Steamboat Springs Craig Thrasher recently demonstrated he's almost as good at the delicate art of fly casting, as he is at balancing on the sharpened edge of a downhill ski at 75 mph.
Thrasher is the fishing manager at Storm Mountain Ranch, and a former Olympic downhill skier. In August, Thrasher proved he can hold his own with Orvis fishing guides, as well as Austrian skiers. At roughly the same time, Storm Mountain Ranch became the first private facility to receive a full endorsement from the prestigious Orvis brand.
Maybe it was his experience as a winter Olympian, then again, probably not, but Thrasher jumped into the Orvis guide "Olympics" in Glenwood Springs last month and placed among the top five out of 155 entrants. It was Thrasher's first contest of that kind.
"I was pleased, especially since I'd never had a casting lesson," Thrasher said. "But I'm pretty comfortable with competitive situations."
Thrasher said he did well in the accuracy competition, which required the flycaster to place his or her flies within various hula hoops floating on a pond.
Together, Thrasher and Storm Mountain developers Jeff and Jamie Temple are intent on proving that trout fishing and horseback riding, like golf courses, can drive sales of luxury home developments.
Storm Mountain is well on its way to making that point of the original 14 homesites with listing prices averaging about $2.5 million, three remain for sale. A pair of the original 14 lots were reserved for the Temple brothers, leaving an even dozen that went on the market. Two home sites closed last week and a third went under contract for $3.1 million, Jeff Temple said. The two homesites that sold include one purchased by the "Ogilvie Family Trust" for $2.55 million and another to the "Link Family Trust" for $2.75 million.
Storm Mountain Ranch is intersected by a stretch of Walton Creek including Walton Canyon, where the creek tumbles off the Continental Divide. The development is noteworthy because more than 900 of its 1,063 acres is protected by a conservation easement. That means the acres set aside to be protected from future development will remain that way in perpetuity.
Walton Creek has been enhanced as trout habitat, but fishing opportunities have been expanded by a system of ponds. And existing irrigation ditches on the working hay ranch have been painstakingly modified so they resemble spring creeks. The fishing is restricted to owners and their guests Storm Mountain won't sell guided fishing trips to anglers who don't have a home on the ranch.
Jeff Temple, who says he hopes to see natural trout reproduction occur in the streams, said the endorsement by Orvis legitimizes many of the efforts being made by the ranch staff.
"It's very difficult to earn the Orvis endorsement," Temple said. "Orvis came and inspected our fishing water, our cabins, and our lodges. They fished with our guides to make sure they were top notch. They checked our equipment to make sure everything was top quality from our rods and reels to our nets and waders. They even took a close look at our trout, to make sure they were healthy and disease free."
Thrasher said Mark Bressler, director of the Orvis endorsement program, visited Storm Mountain and called the stream improvements some of the most carefully planned in the West.
"We've done a ton of work on the riparian areas and reestablishing the stream edge with native plants," Thrasher said. "Bressler was impressed with that."
"Storm Mountain Ranch has some of the most diverse fly fishing water I've seen anywhere," Bressler was quoted in a prepared statement. "From freestone creeks, to ponds, to spring creeks through hay meadows, it's all there. The first four fish I had on broke my line."
In addition to the guided fishing opportunities Storm Mountain Ranch provides for its owners and their guests, it also maintains a stable of registered paint quarterhorses. In the winter, the ranch grooms a network of cross-country ski trails.
Thrasher isn't the only Olympic skier associated with the ranch. Todd Lodwick, a current member of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, is the nordic director at the ranch.
Thrasher placed 31st in downhill at the 1994 Olympics outside Lillehammer, Norway. He also placed 16th in a World Cup on the Kvitfjell course outside Lillehammer in 1995. That same year, he placed second in the U.S. Championships at Snowbasin, Utah.
Thrasher has been trout fishing since the age of 9, when his family moved to a home near where Fish Creek enters the Yampa River. He added he's thoroughly impressed with the improvements the Yampa Valley FlyFishers have made to trout habitat along the Yampa within the city limits.
Thrasher doesn't spend all of his time fishing he has many duties related to keeping the population of fish healthy. He flashed a notebook with a list of 41 chores that needed to be done, from planting native shrubs, to building small bridges.
"A part of my job is checking oxygen and temperature levels on a weekly basis," Thrasher said.
Just the same, don't you wish you had Craig Thrasher's job?