Our View: Honoring 2 Steamboat icons

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— There are few men who have had as great an impact on the Yampa Valley as Jim Temple and John Fetcher. Their lives are worth remembering, honoring and celebrating.

Temple, the visionary and founder of the Steamboat Ski Area, died Monday at age 82. Fetcher, an engineer, rancher and ski area pioneer, died Friday at age 97. The determination of both men led to the evolution of a world-class ski area and the development of a mountain resort community most of us are proud to call home.

Ranching and skiing were in Temple's blood, having grown up on the family cattle ranch north of Steamboat Springs. After serving in the Navy in World War II, Temple took a job as a ski instructor in Brighton, Utah. He later joined the ski patrol in Sun Valley, Idaho, eventually becoming its assistant director.

In 1955, Temple set his sights on Storm Mountain, which later would be renamed Mount Werner. He spent the next several years hiking up the mountain in summer and winter, plotting ski trails and switchback roads. He's even said to have coined the term Champagne Powder.

He formed Storm Mountain Ski Corp. in 1958 and with the help of a few other dedicated local men, used a single bulldozer to clear the ski area's first trails. He purchased land at the base of the mountain and negotiated other land deals with nearby ranchers. He opened the ski area's first lift on the Headwall portion of the mountain in late 1960 and sold the first lift ticket for $2.

Fetcher was part of the small group of men determined to make a success out of the ski area, despite the enormous financial hurdles it faced. He helped secure loans to keep the ski area afloat, and when Temple lost his role and investment in the young resort, he blamed Fetcher and never forgave him. Although the rift between the two men never was settled, it can never detract from their impact on the valley.

Fetcher went on to serve as president of the ski area and negotiated its sale to LTV-RDI aerospace company in 1969, ushering in the modern era of Steamboat Springs as a resort community.

But Fetcher was most proud of his influential work on local water projects. He is responsible for the creation and construction of the Yamcolo, Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake reservoirs, the latter two of which have become popular state parks. He helped create the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District in the mid-'60s, and his water-storage projects were largely responsible for helping secure the water local ranchers need to ensure their hay meadows are irrigated during drought-stricken summers. He continued to work for the water district and on his North Routt ranch until shortly before his 97th birthday last month.

Temple and Fetcher are members of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, but their accomplishments and impact extend well beyond their place in Colorado ski history. The two were dedicated family men who leave lasting legacies in their children and grandchildren, some of whom play significant roles in our community today. Bottom line: Steamboat Springs would not be the resort community we know today without the entrepreneurship, dedication and sweat equity invested by Temple and Fetcher.

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