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.
Steamboat Springs The idea of celebrity in Steamboat Springs fascinates me, and I got to explore it a little bit this week when I tracked down Nordic combined skier Bryan Fletcher for a sports story.
I wanted to talk to Fletcher about what his life has been like after what truly was a breakout season in World Cup competition. He grabbed a handful of top-10 finishes before capping his season with his first World Cup podium and his first World Cup victory.
Fletcher may not yet be a “Steamboat celebrity,” but it seems clear he’s on his way.
“Steamboat celebrity” is a unique term. I define it as someone who’s wildly popular or well-known here in Steamboat Springs but would be very unlikely to be recognized anywhere else in the country. Most Steamboat celebrities, of course, are past and present winter sports stars.
My deepest understanding of the phenomena came several summers ago when I booked a fishing trip through Steamboat Flyfisher and Johnny Spillane ended up being our guide. The other Steamboat local who accompanied me counted that random guide assignment as a lucky stroke. My friends from out of town had absolutely no idea who was teaching us how to cast or why they should be impressed.
Johnny Spillane is a Steamboat celebrity. He’s famous enough to have a Wikipedia entry, but not so famous that it can’t be hilariously semi-hijacked: Johnny Spillane is “brother to legendary Yampa Valley fly-fisherman Sam Spillane,” the page reads.
Of course, Steamboat is filled with athletic celebrities — not necessarily big-time football stars or basketball phenoms who light up ESPN, but tremendous athletes in their own right who have logged incredible achievements or reached eye-popping heights in their sports.
I stumble across these people on almost a daily basis.
As a for-instance: Karen Tremaine isn’t just the local woman who wears dresses when she shows up at the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series. She’s a former member of the U.S. cycling team and one of the most accomplished bike racers in the country. I had no idea until I dug into her life for a story last week.
My jaw dropped a few weeks ago when I learned one of my co-workers here at the newspaper was a former U.S. Ski Team member.
That’s one of the ongoing treats of living in Steamboat Springs. Ask a few questions in this town and there’s no end to the stunning athletic histories that will surface.
Fletcher said he and his brother, fellow U.S. Nordic combined team member Taylor Fletcher, both work part-time at a pizza shop in Park City, Utah. No doubt few, if any, of the patrons there ever have any idea that two of the most elite Nordic skiers and jumpers in the world are slicing up their pies.
If Bryan Fletcher’s career trajectory holds, he’ll rank up there someday with this town’s great athletes. They will throw his face on posters downtown and use his mug to promote Steamboat Springs as the birthplace of Olympians.
Maybe he’ll never get mobbed on a New York street, but here in Steamboat Springs, he’ll be a legend.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com