By Dan Greeson
Spotters along the hill watch a jumper launch at Howelsen Hill, where skiers have been going airborne since 1914. Circa 1980. Photo courtesy Tread of Pioneers Museum.
From November through April, I wear Sorels pretty much every day, with jeans, snow pants and dresses.
The Steamboat Magazine staff has a powder clause. Six inches or more of new snow at mid-mountain on the 5 a.m. snow report, and our office doesn’t open until noon.
I’ve been told recently that these characteristics mean I am “Old Steamboat.”
I blushed crimson a few years ago when a visiting family member went over to Evander Holyfield’s table at La Montaña to ask for an autograph. I’m one of those locals who think of Steamboat as a gawk-free zone.
In the Steamboat I know and love, two men can be sitting at the bar and no one can tell which one is a wealthy CEO and which one’s a poor cowboy.
I drive a Subaru with Blizzaks, and my favorite debate is whether they’re better than studded tires. (No contest.)
I believe Howelsen Hill is the heart of Steamboat and I DON’T think that’s a subject for debate.
I’m OK with Steamboat being Bike Town USA; I am a mountain biker (Grandma style). I get a kick out of the fact that we were Dog Fancy Magazine’s choice for Dog Town USA a couple of years ago – my dog would say that of course, she deserves the honor. The ReTree program that led us to being called Tree Town USA is exceptional.
But we are first and foremost Ski Town USA, harkening back to January 1947, when the Associated Press wrote, “The population of Steamboat Springs, Colorado is 1,700. The number of persons who ski is reported to be 1,685. The others are children under one year of age. Just as soon as their walking legs are under them, they’ll be strapped to a pair of hickory staves and away they will go over the silvery slopes that make Steamboat Springs one of the best known winter sports centers.”
All thanks to Carl Howelsen, who introduced the town to recreational skiing in the early 1900s. The hill named in Carl’s honor is sliding. I get that. Fixing it will be expensive. I get that too.
But Old Steamboaters know: We are the little town that could.
How many people told Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield a dance camp could not succeed in the Western frontier?
Europeans scoffed at the idea an American could compete, let alone win, on the world stage. Tell that to Buddy Werner.
Have you ever watched the disbelief on the faces of librarians in other parts of the country when you tell them Steamboat passed a bond issue and built a LEEDs-certified facility in 2008-09, at the onset of the “Great Recession?”
We don’t need to save the hill for Carl; “The Flying Norseman’s” memory will live on throughout the skiing world regardless. Let’s save it, instead, in honor of our own Nordic heritage, for our children and grandchildren, so that they can soar beyond the boundaries of our small town, ready to take on the challenges of life in a global society.
Still Old Steamboat.