Steamboat Ski Area celebrates 50th anniversary
Even before he broke ground on the first trails for Steamboat Ski Area in July 1958, Jim Temple had enlisted the help of some of the best skiers in the valley to explore the terrain high up Storm Peak to determine the best routes down the mountain.
Temple was the original dreamer who envisioned and planned the ski area he called Storm Mountain, which later would become Steamboat Ski Area.
Interviewed at his rural home in Longmont in August 2007, about 17 months before his death at age 82, Temple recalled that beginning in April 1955 and throughout a period of several years he organized scouting trips on Storm Mountain to ascertain where the best terrain for cleared ski trails lay.
Future Olympians like Loris and Buddy Werner joined him on the all-day outings with legendary skiers and ski jumpers like Jon Elliott and Marvin Crawford. The group skied the mountain years before trails were ever cut in the Priest Creek and Four Points area.
Temple grew up on the Focus Ranch in extreme North Routt County and left home in 1948 to become a ski patrolman and avalanche expert at Sun Valley, Idaho.
After returning to Steamboat from Sun Valley in 1955, Temple led several groups of skiers from the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club on expeditions to Storm Peak that began on Rabbit Ears Pass. Snowcats provided by Marvin Elkins, Bill Schomers and Lloyd McClelland pulled the skiers as far as they could, leaving the skiers to scout routes through the trees and down the creek drainages.
In her book “The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs,” author Sureva Towler recounts that members of the party included Orval Bedell, Elliott, Gates and Addison Gooding, Bill Lake, Auburn Luekens, Crawford, Lloyd and Ty Lockhart, Harry Baum, Chuck Lyon, Vernon Summer, Ed and Loris Werner, Russell Whitmer, and Pat and Jack McElroy, of Kremmling.
That summer, Temple began working with U.S. Forest Service personnel in his scouting trips, and forest managers Carl Henderson and Paul Hawk became intrigued. A group of 20 men and women rode horses to the summit of Storm Mountain with the forest representatives.
There were other occasions, usually in early spring, when Temple, Buddy Werner, Merle Nash and others hiked all the way to Storm Peak with their skis over their shoulders. Temple recalls that the trips began at 4 a.m. to take advantage of the crusted snow surface.
Nash told the Pilot & Today about one of those trips.
“We hiked all the way up there with our skis on our shoulders, and once we got to Storm Peak, we skied down (to what is now the top of Four Points) and climbed back up a couple more times,” Nash said.
This climb to Storm Peak was to be especially memorable for Jim Temple.
“It was March 30, 1958, the day after my daughter Lisa was born. I had to wait an extra day,” Temple said in 2007 while smiling at his wife, Audrey.
Temple met future Olympians Bud and Loris Werner, Jon Elliott (an Olympic ski jumper), forest ranger Carl Henderson and Nash at the bottom of Priest Creek.
In addition to carrying his skis on his shoulder, Temple had his Bolex movie camera in his pack. He was wearing a pair of handmade leather ski boots that Buddy Werner had custom-fitted for him.
“They were Heierling boots that Buddy had measured me for. I think he was repping for Heierling at the time. They were the best ski boots I ever had.”
The spring skiing was pretty special that day.
“It was magical watching Bud and Loris skiing through those trees,” Temple said.
Those early scouting trips were the genesis of the ski area encompassing 2,965 acres and 165 named trails that we know today.