For 108 years, the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival has proceeded through inclement weather, community growth, and now a pandemic. This year’s show had a different feel to it due to COVID-19 restrictions, but provided the community with a schedule of events that promoted guests to stay safe and socially distanced during the peak of COVID-19 restrictions.
In a year when crowds could not come together to celebrate the winter, they were instead invited to “come together, by staying apart.” This was achieved by a partnership with the Tread of Pioneers Museum as grand marshals, that allowed for the 108th Winter Carnival to be a reflection of past Winter Carnival Activities and the history of the event. The week kicked off with an outdoor Opening Ceremony live streamed to the public, and then continued through the five-day celebration with Covid-friendly activities. To safely bring people outside to enjoy the winter, snow sculptures decorated the streets and were carved with social distancing in mind, a Terrain Park Jam with small groups rotating through activities allowed for community involvement, and iconic Steamboat walking tours for small masked groups provided exercise and historical education. To promote staying home, stay-at-home movie nights provided small watching parties, radio interviews of some of Steamboat’s most well-known faces shared favorite memories throughout the decades, and a virtual debut of the World Pro Ski Tour down the face of Howelsen Hill provided energized watch-from-home excitement.
Instead of one night of flares and night skiing as tradition holds with the Night Extravaganza, the athletes of the SSWSC performed flare skiing in small groups each night of the celebration in order to keep crowds from gathering but still giving the community the opportunity to watch the night skiing. Most importantly, each child in the SSWSC was still able to participate in the important rite of passage of holding a flare down a darkened ski run.
All of the Winter Carnival opportunities at Howelsen Hill were live streamed on social media, helping to bring the community together from our homes and across the country, even through a very drastic life change as a community. Instead of buttons, buffs were promoted as face coverings for those outside (a small number of collectable buttons were still available.) . Together, we navigated the challenges of a pandemic, and still celebrated our love and history of the Winter Carnival. The week was ended with a “watch from home” fireworks show, which went off with the hopeful reminder that next year, the tradition would return in its full historical glory.
Candice Bannister and her family represented the Grand Marshals- Tread of Pioneers Museum. The 2021 Button Art was created by youth artist Caroline Landers. Live feeds at the Winter Carnival and World Pro Ski Tour allowed for guests around the
world to see the festivities.
Ski Swap, Bike Swap, & Smartwool Sale
Howelsen Hill Lodge has long-served as a shopping center for community events like Ski Swap, Bike Swap, and the Smartwool Sale. The goal of these events is to provide the community with a cost effective way to buy and sell the gear that helps us all to stay active throughout the changing seasons. With pandemic regulations closing the lodge to the public, SSWSC staff came up with new ways to ensure the community didn’t miss out on the events that keep our gear closets well-stocked.
This year, all of our swaps and sales were held outdoors at the Howelsen Hill parking lot. Staff mitigated entry numbers and reduced contact with set social distancing protocol in order to provide the community with safe shopping and swapping opportunities. Outdoor shopping proved so functional that future plans for these events again include ticketed shopping and an outdoor venue to maximize space and minimize crowding.
At the Smartwool sale, the new ticketed and restricted entry allowed for staff to restock items throughout the day, and prevent large lines from developing, as historically the best items were only available at the start of the sale.
At Ski Swap, early bird shopping was restricted to 100 people, giving shoppers an opportunity to ask questions and browse gear without the hustle of over-crowding.
Bike Swap has always been an outdoor swap thanks to Steamboat’s warm summer weather, and served as the inspiration for moving events to an outdoor layout.