Joel Reichenberger: Five years in and I'm in


Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or

Find more columns by Joel here.

— I’m so close I can taste it, and it tastes a little something like 10 p.m. Slopeside Grill pizza, a lunch-time pork chimichanga from Azteca Taqueria, or a Rio Grande frozen margarita.

I’m sure it’s not an actual rule, because things like this in Steamboat Springs are never written down. Nevertheless, one day early in my tenure at the Steamboat Today I was poking around, asking what a “local” was and how long someone had to live here to qualify.

Five years, I was told. I’d be a local in five years.

Well guess what, Steamboat. I’m there. Or almost, anyway. I rolled in to town Feb. 25, 2008.

Before Steamboat I had never lived anywhere that required a term of service to be able to considered “home.” Now that I have, I’ve become more familiar with what being a “local” means. Still, it remains a term that’s incredibly difficult to nail down.

In some senses, being a local in Steamboat Springs means knowing how to exist as cheaply as possible. It doesn’t mean one always exists as cheaply as possible, just that it’s important to be familiar with the course.

In my five years in Steamboat, that’s meant a number of reoccurring restaurant deals. I’ve stood in the insane lines that used to greet “$2.99 Steak Night” at 8th Street Steakhouse. I’ve sat with the bartenders at Mazzola’s on $1 PBR night, and I've rock, paper and scissored my way to free drinks at Boathouse Pub. Steak Night, Burger Night, Wing Night ... sometimes I wonder why I’m the only person who seems to have ever gained weight after moving to Steamboat, and then I put together lists like this and stop asking questions.

But being a Steamboat local certainly isn’t all about dining and drinking. I’ve come to appreciate Steamboat’s beauty. It wasn’t obvious to me at first, especially when I was expecting the jagged peaks of other parts of the state, but it’s grown on me, to say the least.

Most true locals here live their lives outdoors.

As the newspaper's primary Outdoors page reporter, I’ve had an incredible and unique opportunity to live along with those true locals. I’ve gone skiing about 200 times since I moved. Plenty of those trips have been for work, to cover a race or something, but because I’ve never had another job that required clipping into skis, I feel it's fair to count them.

I’ve taken snowboard lessons, classic and skate skiing lessons and Telemark lessons. I’ve been into the backcountry and off the water ramp at Bald Eagle Lake. I’ve fished, rafted, kayaked and airboarded the Yampa River. I’ve skied and wakeboarded in Steamboat Lake. I bought a mountain bike soon after moving and have ridden plenty of local trails, and a road bike a year ago, and I’ve ridden plenty of local roads.

But I’m still not the kind to hike up Mount Werner on skis or to venture out on an all-day hiking adventure.

One of my first stories here was about people skiing on Buffalo Pass, and I tried interviewing a couple of guys as they headed away. They were very frustrated I was writing about their “stash” even though, and I mean this quite literally, the parking lot was overflowing and there was no possible space remaining to park a vehicle of any kind.

Despite delving deep into the issue then, recently and plenty of times in between, I don’t understand people’s insistence on pretending such places are some kind of secret.

Can I be a local without solving that riddle? Without having a burning desire to climb something — a road, a hill or a mountain — on my mountain bike every clear summer morning? Without owning skins?

Can a local really appreciate Trivia Night at Tap House as much as a powder day?

Maybe not.

But, maybe.

Five years in Steamboat has taught me one thing above all else: this isn’t a place you can put in a box or define in any simple way. It hasn’t made me the typical Steamboater, but it has taught me there’s no such thing.

Five years has made me love this town and these people, so many of whom have been so gracious and supportive in so many ways.

Everyone sees this town a little differently. We all have our favorite ski runs and bike shops, restaurants and bartenders, and I’m no different. In five years I’ve managed to carve a life out in Steamboat, and it’s different than anyone else’s. Whether or not I pass all the tests, that’s what I point to as my evidence when, today, I declare once and for all: I’m a local.


kyle pietras 4 years, 2 months ago

Come on man...locals are born here. Steamboat is a melting pot with all the flavors ever changing, be part of that.


Kevin Nerney 4 years, 2 months ago

Good luck with that Joel. Some of us will never be considered local, loco maybe but not local no matter how long we hang around.


rhys jones 4 years, 2 months ago

Number One question in this town, to see how cool one is:

"So how long YOU been here?"


Richard Hagins 4 years, 2 months ago

You're only local to those that are 5 years old or younger!


Bret Marx 4 years, 2 months ago

If you're born here, you're a native. If you live here, you're a local.


bill schurman 4 years, 2 months ago

Been here 37 years, still a local wanna be. My kids were born here, that makes them locals.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 2 months ago

Nice column. In my book, if you have a smile for strangers, it doesn't matter when you got here.


rhys jones 4 years, 2 months ago

Locals say "I live here." Transplants say "I'm a local."


Jeremy Johnston 4 years, 2 months ago

Locals are those who contribute something positive to the community. Doesn't matter where you are.


Ulrich Salzgeber 4 years, 2 months ago

Joel, you are indeed a local and congratulations. Along with what Jeremy Johnston says being a local is an appreciation of the heritage and the beauty of the valley. Respect of your surroundings and your fellow man and enjoying all that Steamboat has to offer. This is one of the few places on earth where we WANT to live as opposed to NEED to live because of careers, etc. Our glasses always seem to be 3/4 full. You bring all those qualities with you so congrats and don't whup me at trivia night!


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

Being "local" is a state of mind.

I suggest that anyone wishing to be considered a local is demonstrating a lack of belonging and thus is not a local.

I suggest that essential prerequisite to being a local is to not consider the question of whether one is a local.

The people that are truly local do not ask themselves or others if they are locals.

Thus, Joel, by asking the question if you are a local means you are not yet a local. Only when you don't care about whether you might be considered local is when you can become a local.


Bill Fetcher 4 years, 2 months ago

Longevity means nothing. Having lived here quite a while I've had plenty of time to sort out what constitutes localhood. I've thought about it this way; If I'd just moved to a new community what should I do to switch from THEM to US in the shortest possible time? Here're some pointers:

  1. Take an interest in your community. Learn about its history through reading and asking questions of people who've been here a while. It's a great way to meet people. Learn the names of familiar landmarks such as mountains so you can amaze you friends and family with this information. (That's right, it's Marble Hill, not Airport Hill or worse yet, Duckel's Dare.)

  2. Volunteer. Lend a hand to a worthwhile cause of your choosing. This is another way of making friends in your new community.

  3. Sit back and observe how things are done, rather than impose your will on the community. There are usually good reasons why things are done differently from what you may have been familiar with. For example, barbed-wire fences are favored here because they're cheap and easy to maintain, particularly after heavy snows.

  4. If you happen to be wealthy, don't flaunt it. The majority of people here aren't rich and find a display of wealth offensive. (This is true throughout much of the planet.) Leave the Mercedes in the garage for those long road trips and drive a vehicle that's more appropriate to your actual needs. For most of us here that means a slightly used Ford, Chevy, Toyota or Subaru. You'll find yourself fitting in much better and quicker.

Bill Fetcher


Bill Fetcher 4 years, 2 months ago

By the way, there are places in the county I've never been to because 1) I don't need to or want to go there, 2) I've not been invited there or 3) I've no business there. There're also sports and activities such as mountain biking and snowmobiling I've not taken part in. I don't let this bother me. Neither should you. Bill Fetcher


Rick Pighini 4 years, 2 months ago

Local schmocal, your a local where ever you decide to set up permanent residence. It makes no difference for how long or what you do. Once you move there you are a local. All the other BS is really a definition of what kind of local you are. People are so protective of their little status. It only means something if you make it mean something. Only the drunks at the bar care.


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