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Steamboat Magazine

Giving Back to the Town That Built an Olympian

02/13/2023 08:00AM ● By Erica Adams
(Photo: Johnny Spillane, owner of Steamboat Flyfisher and a leading voice in the water conservation movement, “shows off” a catch on the Green River.)

Steamboat Springs, CO - Olympian. This title sets someone apart more than almost any other. But there are some Olympians who go above and beyond to set themselves apart even further from this distinguished group. Just ask the community about four-time Olympian Johnny Spillane, who grew up training with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club on historic Howelsen Hill. Spillane made history by becoming the first American to win a medal in Nordic combined at the Winter Games and World Championships. 

 What’s distinctive about this Olympian is his passion for giving back with his time and resources, including sponsoring non-profits. Today, Spillane works with the Winter Sports Club and Steamboat Resort. “I especially enjoy working with STARS and the Sunshine Kids organizations,” he says. “The people and their stories are amazing, and being around them is incredibly inspiring. Skiing with the kids is my favorite thing; it’s so much fun to see some of them pick up the sport for the first time. Their smiles are contagious.” 

Spillane is rooted in education, shaped by his parents’  passion for making a difference in local schools, and he uses his alumni experience at Steamboat Mountain School to help others. “The school has always had a special place in my heart,” he says. “Being involved with the school my entire life, it seemed only fitting to join the board, and now that all three of my children are there, it has become much more meaningful. I’m looking forward to playing a small role in advancing the K-12 education offerings in Steamboat.”

 Samantha Coyne Donnel, head of Steamboat Mountain School, sings Spillane’s praises for the genuine humility, committed involvement and gratitude that he shows to the community. “Johnny has been on the Steamboat Mountain School board for four years, and he was pivotal when Emerald Mountain School and Steamboat Mountain School merged, and beyond supportive of us moving forward. He’s always been a big believer, especially given his education with the school and how it shaped him into the person he is today.”

As an avid fly-fisher and owner of Steamboat Flyfisher and Trout Creek Flies, Spillane also contributes his voice as a water conservation activist. While Spillane retired from competing in 2013, you’ll still find him insightfully commentating for NBC Sports and Olympic events worldwide. In 2022, Spillane was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame for lifetime achievements. 

Today, Spillane stays grounded in Steamboat Springs. “I have been fortunate enough to travel worldwide, and I’ve been to some unique places, yet it never crossed my mind to leave Steamboat. Everything I need is here,” he says. Alongside his family, Spillane enjoys the great outdoors, rafting, camping, and of course, skiing. The next time you hit the slopes, keep 
a lookout; you might be lucky enough to be skiing next to an Olympian who calls this beautiful valley home.