The origin of Winter Carnival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, was simple: Give residents something to do in the middle of winter to ward off cabin fever.
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC) will host Winter Carnival once again so athletes, community members, and spectators can celebrate winter and its activities. It’s also an opportunity for people to experience “Ski Town USA history and tradition.”
This year’s Winter Carnival will, of course, be different than it was in years past. For example, due to restrictions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Winter Carnival won’t include Street Events, the Night Extravaganza, or spectator events. On the other hand, there will still be outdoor activities for kids, including the annual Soda Pop Slalom and a snow sculpture contest. Plus, athletes in small groups will be able to ski down Howelsen Hill in the evening — while carrying flares.
“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,” Blair Seymour, SSWSC Youth Program Director, who normally directs the skiing and riding for the Night Extravaganza, said. “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.” Let’s take a look at the calendar of events.
1. Olympic Heritage Tour Presented By The Tread Of Pioneers Museum
February 3, 12 P.M.
Join six-time winter Olympian Todd Lodwick to explore Steamboat’s Olympic heritage and also learn about the history behind the SSWSC, Howelsen Hill, and Winter Carnival. Plus, there will be plenty of ski jumping. Social distancing and facemasks will be required.
2. Opening Ceremonies
February 3, 5:30 P.M.
Located at the outdoor podium area behind Howelsen Hill Lodge, the opening ceremony will honor the Winter Carnival Queen and her court of attendants, Little Princesses, plus the Winter Carnival’s Grand Marshals.
Note: This year, to limit crowds, only immediate friends and family of the Winter Carnival Royalty can attend.
3. Snow Sculpture Contest
February 4, Judging Begins At 4 P.M.
Take a walk down Lincoln Avenue and look at the snow sculptures, which will be inspired by this year’s theme, “Happy Outside.” Winning sculptures will be highlighted all week.
4. Christy Sports Soda Pop Slalom
February 5, 10 A.M. To 2 P.M.
This race at Steamboat Ski Resort is open to skiers and snowboarders who are 11 years old or younger, or in programs up to U10. Pre-registration is required, as is social distancing and wearing face coverings.
5. Tour Winter Carnival Exhibits: The Tread of Pioneers Museum
February 5, 11 A.M. To 5 P.M.
While at the museum, you can learn about the Winter Carnival’s 108-year history, including seeing the original suit worn by the first Lighted Man — who, in other years, has skied down Howelsen Hill in a lighted suit that shoots Roman candles to start the annual Night Extravaganza.
5. Steamboat Walking Tour
February 5, 12:30 P.M.
This free, guided tour of downtown Steamboat Springs ends at the Tread of Pioneers Museum. Along the way, you’ll see the Art Depot, mineral springs, and historic buildings. Face masks and social distancing will be required.
Pro Tip: Dress warmly for walking outside.
6. Powder Tools’ Mid-Winter Terrain Park Jam Session
February 5, 2:30 P.M. To 4 P.M.
Open to the public, this event at the Howelsen Hill Terrain Park requires pre-registration and an accompanying signed waiver. Social distancing and face masks will also be required.
7. World Pro Ski Tour
February 6, 12 P.M. To 8 P.M.
Alpine ski racing comes to Howelsen Hill as part of the World Pro Ski Tour. While no spectators will be allowed on-site, you are invited to watch the skiing on TV and on the Winter Carnival’s website.
“While there won’t be 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.
8. Fireworks Show
It’s not the Night Extravaganza of past Winter Carnivals, but there will still be fireworks. While no spectators will be allowed in-person, everyone is encouraged to enjoy watching the fireworks show from their home, deck, or lodging. You’ll be able to see the fireworks all across the valley.
9. Ski Free Sunday At Howelsen Hill
February 7, 10 A.M. To 4 P.M.
Celebrate Winter Carnival’s theme of “Happy Outside” by making a two-hour reservation for skiing and riding at Howelsen Hill. You can cross-country ski, skate ski, and even snowshoe.
Know Before You Go
The SSWSC sells Winter Carnival buttons and buffs as a fundraiser to support the club’s operations and to help keep programs affordable. Those buttons and buffs are your participation ticket for Winter Carnival events, such as the Christy Sports Soda Pop Slalom and Powder Tools’ Mid-Winter Terrain Park Jam Session. What’s more, you can get free tickets to ski or ride at Howelsen Hill Ski Area from February 3 to 6 when you show your button or buff at the ticket office.
More information about the Winter Carnival may be found here. For more winter-in-Colorado inspiration, consider the nine best Colorado ski resorts for every level and interest and the best things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado, during the winter.