Hang with the Locals | SteamboatToday.com

Hang with the Locals

Soak in Steamboat residents' traditions and seek common ground in the outdoors

Dave Shively

— Much contention surrounds the question: What constitutes a true Steamboat Springs “local”?

While some eagerly plant flags after a single cycle of winter, summer and the shoulder seasons in between, others reserve the label for those who are born and raised here.

A more clearly defined line, however, is drawn between “resident” and “tourist.”

And although the resident could spend a lifetime touring Steamboat’s natural surroundings, the habits for how to enjoy these surroundings, more often than not, stray from the obvious and advertised manmade attractions and offerings.

Fortunately, the visitor willing to leave the camera at home to seek out these native habits has a couple of things going for him or her.

Generally speaking:

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1) Steamboat residents are an active bunch. After gorging meals in a town seemingly made of restaurants, exercise is good.

2) Steamboat is expensive to live in. You’ll notice the popularity of the Free Summer Concert Series shows/social gatherings at Howelsen Hill. The operative word is “free” – summer activities that locals favor are typically do-it-yourself, outdoors and without entrance fees. The initial investment, however, is in the necessary gear, but that can be faked to some degree with rentals and demos.

A few suggestions on ways to connect to the community for those actively seeking a Steamboater’s Steamboat experience:

Compete.

If you’re in town on a Wednesday between May 28 and Sept. 5, chances are you could partake in a Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series race . Although series director Gretchen Sehler estimated that the competition makeup is about 95 percent local, there’s no better way to learn the loops on Emerald Mountain or Mount Werner. “We love to have out-of-town competitors duke it out with our riding group,” Sehler said of the races that cost only $12 in advance. “Any group you go into is going to be competitive, from youth to our recreational race group to the top-rated riders in the pro/open division.”

If you’re here over a weekend, most of the Steamboat Springs Running Series’ diverse array of 14 trail and road races are hosted on Saturdays and Sundays, cost only $20 in advance, and offer shorter course options to get you out there.

Root for the home team.

The Steamboat Springs Rugby Football Club is looking to defend the turf where it went undefeated at home en route to a banner 2007 season, securing the Rocky Mountain League title as well as wins at the Ski Town Tournament and its own Cowpie Classic. This year’s 34th annual Cowpie tourney is July 12 and 13 at the Ski Town Fields. For some down-home dirt track drama, head out to the Hayden Speedway for Saturday night race action. Promoter Matt Beckett said this year’s 10 race events will feature 30 to 35 local racers ripping laps in everything from street stock to open-wheel modified monsters of vehicles.

Respect the ranching heritage.

Nothing showcases the valley’s agricultural roots quite like the Routt County Fair (Aug. 14-17 in Hayden). Although the Friday night Demolition Derby races are sure to pull fans, it’s the barbecue that starts cooking at midnight that Friday (Aug. 15) that provides for the Saturday events at the heart of the fair (www.routtcountyfair.org). Sink your teeth into barbecue pork, leg of lamb or top round roast recipes that have been passed down for years from the late Bobby Robinson at the afternoon barbecue held in his honor. Before the hootenanny of the annual Saturday night barn dance kicks off, the 6 p.m. Junior Livestock Sale highlights the efforts of the county’s active 4-H members.

“(The fair’s) the culmination of their 4-H projects for the year, between showing animals during the week and then selling market animals at the livestock sale,” Routt County 4-H agent Jay Whaley said. “It’s the largest event at the fair – we’ll feed 800 to 1,000 people at the barbecue beforehand.”

Even if you don’t compete in the events open to the public, such as Friday’s “Dress Your Animal” competition or Saturday’s horseshoe pitching contest, the fair lets visitors get a real taste of life in Northwest Colorado.