Summer family highlighted in Foundations of Steamboat exhibit at Tread of Pioneers Museum

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— A look at the Tread of Pioneers Museum's latest exhibit sums up the Yampa Valley.

If you go

The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The cost is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors older than 62, $1 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 6. Routt County residents are free with an ID. The exhibit will be on display through September. For more information, call 970-879-2214.

On one wall is ranching history, the next features ranching tools, but it's the third and fourth walls that really describe the brilliance of the late Vernon Summer.

On the left was his ski patrol uniform, years and years of ski passes and NASTAR medals. Opposite sat Summer’s jean coat full of dirt marks, stains and evidence of a life lived ranching in the south valley.

“He found time to ski and ranch,” said Candice Bannister, executive director of the museum. “Verne is the quintessential Steamboat story. He blended ski history and community with ranching history and community. He really is a Steamboat icon.”

The museum decided to feature Summer as part of the Foundations of Steamboat series. The exhibit opens Thursday and will be on display for a year. It’s the second time the Summer family has been featured in the Foundations of Steamboat series. It also was featured in 2001.

Museum curator Katie Adams said that when Summer died in 2012, two weeks short of his 95th birthday, the museum was able to go through his estate.

What came out was an astounding historical look not just at Summer, but at the Yampa Valley.

“It was such an amazing collection, we decided to do him again,” Adams said.

Summer’s father, Louis, arrived in the Yampa Valley in 1898 by horse-drawn wagon and set up ranching from a log cabin near the now-vanished town of Sidney.

Summer was born in town in a stone house on Pine Street but spent most of his time on the ranch and attended first through eighth grades at the old Sidney Schoolhouse.

Summer eventually mortgaged everything he had to ensure the ranch would stay in the family.

He was a key figure in helping bridge the ski community with the ranching community, each proving to be two of his loves. He helped Jim Temple and John Fetcher scope out runs on Mount Werner.

He also was on the National Ski Patrol from 1961 to 1976, including two years as patrol leader for Steamboat Ski Patrol.

But as good as he was at skiing, ranching was his first passion.

Early on, he did soil conservation on 159 of his acres to use experimental seed. The end result not only helped Summer, but also his fellow ranchers. In 1993, he was the first rancher in the south valley to embrace conservation easement. His 600 acres can be sold but can’t be broken into 35 acre parcels or developed.

“This is a way to give accolades to people that made this community,” Adams said. “It’s not just a brief glimpse but a real look at a man that made this community.”

The Foundations of Steamboat series has been going on since 1998 and has featured other families including the Fetchers, Temples and Crawfords.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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