Ray Heid’s new book gives a glimpse of Steamboat past
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — “When I was growing up, we kept a horse tied up in our yard in downtown Steamboat,” Ray Heid recounted. “If he escaped from the yard, we got on our bicycles and rode around town looking for him. Sometimes, my mother would get a phone call, and someone would say ‘Hey Ruby! Banjo is down on the courthouse lawn!’ And we would go retrieve him.”
Stories such as this one grace the pages of Heid’s new book, “Ray Heid: Man Behind the Duster.”
The book tells the story of Heid’s life from his childhood skiing at Howelsen Hill Ski Area to growing up surrounded by Olympians — he is cousins with the Werners — his own experience pursuing an Olympic dream, years spent in New Mexico owning ski businesses and then his subsequent return to Steamboat Springs to manage Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch, which was started in 1962 by his brother Delbert.
Heid, who is a fourth-generation Steamboat native, has been a storyteller his whole life.
“I love getting people out on horseback and telling them stories about old time Steamboat or skiing or whatever they’re interested in and want to hear about,” he said.
For most of his adult life, people have told him he needs to write a book, but it wasn’t until he met Irene Barba in 2016 that the idea became feasible.
Heid was skiing in Taos, New Mexico, when he met Barba and regaled her with stories on the chairlifts as they skied together.
“I told him he should write a book,” Barba said. “And he said that everyone says that.”
The following year, Heid invited Barba to Steamboat for a week, and when she arrived, he showed her his previous attempts at a book — stories he had written down on yellow legal pads as well as papers and pictures he had collected. Barba helped him get organized, and before she left to go home to Three Rivers, California, Heid formally asked her to assist him with a book.
Having just finished proofreading and editing a book for a friend, Barba decided to take on the project. The process unfurled over the next four years with many phone conversations, story recordings, sorting through old photographs and distinguishing fact from fiction. Barba made several trips to Steamboat to work on the book with Heid.
“We would work a lot and ski a little bit too,” Heid said.
It was important to Barba that Heid’s voice showed through when translating his stories to the page.
“Some of the stories are those that you might hear around Steamboat — involving Buddy Werner, for example — but I wanted to make sure that they all came from Ray, from his point of view,” she said.
Heid said finally putting all of the stories on paper, where they will live on forever, “is the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever had.”
The finished product is a book that takes the reader back to the 1890s when Heid’s great-grandparents settled in the Yampa Valley and then through his childhood and adult life and explores how the cowboy skier western image that he embodies became so legendary.
“Ray Heid: The Man Behind the Duster” will give the reader not only a look into Heid’s life but into a Steamboat of the past, exploring the town’s rich history and what life was like in the Yampa Valley.
The book, out this week, will be available at retail stores throughout Routt County and on Amazon.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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