Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Winter Carnival is here!
This year is the 98th celebration of Winter Carnival, my absolute favorite ‘holiday’ to spend in Steamboat. Today is the first day of the Carnival with opening ceremonies at 5:30 at Howelsen Hill. The Carnival will run through Sunday evening and is a celebration of Steamboat’s heritage: combining skiing, horses, and winter games!
To tell you a little bit about the Carnival, it was started in 1914 by the Winter Sports Club and other community members as a way to give the town a fun celebration and to help residents cope with cabin fever (Feeling cooped up with all the snow!). Each year, more games were added and today it has become a 5 day extravaganza of fun winter games and festivities.
In 1936, the Carnival became wildly popular when Claudius Banks started the tradition of the Lighted Man. Today, Jon Banks has taken over the job for his father, and is a not-to-be-missed part of the show. Equipped with 200-some odd lights and a fantastic amount of Roman candles as he skis down the hill (which is scattered with even more fireworks planted in the ground), The Lighted Man is quite an impressive site to be seen. Having grown up in Steamboat, I can tell you that watching the Lighted Man come down Howelsen Hill looking like a walking Christmas tree was the most exciting thing I can remember at a young age. And then to see Fireworks shoot off of his already impressive frame was something close to feeling like you just saw Santa Claus jump up the chimney. I’m pretty sure I wanted to BE the lighted (wo)man when I grew up. Today, watching Jon Banks descend the hill is still my favorite part of the Carnival, and I don’t think I have ever missed a year of seeing it. You can see him this Saturday at 6:30 PM at Howelsen Hill!
The Winter Carnival is not just a show for tourists. It truly is created by the community, for the community, and it involves all age groups. High Schoolers creates snow sculptures that decorate the sidewalks (both giving kids a great day off from school, and giving them something to be proud of). Having participated in this event every year of high school, I think it was a great way to celebrate and play in the snow, and let your creative side out in a way that normally is not available. Don’t forget to check out the sculptures while you watch the parades and street events on Saturday and Sunday, which start at 9am!
What events should you definitely NOT miss during the street events? My all time favorite is the shovel race (around Noon on Saturday), which I still have not been able to participate in but seriously want to. What is it? Picture a bunch of slightly brain-cell lacking (yes, I did say I want to participate!) folks sitting on shovels in the middle of the street. To make that image sound even sillier, those folks proceed to tie their shovels to horses, which are then sent running at a full sprint down Main Street, dragging contestants like Raggedy Anne dolls. The fastest contestant who does not fall off their shovel wins. Why does this event look like so much fun? I’m not really sure, maybe because it’s the next best thing to trying to ride a bull, but I’m super excited to tell you that I’m going to be trying to register for it this year. I’ll make sure to wear a helmet to protect the brain cells that are trying to discourage me from making that decision. 🙂
The Winter Carnival even has events for those of you hoping to ignore all the snow and pretend it is summer. Pull your bikes out, the Dual Slalom Bicycle Race starts at 6 pm on Sunday and is an exciting race down the face of Howelsen!
And of course, if you enjoy watching the jumpers that Howelsen is known for assisting, don’t forget to check out the Ski Flying Finals at 1 pm on Sunday.
From tubing parties, to “Dad Dashes”, to a fantastic fireworks show, the Winter Carnival has it all and has too many events to talk about! (Here is a list of times and places for ALL events!) Buttons are $7 for entry to all events, and can be purchased at places like Ski Haus, All That Jazz, and the Winter Sports Club office at Howelsen Hill.