Steamboat Springs Jan Terrell has already had two camping trips disrupted by wildfire this summer, and now she plans to take preventative measures. The Denver resident is hosting an impromptu rain dance at 7 p.m. Saturday in the small Granite Campground at Fish Creek Reservoir northeast of Steamboat Springs.
"I'm completely inexperienced, but I'm a water conservationist and I want to do something to increase our water supply," Terrell said. "I'm getting tired of getting chased out of campgrounds by forest fires."
Terrell is inviting anyone who yearns for precipitation the way she does to bring flutes, bells and drums and join her on Buffalo Pass Saturday night. Take County Road 38 to Forest Road 310, and be prepared for rough conditions. Terrell said the rain dance will be appropriate for families.
Terrell was camping in the mountains south of Denver in June when the Hayman fire broke out and she had to leave. Last weekend she was camping south of Steamboat when the sudden outbreak of the Green Creek Fire forced another relocation.
Terrell's response to adversity is indicative of an unusual summer resort season in the Yampa Valley.
Throughout June and early July, Steamboat looked to tourists like a green refuge from the wildfires that were searing the rest of Colorado. At times there was smoke in the air from distant fires, but the flames themselves were far removed from the upper Yampa Valley. That began to change over the weekend when first the Hinman Fire and in close order, the West Lost Lake and Green Creek fires began to cloud the vacation picture here.
Steamboat looked like anything but paradise Monday night when a dark storm cloud parked over the Green Creek Fire about 15 miles south of the city. The winds associated with the dry storm cloud fanned a huge column of smoke over the south valley.
The fire calmed overnight and the smoke cleared.
Still, resort managers were taking steps to provide potential visitors with straight talk, while making it clear that the flames did not pose a danger to the city.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association has a link to a concise fire update on its home page, and also provides a link to the fire update page maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. Ironically, the local Chamber's fire update was originally intended to inform visitors that the giant Hayman Fire in June was more than 100 miles from Steamboat.
"We put that up a month ago, long before we had fires," Sandy Evans-Hall said. "It was more a response to the Hayman Fire. People were calling to ask how far that fire was from where we are."
Evans-Hall is the Executive vice President of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.
Evans-Hall said her staff has been receiving phone calls from vacationers inquiring about the impacts of the fires.
"We're just reassuring people," she said.
Evans-Hall expressed optimism that television news crews dispatched by Denver network affiliates would show Steamboat in a state of normalcy.
The most immediate upcoming tourism event is the Steamboat Mountain Soccer tournament, which will bring 131 youth teams from as far away as Hawaii and Milwaukee, Wis.
Soccer tournament director Elmer Balvanz said there has been no thought of canceling the tournament. However, several team representatives have called to inquire about the fires and their proximity to the playing fields.
With more than 7,000 people expected to arrive for the tournament's opening day on Friday, it would take something pretty extreme to change the tournament plans, Balvanz said. He added that tournament registrar Rick Garth reported one team called to seek a refund because of the fires, but they were informed the smoke was not affecting Steamboat.
Steamboat Lake State Park is 8 miles from the Hinman Fire. Pearl Lake, part of the bigger park, is just south of the foothills of Farwell Mountain, even closer to the blaze.
The phone and fax lines at the park office were continually busy Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.
However, the park Web page is informing campers and visitors that the park isn't threatened by the blaze.
"Steamboat Lake State Park is in no way threatened by the fire," a text message on the Web page reads. "The air in the park is hazy and smoky. We encourage people with respiratory problems to stay away."
The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. owns and operates Steamboat Central Reservations, which provides toll free telephone and Internet booking of vacations in the summer as well as in the winter.
The four to five reservationists working there this summer have been given texts to consistently provide "pragmatic" information about the fires, Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said.
Wirth, whose home is just 3 miles away from the Hinman Fire, said most of the fire related calls being taken by Central Reservations this week have been from people planning to visit in the near future.
"We've not seen any cancellations," Wirth said. "We have had a few calls from people arriving the week after next."