Franz: Arnold Barn great conversation starter
Steamboat Springs — When I drive tourists around Steamboat Springs in a shuttle bus every weekend, the passengers usually have a lot of questions about our fair city.
Why are the Christmas lights still on? (We just like to be festive, and some of us locals wait until March to lob our Christmas trees into the recycling pile at Howelsen Ice Arena. Cough. Nicole Miller. Cough.)
What is that big white tent? (The tennis center)
How many feet above sea level is the highest point of the ski area? (Siri can’t ever tell me, but I think it’s 10,568 feet)
Are the moose dangerous? (Not if you keep your distance and keep your dog on a leash).
And my personal favorite:
Where is the “adult Swedish Fish store”? (Locals call it a marijuana dispensary or pot shop for short, and they’re all out west).
Shuttle drivers answer a lot of questions and dole out a lot of information to the thousands of people who are catching rides to dinner, the ski slopes and yes, the marijuana dispensaries.
I’m always looking for great conversation starters to connect with my passengers, if only for a few minutes.
This year, my favorite conversation starter has been the Arnold Barn.
I find myself driving by the nearly 90-year-old structure at the corner of the Meadows Parking Lot as many as eight, nine or even 10 times in an evening taking guests from the base area to dinner.
“Is that the famous barn?,” the passengers often ask.
It’s not the iconic More Barn, which has been made famous through countless photographs and because of its location, right in front of the ski slopes.
But the Arnold Barn is starting to become more and more famous in its own right.
And talking to two men who grew up playing inside the barn has been my favorite reporting project so far this year.
Now, it’s fun giving the passengers enough of a taste of history for them to imagine that, at one time, the area they’ve been sleeping, eating and having fun in was simply hay meadows around the Arnold’s old dairy farm.
This conversation usually segues perfectly into other interesting tidbits of Steamboat history, including the origins of Howelsen Hill.
Can you imagine being the Arnold family in the late 1920s exploring Storm Mountain without the hustle and bustle you see here today?
Can you imagine life in this valley without all the stoplights, shuttle buses, ski lifts and lines at City Market?
Can you imagine relying on the generosity of Walter Arnold and his pickup truck at a time nobody else in town really had a pickup?
The Arnolds can.
And thanks to a deal that is materializing between the city, the ski area and some landowners, many more visitors to Steamboat will be able to see the barn and, if only for a moment, imagine what it was like to live in Steamboat back when it was truly the wild west.
I’ve called the Arnold family a few times recently at their winter home of Casa Grande, Arizona, to keep the family apprised of the barn’s fate.
Though it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride going from a lawsuit in November to a deal in March, they’re happy it’s in the news and being talked about.
Two of the Arnold boys, Gerald and Glenn, who grew up on the farm, will be back in their summer home in Grand Junction next month.
I’m planning to make the drive down for a visit for a follow up story.
What questions do you have for this family who grew up and depended on the old barn?
I’d love to answer those questions, too.
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