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An Olympic Alternative
Shannon Stafford
February 22, 2002

For the last 84 years, the town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has held their annual Winter Carnival during the second weekend in February, and it has been my privilege to attend the last three years of this carnival. 

Jon Banks has strapped cannons on his back, strung lights from his skis, his poles, and his helmet and skied down a steep black diamond shooting fireworks straight over his head.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains three hours northwest of Denver, Steamboat Springs looks like any other ski town, with lodges and condos creeping up the sides of every hill and mountain. But inside this little community lives a group of people with a tremendous love for their winter sports. Thatís the reason behind the Winter Carnival. Sure, it might be a fundraiser for the winter sports programs, but it is also a celebration - a celebration of man and nature surviving together, and living together.

It is a celebration of life - felt ever so clearly at 11,000 feet above sea level, at fourteen degrees below zero and at the thrill and joy of putting your feet into two wooden slats and gliding down a mountain packed with four feet of snow, ice, and fresh powder.

The winter carnival is a celebration of all that and more. Every year, for the last 24 years, Jon Banks has strapped cannons on his back, strung lights from his skis, his poles, and his helmet and skied down a steep black diamond shooting fireworks straight over his head; as his father did for more than thirty years before Jon took over the mantle.

Every year, the carnival showcases what everyday life in Steamboat is about - horses pull people down the city streets on skis and shovels, members of the ski patrol jump through a fiery hoop, twelve year olds ski down the face of the mountain in snake formation. People even carve sculptures of animals, skis, tractors, whatever they can think of out of huge snow banks along the streets.

And every once in a while, one of Steamboatís own goes to the Olympics.



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