First Heritage Award goes to John Fetcher

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— During an awards night when community healing was the underlying theme, a man admired by many, John Fetcher, was named the first recipient of the city of Steamboat Springs' Heritage Award Saturday. The occasion was the 93rd annual membership dinner of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the Centennial Grand Finale, at the Steamboat Grand hotel ballroom.

Fetcher, 88, a Harvard-trained engineer and businessman, has symbolized Steamboat's ranching tradition and the spirit of its ski pioneers for the better part of five decades.

He accepted his award from City Council President Kevin Bennett with a a vigorous double high-five and his trademark humility. After thanking his wife, Criss, for their life together and her contributions to his career, Fetcher said, "The thing about engineers is we like to build things, so I've been building things."

Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall welcomed chamber members to the banquet with a call for the community as a whole to come together.

"Set aside your differences and think of five or 10 things you really like about this town, because I know you can," she said.

Evans Hall was making a clear reference to the divisive debate that has taken shape in Steamboat Springs during the past year over issues of tourism marketing and growth. She said she learned from trying to steer her mountain bike between rocks that if she doesn't focus on the obstacles in her path, but on the path between them, she's more successful. She carried that analogy through to Steamboat;'s situation. The chamber believes a healthy economy will provide the jobs the community needs as well as support its nonprofit organizations and the arts, Evans Hall said.

"I learned that focus determines the direction you will take," she said. "I never look at the rocks anymore. I'd like to say that good business and a great economy go together with great community. Let that be our focus."

Among the things Fetcher has built are a successful ranch on the upper Elk River that has turned into a national model for land conservation, and a handful of dams and reservoirs that have met the valley's water needs. He has constructed a legacy as a ski pioneer that includes working to build ski lifts and ski jumps at Howelsen Hill as well as the first chairlift at the Steamboat Ski Area.

Bennett quipped that Fetcher has "been on more water boards than the Beach Boys," a remark that drew loud laughter from the crowd of more than 400 people.

The city of Steamboat Springs established the Heritage Award to mark the centennial of its incorporation as a city. It is intended to recognize outstanding community citizenship. The honoree can be an individual, couple or even a small group that has gifted the community with time, effort and service over a number of years.

Fetcher, as the first-ever recipient, was presented with a handsome bronze statue of a six-point bull elk created by local rancher and sculptor Curtis Zabel.

Fetcher's career and community highlights include:

n Helping plan and develop the ski area as vice president and chief engineer for Storm Mountain Ski Corp., 1959-1962;

n Presiding as president of Mount Werner Ski Co. from 1962-1971;

n Supervising construction of Christie, Thunderhead, Four Points, Burgess Creek and Headwall chairlifts;

n Chairing the Steamboat Springs Ski Jump Commission that helped rebuild the Howelsen Hill jumping complex and installed snowmaking equipment;

n Refereeing ski jumping at the Sapporo and Lake Placid Olympics;

n Being inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1983;

n Managing the Mount Werner Water District;

n Serving on the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District Board and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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