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Steamboat Magazine

The City We Built

02/15/2023 08:00AM ● By Deborah Olsen
(Photo: Deborah Olsen telemark skis on Buffalo Pass with Steamboat Powdercats.) 

Publisher's note from Deborah Olsen, Steamboat Magazine Mountain Edition 2023

You didn’t know you came to make a city, Nobody knows when a city’s going to happen... – “Elegant Dust” by Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Colorado Poet Laureate, 1979.

The first time I skied Steamboat was over Presidents Day Weekend 1984, the legendary winter when it snowed for 40-plus days. I caught the last two days of the storm, followed by a glorious bluebird day, when snow crystals filled the air and so much powder covered the slopes that a lot of it went untouched, despite the holiday. 

I went home and packed my bags. 

I didn’t move here to be part of a community, to hold down a serious job, or to pursue a noble endeavor. I came here to ski. Oh, and to party like a rock star. 

In those days, après began at The Tugboat, the infamous saloon that still sits, boarded up, in the middle of Ski Time Square. I remember the day we all met outside the “Tugger” at 5 p.m. to watch local bartender Mark “Shoobi” Knutson skydive into the parking lot with Tanya Tucker in his arms. 

Steamboat has changed. It’s no longer the last remnant of the Wild West, where  
horses gallop into bars and hippies bathe in Oak Creek. It’s a city, complete with housing, water and employee shortages, plus traffic congestion, development pressure, and yes,  even homelessness.

As Steamboat changed, so did I. I joined a church, supported nonprofits, sat on boards, 
spoke at City Council meetings and lobbied for the environment. I caught the Steamboat spirit. 

In the ‘80s, we struggled to get the word out about Steamboat. Today, Steamboat is known globally, and despite (or because of?) its remote location, it has become a mecca for retirees, remote workers, urban refugees, families in pursuit of the American dream – and ski bums, I hope.

What brings all these people here? Award-winning schools, extensive medical facilities, two museums, two orchestras, a dozen art galleries, the Winter Sports Club, brew pubs, distilleries, fine dining, a quaint Old Town, music venues, a showpiece library, a college on the hill, public hot springs, Howelsen Hill and a truly world-class ski area. 

We built that. 

Sometimes, that makes me proud. Other times, I think, “Oh God, what have we wrought?” So long as the Steamboat spirit grabs newcomers like it did me, we’ll be OK. If not, we’ll kick them off the island. It’s happened before. 

Think snow, 
Deborah Olsen, Publisher, Steamboat Magazine 

Steamboat Magazine Mountain Edition 2023