One frosty festival

Winter Carnival street events continue

— Only in Steamboat Springs can you find people dedicated enough to stand in sub-zero temperatures to watch ski-clad children being towed down Lincoln Avenue by horses and listen to a skiing high school band.

Saturday morning marked the first day of street events for the 93rd annual Winter Carnival in downtown Steamboat, and hundreds of spectators crowded on Lincoln Avenue sidewalks to take in the one-of-a-kind event.

"It's kind of fun because you go really, really fast," said 10-year-old Emily Spiess, an experienced skijoring competitor.

Skijoring is a sport in which competitors on skis or snowboards hold onto a rope connected to a galloping horse. The competitor who completes the course fastest wins.

Emily, who has competed in the event for several years, said skijoring is simpler than it looks.

"It's pretty easy," Emily said as she clutched her snowboard. "You just do it."

Like Emily, Katie Arnis, 10, said she competes in skijoring because the speed is thrilling.

"You try to go as fast as you can. It's a little like flying," she said.

Katie, a Steamboat resident and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club member, also competes in the Winter Carnival's street slalom, the donkey jump, the 75-yard dash and the Night Extravaganza at Howelsen Hill.

"My favorite event is the donkey jump," she said. "It's fun because you get to go off the jumps." Similar to skijoring, donkey jump competitors hold onto the rope as they launch off a jump placed in the middle of snowy Lincoln Avenue.

Some parents think the events are dangerous, but the Winter Carnival sports don't bother Katie's mom, Cindy Arnis.

"She's a really strong skier, so I don't worry about her at all," she said.

Arnis has lived in Steamboat since the 1970s. She said she's proud that her daughter participates in the carnival.

"I love having her be a part of this tradition. We've always been a part of it," she said.

A number of street events kept Saturday's crowd entertained.

Taylor Kortas and her friend Chris Kaminski, both 8, didn't have a strategy to win the three-legged ski race. They just "knew how to do it," Chris said.

"We've done it before, so we didn't practice, and we didn't have a strategy, either, " Chris said.

"It was really fun," Taylor added.

Terry Romundstad of St. Paul, Minn., said he has come to Steamboat the second week of February since 1981 to ski and enjoy the Winter Carnival.

"This is an interesting event," he said Saturday. "I think it's very unique to see the Western atmosphere with the horses and the participants.

"It gives you a taste of the true flavor of Steamboat."

Riley Polumbus, spokeswoman for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, agreed.

"It's an amazing thing to see all the snow come in to cover the streets and the horses' breath in the cold. It's a really powerful thing. You remember why we do this," she said.

Polumbus said she wasn't surprised by Saturday's bitter cold temperatures.

"We anticipate it to be cold every year. The second week in February is the coldest week of the year. It was freezing, of course. But the kids in this town, the parents in this town, they're tough," she said.

Polumbus said the uniqueness of the Winter Carnival makes it one of the most popular events in Steamboat.

The Winter Carnival began in 1914 as a way to interrupt long Routt County winters, bringing area ranchers and miners together to participate in games. The event has evolved to include street events, a parade and the night show that includes fireworks and other entertainment.

The carnival will continue today with street events beginning at 9 a.m.

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