooms Lincoln Avenue at 6 a.m. Saturday in advance of the street events for the 101st Winter Carnival.

Photo by Scott Franz

Shawn Tompkins grooms Lincoln Avenue at 6 a.m. Saturday in advance of the street events for the 101st Winter Carnival.

While Steamboat is fast asleep, city crews turn highway into Winter Carnival playground

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— When all the Winter Carnival athletes were sound asleep at 2 a.m. Saturday, large trucks were pulling up to Howelsen Hill to start the process of turning Lincoln Avenue into a winter playground.

Loaders, graders and other heavy equipment then spent a few hours spreading an estimated 2,000 cubic yards of snow on the highway for the 101st Winter Carnival.

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Sean Tompkins grooms Lincoln Avenue early Saturday morning for the 101st Winter Carnival.

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Lincoln Avenue waits for the groomer early Saturday morning as snow continues to fall before the start of the Winter Carnival. The city lays down about 2,000 cubic yards of snow to make the street events and parade happen.

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Shawn Tompkins grooms Lincoln Avenue at 6 a.m. Saturday in advance of the street events for the 101st Winter Carnival.

At 6 a.m., the snow was groomed and ready for all the action.

“It can be kind of chaotic,” Ron Berig, the city's street and fleet superintendent, said Thursday about the more than 10 hours of plowing and grooming that goes into turning a highway into an avenue for skijoring, doggy dashing and a big parade.

After the initial laying down of snow, the streets have to be cleared Saturday afternoon and then redone for Sunday's events.

Berig recalls that 20 years ago, the process wasn't as fine tuned, and instead of finding nothing but clean, pure snow on the street, sometimes it would come with a beer bottle or a piece of trash or some scoria inside.

That's because 20 years ago, Berig said, crews wouldn't remove the snow on Lincoln as regularly as they do today, and much of the Winter Carnival snow came from parking lots.

“The snow just wasn't as good,” he said.

Even today, it's not an exact science.

Crews have encountered rain and 40 degree temperatures during Winter Carnivals of years past.

It also complicates things when a foot of snow falls the night before all the events.

“You really have to start thinking about Winter Carnival way ahead of time,” Berig said.

In the city, that means January.

“We start looking at the snow and making sure there's going to be enough,” he said.

Luckily, there was more than enough this year, and an abundance of fresh snow early Saturday morning made the setup go a bit faster than normal.

“I think it's a great thing,” Berig said. “It's a tradition, and we're glad to be a part of it.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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