Winter Carnival lit up skies over Hoodoo


Last updated 3/19/2024 at 3:18pm

Photo by Jarod Gatley

Youngsters jump for joy at the fireworks show after a long day of skiing and snowboarding at Hoodoo Saturday night.

It's nighttime at Hoodoo ski area. Intrepid skiers and snowboarders make their way down lighted runs, their silhouettes flittering against a white snow backdrop. Music blasts from speakers. Kids who probably should've been in bed long ago race across the snow, pelting each other with snowballs. They move from awesome snow sculpture to awesome snow sculpture, clambering on sphinxes and other shapes, until the sculptures are worn down, unrecognizable.

"Winter Carnival has been a tradition at Hoodoo for 40-plus years and includes a number of free events, no lift ticket required," according to the ski area. CoEnergy Propane sponsored this year's event.

During the day, activities ranged from ax throwing to musical chairs and a three-legged race. For the Dummy Downhill contest, sleds were loaded up with dummies that raced down the hill. Archery, ski javelin, bingo games, and musical chairs rounded out the daytime fun.

Winter Carnival is extra special this year because Hoodoo's annual New Year's Eve party was canceled. The season's El Niño weather pattern dropped very little snow on Central Oregon. Sisters Country's "steep, deep, and cheap" ski bowl couldn't open until after winter vacation.

Tonight, people are ready for some Hoodoo fun. Inside the lodge, LeRoy and Sidekicks entertain the crowd with classics and covers, filling the upstairs space with fiddle, banjo, guitar, and harmonizing voices. Kids dance and clap. Some adults get moving, too.

Wild decorations and glam costumes make for a cheerful lodge, along with some special food and drinks for the occasion. Boys and girls dash around wearing frilly tutus, some of which sport glowing lights. Several young adults look like big stuffed animals, wearing furry onesies.

One young kid appears to be entirely enveloped in shiny gift-wrap, even his eyes covered. Other kids gather to marvel at the sparkle-mummy he's become. They shout the hysterical shouts of kids who had a few too many cups of hot chocolate. Soon they are following the mummy down the stairs (what could possibly go wrong?).

A Hoodoo employee in a full beard, long magenta dress, and squirrel tail ensemble explains his costuming choices: he is Barbie Squirrel. It's a fetching look, to be sure. Hoodoo employees worked hard to create a Barbie-themed area around the ski school area for the kids.

Why a squirrel Barbie outfit? It's like the meme going around social media: replace the word "girl" in any given pop song with the word "squirrel." His well-executed costume is a play on the popular dance hit from years back, "Barbie Girl."

The Barbie theme gives way to a Día de los Muertos theme (despite the time of year) in the adult areas. Bartenders wear gorgeous Día-style makeup; the bar itself is a splendid work of art, bursting with festive decorations.

A strong feeling of community pervades the proceedings. There are Valley people here, Hoodoo regulars, along with plenty of folks from Sisters and Camp Sherman.

"It's like a neighborhood," says a man in neon-orange coat, trying to peel his preschooler out of an egg-shaped twirly chair.

"It's part of my sexy lifestyle," proclaims a tall man in a glimmering tunic and sequin pants, swaying on his silver-glitter platform shoes.

A dad cradles a blonde-haired baby to his chest, rocking gently, walking back and forth.

Soon it's time to head back outside for the annual torchlight descent. Fires burn: one in a sculpted sphere right next to the lodge, and one in a big fire pit. The fire pit has grown so hot, everyone moves their camp chairs back.

"I ate s--- three times today," a snowboarder tells his friends. "But I kept on going."

"Can't let the fear win," his friend responds. A young woman in a wedding dress laughs giddily.

A full Virgo moon sways over the lodge. The lifts stop. The skiers and snowboarders are off the mountain now-except those silhouetted up high on the hill.

Photo by Jarod Gatley

The torch light descent is a Winter Carnival tradition with participants from Oregon Adaptive Sports carrying down torches to start the firework show.

The lights go out and everyone cheers. Down the mountain bobs a beautiful, snakelike line of red lights. The leader sends out lines of yellow fire with an implement.

"Is it a blowtorch?" asks an onlooker. "No," says another, "that's a flamethrower."

As the red dots get closer, the audience can see that each is a torch held high by a person, some by folks skiing adaptive-style. The audience hollers and claps. As one, the torch bearers plunge their torches into the snow and the light disappears.

At the same moment, boom! The first fireworks go off.

An impressive, artistic display of pyrotechnics follows, marred only by the voice of Lionel Richie blaring out at far too many decibels.

When it's all over, Hoodoo fans cuddle up for the night in their camper vans or drive back down the hill toward home.


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