Our View: A half-century of memories, influence
January 12, 2013
Whether we ski 100 days each winter or zero, the truth is that most Steamboat Springs residents wouldn't be here if it weren't for the ski resort that first opened 50 years on the slopes of Storm Mountain, now known as Mount Werner.
It's difficult to overstate the significance of Steamboat Ski Area and its impact on what Steamboat Springs, and even Routt County, is today. While Steamboat, unlike some other Colorado mountain resort towns, can brag that it was a city long before it had a ski area, the reality is that the city and the quality of life it offers today are very much a product of the presence of the world-class ski resort on Mount Werner.
Consider, for instance, that Steamboat Springs wouldn't employ a sales tax-based revenue model if it weren't for the visitors who flock here every year and pour money into the local economy, thereby helping to fund many of the amenities that make Steamboat Springs such a special place to live in. The city is in the midst of deciding how to spend revenues from a 1 percent lodging tax that already has funded the construction of Haymaker Golf Course and its clubhouse. The next project is likely to be another amenity that will benefit full-time residents just as much as those who call Steamboat home part of the year or just visit a few days.
The No. 1 reason those visitors and part-time residents come here is because of the presence of the ski area and what it has done for the community throughout the years, including the marketing and branding of Steamboat Springs as a premier vacation destination. Just consider the well-worn adage that many Steamboat residents "came for the winter but stayed for the summer." There's a very specific reason why we came to live in a place with long, cold and snowy winters, and it includes 16 chairlifts, 165 trails and 2,965 skiable acres.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. celebrated its first 50 years Saturday with a variety of events, culminating with a fireworks display. Any recognition of the first half-century of the ski area isn't complete without special mention of the visionaries who first looked at Storm Mountain and imagined the winter playground it could become. Led by Jim Temple, that small group of Routt County residents cut those first trails with tractors and bulldozers from their ranches, financing the operation largely with their own hard-earned money — and in the case of John Fetcher, even selling off his beef cattle 10 head at a time to keep the dream of the ski area alive. They toiled for years to make their grand vision a reality. The process wasn't always easy, and it even led to ruined friendships and hard feelings that never subsided.
Those men laid the foundation for others who would follow in their footsteps, the men and women of Steamboat Springs who would become ski resort managers and visionaries in their own right. Despite all the various ownership groups of the past five decades, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. very much remains an organization of local employees. It also remains one of the most philanthropic businesses in the community, year in and year out.
Steamboat Springs certainly would exist without Steamboat Ski Area, and it no doubt would be a wonderful place to live in and visit. But it wouldn't be the world-class, year-round destination it is today. Happy anniversary, Steamboat Ski Area, and thanks to the visionaries whose dream we live out to this very day.