Pandemic Influenced Winter Carnival Sees Changes but Continues Tradition
The 108 year-old Winter Carnival will see changes due to COVID-19 restrictions and the effort to ensure athletes, spectators, and community members all stay safe and follow guidelines this winter.
The Carnival, set for Feb 3rd-7th, is hosted by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and traditionally features 5 days of on-snow sporting events and shows put on by the athletes of the SSWSC. This year, the carnival will continue with outdoor activities for the youth of our community and some traditional experiences around town, but all spectator events will be limited.
Most notably, the week will be lacking in Street Events and the Night Extravaganza, which draw over 9,000 spectators in a two day span. “The City of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Springs Chamber, and SSWSC have a tight partnership to make all of the moving parts of the street events and Night Extravaganza come together,” said Sarah Floyd, Executive Director of the SSWSC. “The number of individuals who must work in close proximity to put these events together, combined with the concerns of how to manage crowds, made for a group decision to cancel these popular events during this year’s Winter Carnival and focus on other ways to celebrate our community.”
Most outdoor events will remain so that the youth of our community can be involved in this annual tradition. Winter Carnival Royalty and Grand Marshals will be recognized and celebrated, and SSWSC athletes will make numerous descents in smaller groups down the darkened backside of Howelsen Hill throughout the evenings of the week of the Carnival to enjoy the experience and magic of skiing with flares. Howelsen Hill will feature opportunities like obstacle courses, sledding and rail jams. The Soda Pop Slalom sponsored by Christy Sports and snow sculptures hosted by Steamboat Creates will still be included in the week’s festivities.
Memorabilia will be available for purchase, including Winter Carnival buffs and posters sponsored by Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty and created by local artist Sarah Juschka. Winter Carnival buttons, traditionally the ‘spectator entry ticket’ will not be used for entry this year and will be limited to a number of 500 ‘collectors’ buttons , designed by one of Steamboat’s talented youth artists in the annual art competition. The purchase of buffs and buttons will follow tradition and afford the wearer FREE skiing and riding lift tickets at Howelsen Hill when shown to the ticket office between February 3rd and the 6th.
Saturday’s Night Extravaganza, normally a show of fireworks featuring the lighted man, fiery hoop jumpers and LED skiers, will certainly be missed. Blair Seymour, SSWSC Youth Program Director, who normally directs the skiing and riding for the Night Extravaganza, said, “We may not be able to host a full Winter Carnival, but we are grateful to still be able to provide some opportunities to celebrate the traditions of Winter Carnival. The kids participating won’t remember the lack of crowds, but they will remember the excitement of skiing with a flare and the happiness of sliding down a ski slope in the dark with their friends.” Longtime SSWSC supporter and local firework pyrotechnic Tim Borden and Yampa Valley Bank are sponsoring fireworks that can be seen from decks across the valley and encourages people to step outside for their own private viewing on Saturday night.
Without the traditional Night Extravaganza, the opening in the calendar allows for something a little different this year. In a collision of opportunity with timing, the SSWSC is making plans to host the World Pro Ski Tour on Saturday evening at Howelsen Hill, adding some excitement in the absence of the Night Extravaganza.
“While there will be no spectators, the exciting side-by-side racing with two huge pro jumps will conjure up images of some of our favorite Carnival events, and the live stream will allow people to enjoy the event safely in their homes,” said Associate Executive Director, Jon Nolting. “We understand the community will be disappointed to not see the traditional night show, but we’re excited to have something else to present that is novel and celebrates our winter heritage.”