101st Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival

This is Steamboat’s 101st Winter Carnival. What a wonderful legacy!

The carnival began in 1913, when folks were tired of Colorado’s long, cold winters. They wanted a way to join together as a community to celebrate the winter and enjoy each others company. This makes our Winter Carnival the oldest, continuous winter carnival west of the Mississippi. And that’s pretty exciting!

So you might be wondering: What events take place? Where do they take place? How do I register? When should I show up? Who is in charge? Hold your horses – we’ll help you sort it all out. 

First, we’ll tackle the what, where and when:

Schedule and Events

The events take place from the 5th of February through the 9th. There are all kinds of events – ski jumping at night, a Soda Pop Slalom, Snowboarding Jam Session, Pancake Breakfast, the Pro Alpine Ski Jumping Qualifier, a Night Show Extravaganza, Vintage Ski Race and Fashion Show, a Dual Slalom Bicycle Race, the Parent-Child Downhill, and, of course – the street events which include the ever famous Ski Joring, Donkey Jump, Shovel Race and Dad and Dog Dash that take place right on Main Street. There’s so much to choose from, you’ll have a fun-filled week and weekend. For a complete schedule of events, visit the Steamboat Chamber website.

Our favorite part of the carnival is the street events. Main Street is closed down completely, and snow is hauled in from the top of Rabbit Ears to cover the street. Then, kids of all ages sign up for crazy events, such as being pulled on their skis by a horse through a course (Slalom and Joring), or off of a jump (Donkey Jump). The older kids (18+) can sit on a shovel and be pulled down Lincoln Avenue by a horse (Shovel Race). Another fun race is the Dad Dash. In this event, fathers pull their children on sleds on their hands and race to the finish. View the schedule for the street events.

F.M. Light and Sons and Winter Carnival

We’ve been around for each celebration. F.M. Light’s can be seen in many photos, and is a meeting place for many  when downtown gets hectic. Here are a few pictures we’ve found:

Buddy Werner Sk Joring in Downtown Steamboat Springs - F.M. Light and Sons Western Wear in Background

Olympic legend Buddy Werner ski joring on Lincoln Avenue.

In the News

Our carnival is big news: it has been featured by both National Geographic and Good Morning America.

History & Western Heritage

For a great video on the history of the carnival, watch this great interview with Leif Howelson. 

Approximately 15 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, 29 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 o six people to put the entire outfit on Jon Banks, The Lighted Man.

The Street Events which are coordinated by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association 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!

Fun Facts

In past years, what was the penalty for being caught without a carnival button?

You were made to push a peanut down Lincoln Ave with your nose

What is the name of the first jumping hill in Steamboat and which building is located on it now?

Woodchuck Hill – Colorado Mountain College

For how many years has the Steamboat Springs High School’s Band marched down the street on skis playing for the spectators of the Winter Carnival Parade?

71 Years – first started in 1935 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 has it here by 6:00 a.m. 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!


Thank you to the Steamboat Chamber for providing the schedule, history and fun facts. You guys are awesome!

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