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Best of Everything: An inside look at the best Steamboat has to offer

An inside look at the best Steamboat has to offer, from Winter Carnival traditions to iconic landmarks.
Courtesy Photo

Worst of the Boat

Okay, so not everything’s perfectly Mayberry in this fair town of ours. In fact, below are four areas where there’s room for improvement.

Worst Pothole

Though they’ve covered them up a bit, this one’s a tie between the shock-rattling pit heading up High Point Drive off U.S. 40 just north of McDonalds and the Taco Bell trench pothole near Central Park Plaza. In winter, they could solve town’s outdoor ice rink dilemma and in spring each host fishing derbies.



Worst Time to Grocery Shop

This one’s a no-brainer. Sunday afternoon during the busy winter holiday season.



Worst Left Turn

This one has to go to those poor parents who, after shuttling their kids to Strawberry Park Elementary and Steamboat Springs Middle schools, have to try and turn left off Amethyst Drive up onto Fish Creek Falls Road. It’s like playing Space Invaders against the traffic coming down. (Special thanks to those who pull over far enough to the left to let the right-turners sneak by.)

Worst Time to Visit the Post Office

Noon Monday to Friday (as well as the holiday rush of slackers sending presents late).

— Sure, you all had your chance to vote for Steamboat’s best. Now it’s our turn to call out a few Steamboat highlights, some from the past year and others that are a daily part of living in Ski Town USA. Behold our first best of compilation showcasing what makes living in Steamboat so special.

Badge of Courage

Every year, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club hosts its annual Poma Trauma day at Howelsen, where local kids cowboy-up to ride the spring-loaded contraption without launching into orbit or sliding back down like a bowling ball and knocking over other brave tykes and toddlers.

Runner-up: The Winter Carnival Shovel Race

Seriously, anyone who enters this event — where you’re pulled behind a horse down Lincoln Avenue while sitting on a metal shovel — without a cup is cruisin’ for a high-pitched bruisin’. While techniques vary for winning, the biggest key to success, if not your future love-life, is simply having large cojones.

Superstition

No contest. Knocking the bronze statue of Buddy Werner on top of the Olympian’s namesake mountain for good luck (and hopefully good snow).

Use of Electricity

No, it’s not Yampa Valley Electric Association. It’s Jon Banks, son of Claudius Banks, who started the Winter Carnival’s Lighted Man tradition in 1936. And this year, for the second season running, he added a high-tech LED lighting system to his rig that shined 256 colors from his poles, skis, suit and helmet, all controlled by a microprocessor. Three circuits control poles, suit and helmet, and six are programmed on each ski, so that if any one area has a problem, it won’t affect the entire suit. “LED light technology has gone crazy lately,” he says. “It’s a quantum leap better than the old stuff. Still, we don’t make any drastic changes because we don’t want any drastic surprises.”

Neighborhood Amenity

In the winter, it’s as quintessential as a neighborhood gets, with sledding hills and nearly 10K of groomed Nordic trails right out residents’ backdoors. Groomed thanks to the Steamboat II Metro District and HOA fees from Silver Spur, the trails wind through both neighborhoods in a series of loops and straightaways, drawing people out at all times of the day. Bonus: views of Soda Mountain and Storm Peak and the fact Fido gets to wag along.

Chance to Breed an Olympian

On Oct. 13, 2012 Olympic moguls bronze medalist

Nelson Carmichael married two-time Alpine racing Olympian Caroline Lalive at Steamboat’s Marabou Ranch (on hand to witness the ceremony: Julia Mancuso). Immediately afterward, Lalive got an inkling of what her future holds with Carmichael dragging her off on a kite-boarding honeymoon to the Ceara coast of Northeast Brazil. “We were in Cumbuco, Ilha do Guajiru and Jericoacoara, kiteboarding all of them,” the newlywed Carmichael says. “It was an amazing trip — warm, windy, friendly and beautiful.”

Anniversaries

Although there are certainly lots of them these days (Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, Steamboat Springs Orchestra, Emerald City Opera, Steamboat Powdercats and Strings come to mind), our anniversary party hats have to go off to Steamboat Ski Area, which turns the big 5-0 this year, and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which is rocking 100.

Vocal Chords

How can you not give this to Verne Lundquist, known throughout the sports broadcasting industry as “Golden Throat”? The longtime Steamboat local also recently received the National Football Foundation’s Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award and leads the play-by-play for CBS’s college football and basketball coverage, as well as the Masters and PGA Championships.

Blues Guitarist with Yampa Roots

Blues musician Big Head Todd (Todd Mohr) took a big step by filing a marriage certificate to Suzanne Elizabeth Donnelly in the Routt County Courthouse a couple of years ago. But tying the knot locally came naturally for Mohr, who grew up in Yampa and has long called the region home. “Steamboat is by far my favorite place,” says Mohr. “I married the love of my life there on a snowy Dec. 23, just moments before playing an outside show. It’s what’s best about Colorado — outstanding people, skiing, fishing and natural beauty.”

Building for the Coneheads

Can’t you just imagine them walking out the front door of Orange Peel Bicycles as one happy cone-headed family?

Innovation with Local Ties

Sorry, SmartWool, Point6, Honey Stinger, Big Agnes, BOA and Wing Time chicken wing sauce. For this we have to go with that precursor to knuckle-dragging: the Snurfer, invented by Steamboat’s Sherman Poppen in Muskegon, Mich., in 1965. Poppen later licensed the concept to Brunswick and Jem Corps., which sold nearly a million of the hold-on-for-dear-life contraptions through the 1970s.

New Building

There’s new suds in Steamboat. Last December, on the 79th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition, Mark Fitzgerald and partner Nate Johansing broke ground on their new Butcherknife Brewing Co. on Elk River Road, providing space to brew thousands of barrels of beer annually. Most importantly it has a tasting room.

Ski Fence

It used to be easier in the olden days when skis were straight and 203 cm. Now, rockered tips catch the wind, sidecut creates gaps, and fat waists affect uniformity. Our nod to the best ski fence in town goes to what’s affectionately known as the Ski Fence House on the corner of Third and Pine streets, which, at last count, boasted 287 skis in an old school barrier. Runner-up: The Grahams on Eighth Street.

Home Basketball Court

Now this is a home that LeBron might want to lay up in when visiting Ski Town USA. The Over the Edge House ski-in/ski-out right off BC Skiway, has a wet bar to die for and lets you play PIG and practice three-pointers after your day on the slopes. (Note: for rental options, visit http://www.movingmountains.com).

Side Work for Starving Artists

You hardly notice them as you drive down Lincoln Avenue by Fifth Street or bike the Yampa River Core Trail past the Steamboat Springs Community Center. But these oft-overlooked murals show that area walls indeed can be converted into canvasses.

Incentive for Local Nordic Skiers

Say no more than the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, where skiers with ties to Steamboat Springs brought home seven medals in Nordic combined.

Recently Completed Projects

The daylighting of Burgess Creek at the new promenade beats the living daylights out of any other improvement to the base area in recent years, providing a much-needed corridor from bars and restaurants to more bars and restaurants (and the new stage rocks also). Meanwhile, downtown the new 60,000-square-foot, $18 million academic center at Colorado Mountain College — complete with its glowing red lights — is another fine feather in the town’s cap. Plus, it has the coolest geoexchange heating system in the county.

Reason to Visit the Chiropractor

How is it that city plowers can pile up a three-foot berm on every driveway out of just a three-inch storm? It wouldn’t surprise us if local chiros are subsidizing the driveway blockades. Nevertheless, this monthly, weekly and sometime daily shoveling ritual is just part of the price of admission for living here.

Sign Winter’s a Little Too Long

At the end of every ski season, skiers and riders of all stripes — even those in striped swim suits — take turns trying to skim across a 75-foot-long pool at the base of Steamboat Ski Area in an annual rite of passage called the Splashdown pond skim that still leaves psychiatrists scratching their heads.

Promotion of the Year

In November, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s Michelle Kreissig hitched up a Steamboat gondola to the back of a 2012 Ford Expedition and drove it to a parade in Houston for Thanksgiving, braving flat tires, stalkers and more to spread the Steamboat word. “I had people waving, honking and giving me thumbsup signs the whole way,” she says. “It was a conversation starter at gas stations and parking lots, and tons of people wanted their picture taken with it. Houstonians love Steamboat. I had to check the carriage before the drive back to see if I had any stowaways.”

Rule

Seriously, in today’s litigious-filled world, it’s nice to revel in a rule that takes us back to the let-it-all-hang-loose freedom of the ’60s and ’70s — Strawberry Park Hot Springs’ clothing optional decree after dark. But please, guys, no flaunting or gawking. And gals? Remember shrinkage.

Archaic Machinery

You can’t stop your kids, or even adults, from climbing inside the Ski Haus snowcat. The 1957 Tucker Snow Kitten is owned by Ski Haus owner Rod Schrage, who, after seeing one in Ouray, had to have one and found his in Idaho in 1990. Although he’s driven it in the Winter Carnival parade and has tooled around on Buff Pass (“It will go through amazingly deep snow, but it’s also amazingly slow,” he says), he hasn’t fired it up for a few years. But all that’s about to change. “The clutch is out, and it needs a little TLC, but it’s on my list to get it running again,” Schrage says. He’s also taken the battery out so it’s safer for kids to play in. “There are kids who come to the store just to play in it,” he adds. “But they’ve pulled all the buttons off the knobs.”

Reason for a Roof Rack

The Yampa River flowing through the heart of downtown is one of Steamboat’s greatest amenities, with the Transit Center an ideal take-out for watercraft of all walks. Thankfully, the city reminds us with this road sign to have a roof rack for the journey home.

Bail Out

Taking advantage of a statute on the books since 2002, the Colorado Water Trust gets this award for spending $140,000 to lease 4,000 acre-fee of leftover Stagecoach Reservoir water from the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District this past drought-stricken season, resulting in additional flows of 26 cubic feet per second throughout the summer. By June 29, the river rose back up to 70 cfs and never dropped lower than that through September. Who benefitted the most? Tubers and trout.

Hope for the Future

Seriously, when we’re all six feet under in the Steamboat Cemetery, our kids are the ones who will be up there skiing six feet of snowpack and running this fine hamlet of ours. Give them kudos every chance you get.

Way to Appreciate Our Forebearers

Double the size of the original gallery space, the newly remodeled Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St., provides the best blast from the past you can find in the Yampa Valley. “It’s letting us expand Steamboat’s story and display memorabilia that we didn’t have space for before,” museum Director Candice Bannister says. New features include multi-media interactive learning exhibits; an expanded hands-on kids area; a rotating gallery now showcasing the anniversaries for Winter Carnival, Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp and Steamboat Ski Area; and a recently acquired original Barnum and Bailey Circus poster of ski jumper Carl Howelsen (one of only three that has come to auction in the past 30 years).

Pending Project

Seriously, is there a better section of real estate in any ski town with more potential than Yampa Street in downtown Steamboat Springs? It’s bordered by a river and bike path on one side and downtown on the other, spelling a corridor that could become a centerpiece for generations to come. “It’s an exciting project to be moving forward,” Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett says. “The river is one of Steamboat’s greatest assets and to make it more available to the public, while also creating a great entertainment district, will be a draw for locals and guests alike.”

Door

Okay, so this category is a little mundane. But that large, curved-glass house you see off to the right as you ride the gondola? Believe it or not, its 800-pound front door is a hand-carved, life-size wooden cowboy. How’s that for a welcoming howdy?

Early Alternative to Subsidizing Airline Flights

Forget about subsidizing the airline program. In the olden days visitors got here the real way, by stagecoach, one of which is on display safe and sound outside the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association offices. Of course, the 74-mile ride was anything but. After getting dropped off by train in Wolcott, from 1890-1908 passengers would pony up $6.50 for a jostling, two-day ride to Steamboat, overnighting in Yampa. Two coaches made the trip, both named after the two newspapers in Steamboat: The Pilot, which could fit 15 people inside and another 9 on the roof, and The Sentinel. Among the rules: spit on the leeward side of the coach; no leaning onto your neighbor’s lap; and if you have a bottle, pass it around.

Birthday

Tip your cowboy hat to Billy Kidd. Steamboat’s director of skiing, the first U.S. male to win an Olympic skiing medal, is celebrating his 70th birthday on April 13. “I wore that number when I won the World Championships in 1970, so the numbers 13 and 70 fit well together,” says the septuagenarian. “But they might to be careful of the fire danger with that many candles.”

Sign of Steamboat’s Genuine Western Hospitality

’Nuff said.

Place to Practice Donuts

Brody, donut, 360, call them what you will. You won’t find a better place to (legally) practice them than the Bridgestone Winter Driving School, the only school of its kind in the country. Celebrating 30 years, the school’s 77-acre facility off TwentyMile Road includes three ice-covered tracks littered with banked and off-cambered corners. And you get to upgrade from your Subaru to a Lexus.

Celebrity Sighting

We’re not Aspen (thank God), but last year, Justin Timberlake paid town a visit for the mountaintop wedding of a friend of now-wife Jessica Biel, with post-reception dancing at Tugboat Grill & Pub. “They were very low key. Jessica told me they both loved Steamboat Springs and lamented how nice it was to be treated normally,” a server told RadarOnline.com.

Rags to Riches

When the 2013 U.S. Snowboarding Team was announced this fall, Steamboat saw its best representation, with five members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club making the 15-person team. Matt Ladley and Benji Farrow were named to the U.S. men’s pro half-pipe team; Maddy Schaffrick earned a spot on the women’s pro half-pipe team; and Taylor Gold and Arielle Gold rode their way onto the U.S. half-pipe rookie team. The club also has seen its best snowboard results ever, with Justin Reiter taking the silver at the World Championships in men’s parallel slalom, Ladley making the men’s super-pipe finals at the XGames, and Arielle Gold winning the gold at the FIS Snowboard World Championship half-pipe event and the bronze in the XGames women’s super-pipe. “We have a long history in Nordic combined and freestyle, and we’re proud of our snowboard program producing top-level athletes, as well,” the Winter Sports club’s Chad Bowdre says.

Rivalry

Ski Town vs. Bike Town USA. Don’t laugh. The two-wheeled crowd in Steamboat, which was recently awarded two stages in the 2013 USA Pro Challenge, is making rapid headway against the two-plank crowd, especially if subpar snow years keep up and the winter bicycling craze continues. What’s next? A bronze of Barkley Robinson at the top of Emerald Mountain to whack for good luck?

Town Mascots

Luckily, we’re blessed with four: the horses in front of F.M. Light & Sons and on top of the Old West building, the massive bronze elk in West Lincoln Park and the loveable dinosaur at the Sinclair Station. But the most iconic of the bunch has to be F.M. Lights’ equine Lighting, which first commanded its perch on Lincoln Avenue in 1949. “It’s been replaced once,” says store co-owner Ty Lockhart, adding that it goes through two to three saddles per year. “People have fun with it. We get grandparents coming in with their grandkids telling them when they used to ride it.” Lighting has received historical designation from the city and gets rolled into the store every night out of the elements. Which is more than can be said for his poor cohort atop Riggio’s, which was placed there decades ago when a Western store occupied the building.

Iconic Town Symbols

This one’s a tie between the venerable signs for the Rabbit Ears Motel and F.M. Light & Sons. F.M. Light, known for its 100 signs strewn about Northwest Colorado, was founded by Francis Marion in 1905 and is now in its fifth generation of family ownership and management. “Both F.M. Light and its signs have become a fabric of our community,” Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Public Relations Manager Michelle Kreissig says. Erected in 1953 by original owners H.L. and Evelyn L. Beswick, the 7-fott-6-inch Rabbit Ears sign at the entrance to town celebrates its 60th birthday this year, just six years after being named to the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

Reason to Wear Goggles

The Winter Carnival Street Events still beat a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but manure’s another matter.

Town Mascots

Luckily, we’re blessed with four: the horses in front of F.M. Light & Sons and on top of the Old West building, the massive bronze elk in West Lincoln Park and the loveable dinosaur at the Sinclair Station. But the most iconic of the bunch has to be F.M. Lights’ equine Lighting, which first commanded its perch on Lincoln Avenue in 1949. “It’s been replaced once,” says store co-owner Ty Lockhart, adding that it goes through two to three saddles per year. “People have fun with it. We get grandparents coming in with their grandkids telling them when they used to ride it.” Lighting has received historical designation from the city and gets rolled into the store every night out of the elements. Which is more than can be said for his poor cohort atop Riggio’s, which was placed there decades ago when a Western store occupied the building.

Iconic Town Symbols

This one’s a tie between the venerable signs for the Rabbit Ears Motel and F.M. Light & Sons. F.M. Light, known for its 100 signs strewn about Northwest Colorado, was founded by Francis Marion in 1905 and is now in its fifth generation of family ownership and management. “Both F.M. Light and its signs have become a fabric of our community,” Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Public Relations Manager Michelle Kreissig says. Erected in 1953 by original owners H.L. and Evelyn L. Beswick, the 7-fott-6-inch Rabbit Ears sign at the entrance to town celebrates its 60th birthday this year, just six years after being named to the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

Reason to Put Up With Another Drought

Skiing here is like a box of chocolates, you just never know what you’re going to get. Like last year when, in the middle of one of the worst droughts on record, the mountain got clobbered with 27 inches of snow overnight on Presidents Day. Forrest Gump had it right. (Maybe it should be Forrest Dump?)

Reason to Work Here

Like they say, size doesn’t matter. Whether it’s three inches or a foot, the local powder clause employed by most businesses worth their salt beats any other perk in the business, be it matching 401(k) contributions or health insurance. But it’s like a stock option. You have to take advantage of it to get a return.

View

Really, is there any better sight than that of returning from a business trip to Detroit and driving down the last, steep decline off Rabbit Ears Pass into the Yampa Valley? We think not.

Use of Old Snowboards

Some knuckle-dragger with a Ph.D. likely figured this one out — a portable way to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Marketing slogan: The Steamboat Chiminea!


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