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Slip-slidin’ Away

It’s funny how times change, and yet they don’t. Belle Epoque-era folks in Colorado’s high-altitude historic haven of Leadville originally conceived of the 1896 version of the Crystal Carnival as a way to attract tourists to the top of the world in the dead of winter. Back then, they built an Ice Palace so large that it comprised a skating rink, ballroom, restaurant and exhibition halls within walls built from 5,000 tons of local lake ice, and they kept the attraction going until the spring melt in May. And now? Leadville, still a charming Victorian mountain town, revived the winter carnival tradition some years ago for the same reason, though the townspeople didn’t try to re-create the palace (you can see a model of it at Leadville’s Heritage Museum).

Instead, they decided to marry family fun with the singular sport of ski-joring (in which skiers are pulled over jumps by a horse or dog) by offering everything from a snowman-building contest for the kids to a series of ski-joring competitions that attract teams from across the nation. “The whole town is a historic district, so the setting hasn’t changed that much since 1896,” notes spokeswoman Mandy Gauldin. “We just want to get people to enjoy an old-fashioned winter event.”

All manner of participatory winter sports and a parade fill out the fest, which runs today through Sunday; many activities are free. For more information, call 970-945-5534 or visit or
March 5-7, 2010


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