Historic Werner home goes on market


— Steamboat's first family of skiing no longer lives in the shaded house along the banks of Soda Creek. But the Werner family's presence lingers in a home with a chipped-wood staircase, a large kitchen island and the well-known family's photos hanging on the walls.

In 1950, Ed "Pops" Werner and Hazie Werner moved from a one-room ranch house in the Elk River Valley to the craftsman-style house at 844 Aspen St. Their three children, Gladys, Wallace and Loris -- Skeeter, Buddy and Bugs, respectively -- all went on to become Olympic skiers.

The children's skiing prowess and Hazie's knack for making both sports luminaries and neighborhood children feel welcome in her kitchen have been weaved into Steamboat's legend.

The family moved to the house so the children could go to school in the winter. Later, Skeeter and her husband, 1948 Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Doak Walker, lived there.

The house has since passed on to Loris, the only surviving member of the Werner clan. Now, it is for sale.

Steamboat Village Brokers' Joan Conroy said she has shown the house to several parties since it was put on the market last winter. Some are interested buyers, some come for the memories and others out of curiosity.

"I know when I first had it on the (Multiple Listing Service) someone always wanted to go into it," she said. "I am happy to walk them through. Even if they can't buy it, they might know someone who can."

Rod Hanna, former vice president of the ski area, was friends with the Werners and remembers the celebrities -- world champion skier Stein Ericksen, Clint Eastwood and President Gerald Ford -- who ate at Hazie's kitchen. They were charmed by the humble home, Hanna said.

"That was the appeal. The people loved the fact that it wasn't a fancy place. It was basically the essence of Steamboat, both in terms of places and the people who were a part of it," he said.

The 1,763-square-foot house sits on almost 1.5 acres of land in downtown Steamboat. Built in 1920, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is listed at $1.495 million.

The house is bordered on three sides by Soda Creek. Mature trees line the banks and a grassy lawn is next to the house, a place where the Werner clan once held big barbecues and cocktail parties.

The house is speckled with details from the early century building era. Heavy fur-wooded casing surrounds the windows and stone from the Yampa River bed make up the fireplace and columns on the front porch. The masonry looks similar to the work Carl Howelsen did during that time period, Conroy said.

Fine detail is also seen in the built-in cabinets and the detailed woodwork around the ceiling's exposed wood beams.

Conroy said potential buyers have expressed an interest in keeping the home's character and discussed adding on a master bedroom above the garage.

So far, one offer has been made.

"We are lucky that potential buyers do understand what we have here," Conroy said.

While the house features detailed woodwork and craftsman-style architecture, its greatest allure is the stories that go with it.

The basement is where Hazie once grew her famous fishing worms. The sheds still stand that held winter gear for the Werner Storm Hut. One can only guess how the nicks along the wooden staircase came to be.

There are also more tangible remnants of the Werner past. A sketch of Pops and Buddy hangs in the main room along with a photograph of Hazie Werner. A stained glass panel with the words "Hazie's Kitchen" is on display in the door of the garage entrance.

In her tour through the house, Conroy points to the bedrooms where Buddy, Skeeter and Loris once slept. Skeeter's old bedroom is the master bedroom and looks out onto Soda Creek.

To make sure all of her children had rooms, Hazie once slept in what is now the pantry, Conroy said.

Hazie, who died in 1993 just shy of her 82nd birthday, was known for holding great holiday dinners with 25 to 30 guests. Up to several thousand people were entertained in the house in any given year.

Hanna said there was an extended family that reached up to 40 or 50 people, and the Werners would host parties before local golf tournaments and held dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Hazie invited absolute strangers that came into the family's store.

A Steamboat Pilot article published shortly after Hazie's death immortalized life in the house along Soda Creek:

"Hazie had the special ability to make everyone feel welcomed; from the oversized bowl of popcorn that always stood full on the kitchen island, to the bed that was perpetually made up in the garage, Hazie's home was open to the extended family."

In her memoir, Hazie talked about the house.

She said when the family first moved into the house it only had two bedrooms and a very small kitchen.

They cut the long back porch in half to build a bedroom for Hazie and another room for Loris and Buddy to have two beds and one dresser.

In 1966, she said, they enlarged the house by building the upstairs and the garage. It was a two-car garage, but the family heated it and put beds in to accommodate their many visitors. They called it the dormitory, she said.

The ski area's Mount Werner is named for Buddy, who died in an avalanche in 1964. And Hazie's restaurant in Thunderhead Lodge is named in honor of her hospitality. But driving over the tree-shaded bridge that leads to the Werner home, it is hard not to sense the family's enduring warmth.

Said Hanna, "It's a Steamboat landmark."


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