Local artist creates signs to help poma lift riders at Howelsen Hill
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s no secret that some people need a little extra help when it comes to riding the poma lift at Howelsen Hill Ski Area.
Sometimes, no amount of advice can prevent someone from falling off, but hopefully, the new signs along the lift can prevent a few more stumbles.
Norma Ruth Ryan, local artist and manager at Storm Peak Brewing Co., was commissioned by the city of Steamboat Springs to add some creative but informative signs around Howelsen Hill.
“We worked on wayfinding stuff, and we also wanted to do some fun, funky poma lift signage,” said Howelsen Hill and Rodeo manager Brad Setter. “Just instructing people on how to ride poma and have fun with it.”
Ryan made a sign behind the dumpster along the path from the main lot to the base area, but her true creativity came out with the signs along the poma.
Just as the lift starts to pull you up the hill, there’s a small sign that reads, “ride it like a broomstick.”
“Before this project, I had never been on the poma, either,” Ryan said. “When I was discussing it with people at Howelsen, it was summer. It wasn’t as if I could try to load it. They were describing it to me, and I said, ‘So like a broomstick?’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, like a broomstick.’”
So, she created a small witch riding the poma with a snowboard under her feet that has little cats on it.
The sign puts the fun in functional, as the key to the poma really is to ride it like a broomstick.
The second sign along the route appears shortly after the first and is not so true to form. There is an image of a chameleon clinging to the poma with the words, “poma, poma, poma, poma, poma chameleon.” In reality, people should not simply hang on the lift, but rather, lean into it.
Ryan started wondering what rhymes with poma while brainstorming sign ideas. That brainstorming led to her singing to herself.
“I am one of those obnoxious people who sings songs constantly to inanimate objects and pets,” Ryan said.
She thought back to Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” song and swapped out the word “Karma” for “Poma.”
The signs are a more interesting and relatable way to take in information rather than a quick, bullet-point run down of how to use the lift that intimidates many new users. The signs also serve as a minor distraction while being pulled up the hill.
While the signs may seem odd, and unrelated to anything else at Howelsen Hill, that’s kind of the point.
“Howelsen’s kind of a funky spot,” Setter said. “We wanted to try to capture that vibe instead of an off-the-shelf sign with regular lettering. I had seen some of the other work she did and thought it was cool. I thought that style would match up well.”
Ryan only recently started considering herself an artist. Before that, she just wrote and drew what she calls “love notes” to her friends. Her style is cartoony, primarily pen and ink. She’s also done some larger paintings.
Now, she has her own business named after her original gifts called Norma’s Love Notes. She can be found on Instagram @normaslovenotes.
“A lot of the stuff I love doing is an inside joke. I’m a cartoonist; my love notes are never generic,” she said. “I could never do a Hallmark card that says, ’Just writing to say I love you.’ It would be based on an inside joke or a particular situation or scenario. I don’t think my love notes will ever be the most popular thing in the world, but that’s why they mean so much to the people that get them.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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