New book collects the best ‘Shenanigans’ from Steamboat police blotter

Tom Ross
Steamboat Today courts reporter Matt Stensland
Scott Franz

If you go

What: "Ski Town Shenanigans - The Best of the Steamboat Springs Police Blotter" launch party.

When: 4 to 6 p.m., Friday

Where: Off the Beaten Path bookstore, 68 Ninth St., Steamboat Springs

— Spend 15 minutes with the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s new collection of the best of the Steamboat Springs police blotter, “Ski Town Shenanigans,” and after you’ve stopped chuckling, you may find yourself wondering why no one has made a television show about life in the ‘Boat.

The day-to-day shenanigans in this town full of snow bums and 21st century cowgirls and cowboys are too good for the reality show treatment. The early ’90s comedy “Northern Exposure,” centered on the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, is a better match.

“It’s this Steamboat attitude. We don’t like to take ourselves too seriously,” “Ski Town Shenanigans” mastermind and cops and courts reporter Matt Stensland said.

Of course, it’s difficult to be overly self-important while living in a town where bears learn to open the doors of Subarus, and people come home from vacation to find strange people sleeping in their beds.

Ski Town Shenanigans benefits greatly from Stensland’s instinct for asking police sergeants the questions that transform the mundane into little nuggets of Americana. Without that, we might not have learned that the bear who broke into a Steamboat home was apprehended eating honey from a bear-shaped container.

The book is illustrated by staff artist and cartoonist Mack Maschmeier, whose bears and moose are drawn with confused expressions. The clean layout of staff artist Veronika Khanisenko leads the reader effortlessly from one “stranger-than-fiction” police report to the next.

Khanisenko said she’s pleased that the book so faithfully reflects the community’s quirky sense of humor, and she adds that she enjoyed the easy collaboration with Stensland and Maschmeier.

Maschmeier came of age admiring the work of cartoonists Gary Larson of Far Side fame and Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. He’s formed the impression that animals are personalities in Steamboat.

“They really are kind of like neighbors, or just other people,” he said. “We hear about bears causing trouble more than teenagers or gangs, which is a pleasant problem.”

And let’s not forget the essential role of Steamboat’s “men and women in blue,” who have to be playing along with Stensland at least a little bit.

“Doing the blotter every day really kind of highlights my day,” Stensland said. “Having that understanding of how law enforcement works and what they deal with on a daily basis. Their job is really awful at times, when they deal with certain situations.”

Humor isn’t always appropriate in the working life of a patrol officer, but when it is, it can be very healthy, Stensland acknowledged.

“It’s nice to step back and have a laugh,” he said.

Steamboat Police Sgt. John McCartin agreed.

“You’ve got to have a sense of humor about stuff,” McCartin said. “It’s a stress reliever.”

But that doesn’t mean officers don’t take seriously the calls that strike the typical reader of the police blotter as being preposterous.

“When people contact us, it’s the biggest issue going on in their life at that time,” McCartin said. “They’re reaching out for help or advice. It might seem funny to you, but it’s a legitimate issue that somebody has, and we help them through it and hopefully get an outcome that’s beneficial to them.”

Just within the past few weeks, McCartin said, one of his colleagues responded to a call from an angry man who said the laundromat had eaten his money.

Ultimately, the officer gave him a large handful of quarters and made his day.

Steamboat Today readers should hope the police department and Stensland continue their close collaboration. That’s the only way we could have learned in March 2007 that the baby delivered by a Steamboat police officer wasn’t born in any old convenience store, but “in the chip aisle at 7-11.”

That little detail about the location of the delivery paints a mental picture and suggests the question, “Was it a baby boy the parents named Chip? Or was it a little girl they named Ruffles?”

“I remember that,” McCartin said. “I was working that night. I can’t believe it was that long ago. I wondered if the kid would be entitled to a free slurpee.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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