Red Lodge plans few changes to Winter Carnival despite chilly forecast

2014-02-28T17:12:00Z 2014-03-01T13:48:03Z Red Lodge plans few changes to Winter Carnival despite chilly forecastBy ZACH BENOIT The Billings Gazette

This year's Winter Carnival at Red Lodge Mountain Resort boasts a theme of Olympic Gold in honor of the recent Winter Olympics in Russia with, thanks to mother nature, a heavy emphasis on the winter part on Saturday.

Officials said that the annual celebration — which draws thousands of people to the mountain for a day of snowboarding, skiing, celebrating, costume contests and the ever-popular Cardboard Classic — will go on as planned on Saturday, even though the forecast calls for temperatures to fall below zero.

"We might have to pare it down a little bit because of the weather," said Jeff Carroll, the mountain's marketing director. "But today we’re seeing a pretty significant inversion up here. It's about 25 (degrees) at the base right now. Who knows, if we’re lucky, that will hold until tomorrow."

National Weather Service predictions for the Red Lodge area range from the teens and single digits to a high of 10 below zero in town for Saturday.

The NWS also is predicting a 100 percent chance of snow for the area, with several inches on the radar throughout the day.

Carroll said that, with so many extra people expected at the mountain for the day, staff will keep extended hours at some of the food and beverage areas, such as the yurt at the base and the Midway Lodge, in order to provide an extra place to warm up throughout the day.

However, all of the day's planned events should go on as scheduled. The popular, wild Cardboard Classic features dozens of cardboard sleds, many designed to fit the year's theme, hurtling down the hill and will still begin at noon.

The costume contest begins at 3 p.m. and Tom Catmull and the Clerics will perform through the day, although Carroll said the band may be moved inside.

"Even it the weather's a little chilly, we're still going to have an awful lot of fun," he said.

One event that could see a change is the Torchlight Parade, which features a train of lights heading down the mountain once it gets dark.

"We'll have to re-evaluate tomorrow when the time comes," Carroll said. "Just for safety, we don't want to put people on the chairlifts if it's too cold."

Any snow that falls on Saturday will add to what's already been a great year at the mountain.

By Friday, about 200 inches had fallen for the season. By comparison, fewer than 150 fell during the entire 2012-2013 season.

In late February, a heavy storm blanketed the mountain with 24 inches of fresh snow.

"The snowfall has been good and steady, and that's really the key to this year," Carroll said. "It's come through on a good schedule. We get these storms every week or two and it's been keeping it fantastic."

He added that the mountain has seen strong attendance numbers and that staff is "very pleased with business so far."

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