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Steamboat Magazine

Old West vs. New West

05/14/2024 01:05PM ● By Deb Olsen
(Photo: Publisher Deborah Olsen in her Stetson.)

Steamboat Springs, CO - I once donned a pair of cowboy boots, a Western shirt, dress jeans and a cowboy hat for a party at Sidney Peak Ranch. For a moment, I felt like the real thing.  Then one of the cowboys who greeted us at the barn door lifted up my hat, turned it around and placed it back on my head. “That’s better,” he said.

OK, so I am not exactly emblematic of the Old West. It is, however, alive and well, especially in rural Routt County, where ranching communities keep generations-old traditions alive, rodeo riders reign supreme, and 4-H’ers dominate the county fair.

In Steamboat Springs, the Old West can be a little harder to find these days. Cowboys no longer ride their horses into Steamboat bars (although not too long ago a camel visited a downtown watering hole – a story for another time, perhaps). City Council no longer meets at the now-defunct but ever infamous Tugboat, and cattle are no longer herded down main street.

In the Old West’s place, though, is the New West, where the arts and culture scene draws national media attention. Secondary education comprises a private experiential college prep school, a four-year college, charter schools and a top-notch public school system. The “local” hospital is, in fact, a regional trauma center and – lest we forget – we have a ski area that often boasts the best snow conditions in the state.

I feel like the transition from old to new happened under my watch. I have lived here for 40 years, which still does not make me a local, by some folks’ standards, by the way. For that, you need generations – or Olympic creds.

Can the new and old coexist? I think so. I offer up this edition of Steamboat Magazine as proof. Within these pages, we visit a 1907 home that has been delightfully updated for the 21st century. We meet Hayden’s Scoop Dog – not what you’re expecting with a name like that – and we look back at the rodeo legacy established by world champions J.C. Trujillo, Chad Bedell and Keenan Hayes.

What matters isn’t whether you know which way to wear your cowboy hat, or whether you can name all 104 local Olympians (Hint: John Steele is the oldest, Cody Winters the newest), but whether or not we can carry the Western ideals of integrity, independence and neighborliness into the future.
Signing off with a tip of my beanie, 
~ Deb