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Winter Carnival Fun Facts and History

The Steamboat Winter Carnival has been around for over 100 years, and in that time there have been some interesting events and history that go along with this unique event.

Five Winter Carnival Fun Facts

  • In past years, the penalty for being caught without a carnival button was to push a peanut down Lincoln Ave with your nose.
  • The first jumping hill in Steamboat Springs was Woodchuck Hill which is currently where Colorado Mountain College stands.
  • The Steamboat Springs High School Band has marched down the street on skis playing for the spectators of the Winter Carnival Parade for 85 Years. It first started in 1936 by band conductor Jerry McGuare. The Steamboat Springs High School Band was the first band ever to march on skis.
  • How does all that snow get on Lincoln Avenue? Thanks to the City Public Works department who coordinates the stockpiling of snow and covers Lincoln Ave by 6am on Saturday and Sunday of event weekend each year. 400 plus tons of snow are used to cover the streets. And yes, they cover the streets and clean it up for each day of the street events. Special thanks to our Public Works Department!
  • In 2012 the Steamboat Winter Carnival was named a Top 10 Winter Carnival in the World by National Geographic

Winter Carnival Western Heritage

Approximately 150 individuals from the community volunteer their time, energy, and horses to participate in the street events. The horse events truly create the excitement surrounding the street events. The horse riders play a crucial role in making the street events a thrilling spectator event, and the efforts of all of the horse riders in preparing the horses for the events are greatly appreciated. In order to participate in the street events, the horses must be specially shod with cleats for traction in the snow. In addition, it takes an exceptional horse with lots of training to feel comfortable around crowds of people.

Special thanks to our long time Routt County families who ride in the street events each year: the Wilhelms with three generations of riders, the Yeagers with three generations of riders, the Uries, the Duncans, the Wheelers and the Garcias. We couldn't do this event without you!

More Historical Information

Steamboat Springs’ Winter Carnival is an event steeped in tradition. The Winter Carnival began in 1914, 39 years after Steamboat Springs was founded, to alleviate the pressures of enduring the cold and sometimes too lengthy winters in Routt County. The event is historically held every year in the second week in February no matter what weather conditions are bestowed upon us by “Mother Nature.”

Sponsored by the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to assist athletic programs, the Winter Carnival is produced by volunteer efforts. As is true with so many events in Steamboat Springs, the volunteers facilitate and coordinate the Winter Carnival solely as a service to the community.

In its early years, a handful of events included ski jumping and cross country ski races. The street events were added in the 2nd Annual Winter Carnival. The event has come quite a long way since its inception in 1914 when the first Winter Carnival was held on Wood Chuck Hill (the current location of the Colorado Mountain College campus). Today hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators take part in a variety of alpine, Nordic, freestyle, snowboarding and other unique events at venues throughout town.

The Lighted Man tradition began in 1936 with Claudius Banks. However, the first night show event in which the Lighted Man appeared wasn’t until 1939. His outfit weighed more than 100 pounds. His suit had 200 lights and was powered by wet cells and yards of wiring.

In 1970, Jon Banks joined his father Claudius, and there were 2 lighted men for several years. Jon still serves as the Lighted Man today. Today, the suit that is powered by a 12-volt D.C. gas recombination battery consists of 32 Roman candles, 12 sky rockets and a metal cylinder mounted on a football helmet studded with flashing lights. The costume weighs 70 pounds. It takes about five to six people to put the entire outfit on Jon Banks, the Lighted Man.

The Street Events which are coordinated by the Steamboat Springs Chamber are one of the most popular events of the week long Winter Carnival. Thank you to everyone involved in making the street events a success. Also, thank you to all of the spectators who take the time out of their day to partake in all the fun. As long as there is winter in Routt County, we look forward to continuing the tradition and winter celebration of the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival!