Steamboat locals share their favorite Winter Carnival memories
February 8, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cowboys and cowgirls who race their horses down Lincoln Avenue and tow young skiers behind them on ropes are an integral part of the Winter Carnival events that have brought the Steamboat Springs community together every February since 1914.
Explore Steamboat asked a few locals to share their favorite Winter Carnival memories along with some tips for first-timers on where to catch all the action.
Doug Wheeler – ski cowboy
Doug Wheeler's family is known for their involvement with the Winter Carnival since 1933, especially pulling skiers behind them while racing down Lincoln Avenue on horseback.
For more than 45 years, Wheeler has been the fourth generation cowboy to take a couple of skiers for a ride.
“Over the years there have been numerous Olympic skiers, their children and even their grandchildren pulled down the street," Wheeler said. "Some of them, well before they had perfected their skiing abilities."
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"Even the great names of Steamboat character have been behind a horse racing down the street," Wheeler said. "I can remember stories of the Werners competing in the Street Events."
Growing up on his family's ranch, Wheeler said they used to take their scoop shovel – used for shoveling grain – and ride it like a sled on the hill. Then, he had his dad tie the shovel behind one of their horses, and the idea for a Winter Carnival event took form from there.
One event, which is no longer part of the festivities, was the double slalom, where two skiers were pulled by a rope behind one horse doing the slalom course.
"Each year, it's a way we are able to show how proud we are of the western heritage that Steamboat is known for," Wheeler said.
Involved each year since February 1997, Dean Vogelaar said his primary focus during the past 10 years has been working on the street as a starter for the horse events.
"A real highlight has been learning and remembering the names of the kids participating on the street and following their success stories as they have grown up," Vogelaar said. “Also watching the transition of the riders passing on the responsibility of pulling kids from one generation to another.
"I can remember one event several years ago with a Lockhart youngster on skis and a Wheeler on horseback that covered five generations on both ends," Vogelaar added.
“My favorite memory of Winter Carnival was as a little kid, bundling up in every layer of clothing that I owned and coming down to Howelsen Hill to watch the Night Extravaganza,” said Rory Clow, who now serves as marketing director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “I always wanted to be one of the kids who got to hold a flare and ski down the hill.”
Clow thinks the best place to watch the Street Events on Lincoln Avenue is a little bit before the finish line.
“That way you can see all the racers even if they don't make it the whole way across the finish line,” Clow said.
Originally from Iowa, one of Andrew's favorite memories during the past 13 years of watching the Winter Carnival Street Events was when she was in the Diamond Hitch Parade as a Chamber Ambassador. Now, she will be participating in the parade representing the business owned by her in-laws.
"I love watching the kids in the shovel races because their expressions show that are just having a great time, and it's fun to watch the excitement of them getting pulled behind the horses," Andrew said.
She enjoys watching Winter Carnival events from Howelsen Hill.
"It's fun to see the ski jumping through the fire-hoop and then the fireworks after," Andrew said.