Our View: Carnival a cause for celebration
February 6, 2008
With as quickly as the things around us seem to change, it’s often worth recognizing and celebrating those things that persist in the face of evolution.
It has been almost a century since Steamboat Springs hosted its first Winter Carnival, and the events that will take place during the ensuing five days will bear a striking resemblance to the events of the preceding 94 Winter Carnivals. That in itself should be sufficient reason to spend an afternoon or evening supporting one of Steamboat Springs’ most unique and entertaining spectacles.
Under the guidance of Norwegian immigrant Carl Howelsen, the first Winter Carnival was held in 1914 to give townspeople and area ranchers a respite from the Upper Yampa Valley’s long, hard winter. Steamboat’s first ski jump was built that same year on Woodchuck Hill, where Colorado Mountain College now sits, and it was the site of an entirely new sport competition for Steamboat residents – ski jumping.
Ski jumping has since become much more familiar to residents, and Howelsen Hill – named after Carl himself – is home to an impressive jumping facility used year-round by Olympic-caliber athletes.
Other aspects of Winter Carnival also have remained the same. Youth skiers still take part in skijoring and the donkey jump. The diamond hitch parade makes it way down Lincoln Avenue on the closing day of the carnival, and the muzzle-loading biathlon is an annual celebration of a sport seldom seen or practiced anywhere else in the world.
This year’s Winter Carnival also features something new – a “Sledstyle” snowmobile demonstration at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. Although it’s unfortunate that Sledstyle exists as a Winter Carnival event because chariot racing is no more, we think it adds an attractive element for visitors and youths.
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Not to be overlooked is that Winter Carnival is a fundraiser for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, one of the nation’s premier youth winter sports training programs. We urge everyone and anyone interested in attending a Winter Carnival event – be it tonight’s opening ceremonies, this weekend’s street events along Lincoln Avenue, or any other planned activity – to purchase the $7 button that also serves as an admission ticket. All proceeds go to the Winter Sports Club.
Today is Feb. 6, and Routt County residents again find themselves in the midst of a long, hard winter. And although abundant snowfall is cause for more celebration than it was a half-century ago, we still have Winter Carnival to provide an entertaining break from the humdrum of our daily lives. It’s a chance to bump into old friends and neighbors, or to watch the next generation of skiing stars enjoy just another day of being kids in Steamboat Springs. It’s an opportunity to see Steamboat as it once was – and, in many ways, still is.