Steamboat to explore idea of moving Winter Carnival off Lincoln Avenue
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs High School marching band has skied down Lincoln Avenue during Winter Carnival for more than 70 years.
It’s hard for locals to imagine horseback riders pulling skiers without the backdrop of holiday garlands draped over Steamboat’s main street, but the cost of the event has brought forward the idea of moving the Winter Carnival Street Events to a different location.
The idea came in a Steamboat Springs City Council work session considering innovations to the city’s operations.
Several members of City Council already have expressed apprehension about the idea, but the group gave city staff direction to explore it further.
“I know it’s a big event for the community,” Howelsen Hill supervisor Brad Setter said. “It’s history. It’s tradition, and that’s a big deal. I’m not going to downplay that at all.”
It costs more than $30,000 to make and move about 120 dump-truck loads of snow on and off Lincoln Avenue, Setter told City Council.
During Winter Carnival, snow is pushed to the side of the road Saturday night before being spread and groomed again Sunday morning. When the street events are over, the snow is scooped up and hauled to the city’s wastewater treatment facility.
“When we look to the future — things like budget constraints, climate — this is one way to possibly keep this event in a warming world where we might not be able to make that snow,” Setter said.
Some snowmaking days for the past two Winter Carnivals were canceled when temperatures were around 40 degrees ahead of the celebration, he said.
There are additional costs of closing the street and staffing events with community service officers. Setter said the closures slow down traffic through the area considerably, which could slow down response times for emergency services, should something happen.
There also are concerns for the safety of the crowd surrounding the horses pulling kids down the street in skijoring events.
City Manager Gary Suiter said Winter Carnival is not a boon to many downtown businesses.
“Everybody’s backs are to the businesses,” he said. “They go in there to stay warm and use the bathrooms.”
Moving the event to Yampa Street would reduce the amount of snowmaking required to put on the event, as the snow would have to cover two lanes instead of five. The street could remain closed for the weekend, Setter said, reducing the cost of fuel and labor in pushing snow on and off the street.
Alternatively, the events could move to the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, which Setter said would help visibility of the events — it’s difficult to see when you’re two rows back from the parade on Lincoln Avenue. The arena also is equipped with a public-address system.
Council member Heather Sloop suggested exploring a hybrid of the idea: reducing the area of Lincoln Avenue that is covered in snow for the street events.
If Winter Carnival wasn’t on Lincoln Avenue, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Winter Carnival events used to be held on Woodchuck Hill, the current location of Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, council member Sonja Macys said.
Winnie DelliQuadri, assistant to the city manager, said that in a terrible snow year in the early 1980s, snow was hauled from Rabbit Ears Pass to hold Winter Carnival events on Howelsen Hill.
“The next year, everybody got snowmaking,” she said.
The concept is still only hypothetical, and the idea has yet to be vetted by partners including the Steamboat Springs Chamber and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
“I think it would be a very interesting idea to explore,” Macys said. “It might be something similar to the fire district, that we bring this up, and we poke the beast, and the community comes out and basically says, ‘We can’t change Winter Carnival. It’s tradition.’ That may be what happens, but I’d kind of like to talk to folks and see what they think.”