Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Staring at all the glitz and glamour of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, it's easy to forget how reliant upon the community the program really is.
Believe it or not, the club doesn't retain the services of many of the best winter sports coaches in the nation by selling used long underwear every fall.
It doesn't keep up its world-class facilities by selling off a few parking spots on the site of the old Thunderhead Lodge.
It doesn't send competitors to all corners of the globe with just the fees charged to participants.
And it certainly doesn't expand upon all those entrenched experiences without the generosity of the people of Steamboat Springs.
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club operates on a multi-million dollar budget. The opportunities that opens up - from 5-year-olds jumping off ski jumps to 18-year-olds training for the Olympics - can be eye-popping.
There's no better example of the club taking the community's gifts and running with them than the new Saddle Ridge biathlon course west of Steamboat.
"It was one of those gifts out of nowhere," SSWSC executive director Rick DeVos said. "A lot of the things the club has - the water ramp at Bald Eagle Lake and even the plastic ski jumps - someone has a dream, and the next thing you know, enough people come together locally, and it happens. It's a part of the Ski Town USA thing."
Biathlon coach Gary Osteen said he spent years trying to imagine a way to squeeze a biathlon range into one of the area's existing cross-country trail systems.
"I looked everywhere on Howelsen Hill," he said. "If there was a spot to put it there anywhere, it would already be done. There's no chance, though. There's a trail or two or three running behind every potential location."
Enter Todd Gilbertson, who donated the land for the new range - set near his Saddle Ridge housing development. Enter Brad Hoefer, of All Terrain Excavation, who used his own time and equipment to dig out a massive hole on the side of a deceptively steep hill. Enter Mike Bell, of Mike Bell Construction, who helped by donating his own time and expertise to the project.
Visitors to town always are in awe of the massive ski jumps that tower over Lincoln Avenue. Everyone should be impressed by the quality of competitors grown right here in Steamboat.
No one, however, should forget that the great winter sports legacy begins and ends in Steamboat. Steamboat's youth thrive thanks to the generosity of Steamboat's citizens. It's a story that's been played out again and again - most recently at the sparkling new Saddle Ridge biathlon range.