On Scene: Winter Carnival is crazy, and so are you
February 15, 2008
Living in Steamboat Springs is a crazy thing to do.
Even when you set aside the fact that settling here is outside of the average person’s means, it’s hard to ignore evidence that Northwest Colorado isn’t easy to live in during the winter months.
It’s bitter cold. Most people don’t stay for longer than a few days. And apparently it is possible for 5 feet of snow to fall in a week.
So, the fact that we live here is at least a little absurd. And Winter Carnival is the wonderfully refreshing time of year that we acknowledge that absurdity.
That recognition comes out in doing things that are normal (well, sort of), and making them at least mildly dangerous:
¤ Riding a bike down a hill – that is covered in snow and dotted with slalom gates.
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¤ Sledding – on a shovel, which is being pulled down the street by a horse.
¤ Setting off fireworks – from a backpack attached to a man whose family has been doing just that for more than 70 years.
Coming from the South, where it does not snow, I was initially shocked at the vast array of potentially damaging things Winter Carnival encourages us to do in the snow. Then I remembered that trying to capture a greased pig is a relatively common holiday festivity in my home state, and that initial shock went away.
It took about an hour at Saturday’s night show, watching Steamboat residents cheer on Steamboat kids showing off their winter sports skills, to decide that Winter Carnival is just like any other slightly eccentric, location-specific, small-town festival.
Sure, you won’t see ski jumping in most events celebrating the culture of a small, remote place. But in the end, Winter Carnival is a community fundraiser like any other one, where everyone who lives here celebrates the main reason for living here – playing in the snow.
Walking away from the Night Extravaganza, I tried to recount a few of the more spectacular events over the phone to a friend in California, and I tried to make them sound normal.
It wasn’t until I got around to the children slaloming down Howelsen Hill with a road flare in each hand that I got a response that I expected much sooner: “What kind of parallel universal are you living in?”
And that was before I noticed the ski jumpers sailing through flaming hoops.