Coming back home: Recently surfaced historic sign speaks to Werner family’s legacy in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The sign is close to 7 feet long and nearly 3 feet tall, but its importance to Steamboat Springs and its skiing heritage may be even larger.
“It hung right on the corner of the parking lot,” said Loris “Bugs” Werner of the hand-carved Werner’s Storm Hut sign that was recently donated by Jim Flood to the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
Werner had not seen the sign since his family’s home on Ninth Street was sold several years ago, years after selling Werner’s Storm Hut to a former employee.
“After we sold the store, the sign hung on a little detached garage at Hazie’s (Werner) or the side of it,” Loris said. “That is where it was the last time I saw it.”
He’s not sure how the sign ended up hanging in Flood’s mudroom, where, before he bought the property, it was being used as a place to hang coats. Loris lost track of it after his sister, Skeeter, passed away in 2001, and the items inside the home where she was living and others that had been owned by his mother, Hazie, were sold.
But the sign inexplicably ended up in the home Flood purchased, which was miles from Hazie’s, three years ago.
Flood, however, knew exactly where the sign had come from when he saw it.
“We were familiar with the Storm Hut,” said Flood, who had lived in Steamboat in the 1970s. “I’ve had a couple of people tell me they wanted it, and I had one guy offer me some money for it, but we always felt that it really belonged to the town.”
So, Flood recently approached the museum to see if it had any interest in the sign.
“Basically, this is how we get most of our collection items,” said Katie Adams, curator of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. “The items need to meet our mission — they need to help tell the history of Steamboat Springs and demonstrate something important in our past.”
She said the sign is a great example of that.
“This particular artifact was able to tell us several things about Steamboat Springs history, but most significantly, about the Werner family and the role they played not only in the business side of things — which is not how we frequently look at them — but it also relates to their skiing heritage and how that shaped our history,” Adams said.
Loris said the Storm Hut’s sign was created by his uncle, Glen Werner, who was a full-time rancher.
The Storm Hut is part of the Werner family’s legacy.
An article published in the Steamboat Pilot mentions the store held its grand opening in July 1963. Skeeter would open a store of her own — also named Storm Hut — in an A-frame warming hut at the base of what is now the Steamboat Resort the winter of that same year. It became Steamboat’s first dedicated, full ski retail shop in town.
After Loris’ brother Buddy died in an avalanche in the winter 1964, he and his sister stepped in to ensure the Storm Hut would continue.
“Skeeter and I bought the business from Vanda after Buddy’s death,” Loris explained. “But in all reality, it was Hazie’s store — she ran it.”
The store featured a large selection of sports equipment, and as it grew, Skeeter added a women’s sportswear boutique in one area. The store reflected Steamboat’s love of the outdoors.
“At one time, when there was just the one elk season and the one deer season, it was the second highest producing location in selling licenses in the state,” Werner said.
The store benefited from its location just across the street from Corner Liquors and down the street from Boy’s Market. Loris said folks could make one stop to fill their hunting needs, get booze and food.
More importantly, Loris said, was that the store became a hangout and a place where locals came to watch the Fourth of July Parade or enjoy the Winter Carnival. Hazie could often be found out front offering cookies and other treats.
The sign was created after Buddy Werner’s death in 1964, and Loris said he believes that it hung in front of the store until it was sold in the 1980s. That’s when it became Mountain Traditions, then ultimately closed its doors. The building was torn down several years ago and replaced.
“This one was a home run in a lot of different ways,” Adams said. “It was thanks to the generosity and the vision of the donor to realize that he has something special and that it’s best place was here.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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