A fireworks display lit up the slopes in the grand finale. photo by Cody Rheault
A fireworks display lit up the slopes in the grand finale. photo by Cody Rheault
Hoodoo’s premiere annual event kicked off on Saturday, February 8, amid winter’s fury, but that didn’t deter the crowds.

Festivities began at 9 a.m. where families participated in a number of activities ranging from face-painting, pie-eating contests, axe throwing, tubing, and the famous Dummy Downhill contest.

For those seeking the pleasures of the mountain, skiers and boarders enjoyed a fresh powder day after the previous night’s and early morning snowfall.

Experienced powder-chasers and first-time skiers took to the mountain and more than a dozen free events entertained the crowds. Kids ran around in their fluorescent ski suits with hand-tied balloon animals and fresh-spun cotton candy hanging from their hands. Adults either congregated at the fire pit or folded a hand at the poker table over a glass of Three Creeks Knotty Blonde and laughter with friends or strangers.

The much-anticipated Dummy Downhill contest took place late that afternoon. Participants flung unmanned contraptions off a jump, drawing hundreds of people to the north slope to watch the ensuing carnage. Fat snowflakes came in thick, hindering the speed and descent of most dummies, although a few managed to make it through.

Dummies “The ‘Donald’’ and the “Fastest Hunk o’ Junk in the Galaxy” managed to slip the boulder field and reach the bottom amid exuberant applause.

Glen and Korena Farris, designers of the “Fastest Hunk o’ Junk in the Galaxy, an inflatable Millennium Falcon on skis, said they were surprised it made it to the bottom and intend to do it again next year with equal or greater success.

“Maybe next year we’ll try for a real Millennium Falcon,” Glen said.

Meanwhile, students from Black Butte School in Camp Sherman recovered their dummies from various scenes of wreckage, but Delaney Sharp, Head Teacher at the school, said it was more than just a competition.

“It was a physics project,” he said. “ We’ve been learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion and used this as a way to see it in the real world.”

Sixteen students and adult volunteers spent four afternoons designing and building their dummies for the jump. This week, students and Delaney will review their results and implement what they’ve learned for next year, for what they hope will result in their first win in three years.

The fun at the Carnival isn’t only reserved for the guests, however. Employees within each department at Hoodoo competed in snow sculpture designs and costumes. Intended for equal creativity and the kids’ enjoyment, the designs of the sculptures became frozen jungle gyms for kids and elaborate works of art.

Many had tunnels burrowed under the snowpack, an Egyptian Sphinx with intricate texture stood watch over the Manzanita chairlift providing a 12-foot climbing platform for kids.

Employees also competed in a costume contest. Unicorns, aliens, Nascar, and Egyptian were the themes for this year. The rental department, while managing the relentless flow of delivered and returned gear, chose the fitting theme of a Nascar pit crew in hopes of this year’s effort landing them the top spot for bragging rights.

Didjeridus Beat Fusion musician, Tyler Spencer and his handcrafted cedar and agave didjeridus, opened for local artist Tone Red, who serenaded people with their blues and country soul tunes into the night.

Tone Red’s tunes, led by Crystal Pizzola, drifted over the patio into the early evening as Hoodoo employees lit the bonfire with torches, drawing crowds to its warmth and glow as dusk began to settle in.

Moonlight replaced day and night-skiers took to the lifts. Overcast clouds parted and the full moon appeared as amber embers from the bonfire drifted into the clear night sky.

Approaching 9 p.m., all lights on the mountain switched off. One hundred torches atop Blue Valley run lit for the highlight event, the Torch Descent. Skiers, snowboarders, and skibykers descended, ushering in cheers and applause from onlookers in what was an eerie scene bathed in a rich red glow reflecting off the snow and trees.

Reaching the bottom of the run, torch bearers extinguished their flames in the snow as they were replaced by the cacophony of a professional fireworks show overhead. All eyes looked up as the Hoodoo team launched a showstopping performance.

Kids with face paint watched from atop snow sculptures, feet dangling from the head of the Sphinx — adults gazed from the lodge windows and outdoor fire pits. Shadows from chair lifts were thrown across the snow as explosions of green and purple lit overhead, complemented by a full moon. Families cheered, parents held their kids as the show wrapped with the grand finale.

Beer glasses clanged over cheers and laughter as the 2020 Hoodoo Winter Carnival concluded under a starry sky and good company.