December 30 will mark the 100th anniversary of a watershed event inColorado’s history: The founding of the first Winter Carnival to feature real Norwegian-style skiing.GrandCounty will celebrate the anniversary with a six-week series of events beginning, on Dec. 30 in Hot Sulphur Springs, the county seat.
Hot Sulphur Springs became a summer resort in 1864, when the baths were first developed. In 1906, the railroad overCoronaPassmade tourism easy.John Peyer, born inZurich, arrived in in June, 1911, and set up as a real-estate sales agent and owner of the Grand Hotel. He soon conceived the idea of turning Hot Sulphur Springs into an American St. Moritz. He organized a wintertime party for the upcoming New Year holiday. There would be skating, tobogganing and a Grand Ball.
At 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29, a train pulled out of the North Denver station for the long climb toCoronaPass.Aboard: Holmenkollen champion Carl Howelsen and his skiing buddy Angell Schmidt. After helping to found the Norge Ski Club inChicago, they had moved toDenverand now planned a multi-day holiday ski tour on the western slope.
At noon, the train pulled into Corona Station, at the top of the Continental Divide. Howelsen and Schmidt climbed down, strapped on their skis and began the exhilarating 44-mile run down the west slope of theRockies. They descended 3,100 feet to Fraser, about 16 miles, following close to the railbed because of all the fallen timber in the woods. They langlaufed into Hot Sulphur Springs at about 9 p.m., and found the Grand Ball in progress.
In the morning, Howelsen and Schmidt improvised a ski jump and put on a show. Before the day was out, Peyer began organizing a Winter Carnival for February, and invited the Norwegian pros back. Thereafter, the Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Sports Carnival was an annual event, until WWII. Hundreds of Denverites rode special trains to the event. The following winter, Howelsen settled in Steamboat Springs and with his Norwegian friends got busy teaching skiing – and building jumps — from Denver north and west to the end of the line in Craig. Competitive skiing had arrived inColorado.
The Grand Winter Carnival starts with a re-enactment, on Dec. 30, of the Howelsen-Schmidt tour fromCoronaPassto Hot Sulphur Springs. For full information on the celebration, see http://grandwintercarnival.com