Steamboat Living’s ‘Best Of’ picks: An inside look at some of the best Steamboat has to offer
You all had your turn to vote in Steamboat Living’s Best of the Boat awards, which were unveiled at a gala awards party Thursday night at the Steamboat Grand. Now it’s our chance to call out a few highlights of living in Ski Town USA. Behold our very own “Best Of” compilation showcasing what makes living in Steamboat so special.
Best…Excuse Not to Couch Surf
This goes to The Reserves at Steamboat, whose 48 affordable two- and three-bedroom apartments on Steamboat’s west side have helped locals slumber. A partnership between the Yampa Valley Housing Authority and Overland Property Group, the apartments occupy 10 acres of YVHA-owned on lower Elk River Road. “It’s a high-quality project for a reasonable price, and fills a great need in Steamboat,” says Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley. Bonus: walking distance to Moe’s and Storm Peak Brewery.
Best…Reason to Huck Huge This Year
Go ahead and air it out this year, for two reasons: the new Steamboat Emergency Center at South Lincoln Avenue and Mid Valley Drive, and the merger of Yampa Valley Medical Center and UCHealth, ushering in a new era of local health care. The merger, which closed in August, will provide increased access to care and treatment options, with YVMC becoming one of eight hospitals in the UCHealth family. “It’s a very bright future for health care in Steamboat,” says YVMC CEO Frank May.
The new emergency center, founded by Dr. Dallas Bailes and located in the former Staples building, will offer competitive rates and employ Steamboat Springs-based doctors and staff. Bailes purchased the building for $2.65 million and expects to spend $3 million more renovating and equipping the new ER facility. Patients, he says, can expect to see a doctor in less than 10 minutes — perfect for those edge-caused stitches.
Best…Way to Find Solitude
Tubing the Yampa…not! This year saw record numbers take to the waterway, thanks to hot temperatures, great water levels and a bevy of visitors. “It’s one of the most popular activities we have,” says Friends of the Yampa’s Kent Vertrees. “It’s great for families, and is a gateway for people to gain appreciation for healthy flows, a diverse riverine environment and clean water. Unfortunately, it’s become so popular that there are trash concerns and conflicts with other river users.”
Best…Reason to Quaff
Four breweries — Mountain Tap Brewery, Mahogany Ridge Brewery, Storm Peak Brewing Co. and Butcherknife Brewing Co.— and the newly opened Steamboat Whiskey Company, all using water coursing straight off the Continental Divide for their delightful concoctions. Need we say more?
Best…Way to Support Nonprofits and Hang Out with Hippies
February’s sold-out WinterWonderGrass Festival generated more than $20,000 for nonprofits from Steamboat and the nearby area. The three-day bluegrass music and craft beer event drew more than 5,000 people, with $1 from each ticket purchase benefitting Yampatika, Routt County United Way or the Educational Foundation of Eagle County. Plus, recycling efforts saved more than 13,000 pounds of trash from the local landfill. “Giving back has been part of our motto since day one,” says Jennifer Brazill of Bonfire Entertainment. “We try to make as big of a difference as we can, and the Steamboat venue was great.”
Best…Reason for LeBron James to Visit Town
This is a home that His LeBron-ness might want to lay up in when visiting Ski Town USA, with emphasis of the lay-up. The Over the Edge house is ski-in/ski-out right off BC Skiway, has a wet bar to die for and lets you play PIG and practice three-pointers after your day on the slopes. (Note: for rental options, visit http://www.movingmountains.com).
Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club are coming off their 100th anniversaries, and Steamboat Ski Area its Big 5-0. This year our hats go off to Opera Steamboat, celebrating its 15th season; Steamboat Springs Orchestra, ringing in its big 25th anniversary; Strings Music Festival, bringing top-notch tunes to the valley for the 30th year; and Steamboat Powdercats, entering its 35th year of freshies.
Best…Reason Not to Go to Disneyland
Why bother, when Steamboat now has its very own Mountain Coaster, which opened in September. The longest such ride in North America with 6,280 feet of track, the Outlaw descends 400 vertical feet, with the track rising between 4 and 40 feet above the ground with dips, waves, turns and 360-degree circles. The gravity-driven sleds run on a tubular stainless-steel rail system, with a state-of-the-art braking system controlling speed. BYO Dramamine.
Best…Chance to Raise an Olympian: Nelson Carmichael and Carolyn LaLive
Give her another 18 years or so, but this honor goes to 1992 Olympic moguls bronze medalist Nelson Carmichael and two-time alpine racing Olympian Carolyn LaLive, whose daughter Freya, who turns 2 in December, has the genes (nurture and nature) to go to the Big Show. But will it be bashing bamboo or bumps?
Best…Reason to Donate to the Fireman’s Ball
The Deep Creek Fire, which smothered the valley in smoke on Monday, Sept. 4, and eventually scorched 4,161 acres before being fully contained Sept. 13. At its height, more than 300 personnel were fighting the blaze, with its cost estimated to exceed $2 million. “It was a big one,” says Steamboat Today reporter Scott Franz, whose online coverage recorded record views. “It blew up pretty quickly.”
Best…Blues Guitarist to Play in Yampa: Big Head Todd
Blues musician Big Head Todd (Todd Mohr), who grew up on his family’s ranch outside Yampa, has played several annual solo, acoustic benefit concerts at Yampa’s Antlers Bar, as well as in Steamboat for the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association. For good reason. “Steamboat is by far my favorite place,” says Mohr. “It’s what’s best about Colorado — outstanding people, skiing, fishing and natural beauty.”
Best…Birthday: Billy Kidd’s 75th
Tip your cowboy hat to Billy Kidd. Steamboat’s director of skiing, the first U.S. male to win an Olympic skiing medal and 1970 World Champion, is celebrating his whopping 75th birthday on April 13. “They might to be careful of the fire danger with that many candles,” he says.
Best…Early Airline Subsidy Alternative
Forget about airline subsidies. In the olden days visitors got here by stagecoach, one of which is on display outside the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. After getting dropped off by train in Wolcott, from 1890-1908 passengers would pony up $6.50 for a jostling, 74-mile, two-day ride to Steamboat, overnighting in Yampa. Two coaches made the trip, both named after the two newspapers in Steamboat: The Pilot, which could fit 15 people inside and nine more on the roof, and the smaller Sentinel. Among the rules: spit on the leeward side of the coach; no leaning onto your neighbor’s lap; and if you have a bottle, pass it around.
Best…Incentive for Local Olympians in South Korea
Say no more than the upcoming 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea, where local skiers and riders hope to match Steamboat’s haul from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics of seven medals in Nordic combined. The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has 22 athletes that could wind up competing in this year’s Big Show, in everything from snowboarding to Nordic combined. “When the Olympics come around, our community swells with pride,” says Athletic Director Jon Nolting, adding several have legitimate medal opportunities. “We’ll have particularly strong athletes in snowboarding and mogul skiing.”
Best…Prelude to Dragging Knuckles: The Snurfer
Knuckle-dragging trivia: the Snurfer, the industry’s first “snowboard,” with metal staples for traction and a rope extending off the nose, was invented by Steamboat’s Sherman Poppen in Muskegon, Mich., in 1965. Poppen later licensed the concept to Brunswick and Jem Corps., which sold nearly a million of the hold-on-for-dear-life contraptions through the 1970s.
Best…Vocal Chords: Verne Lundquist
Sorry, Opera Steamboat stars. This one goes to Steamboat local and sports broadcaster Verne Lundquist. Last December, the legendary announcer stepped down from his lrun as CBS’ main football play-by-play man, but he couldn’t stay away for long: Shortly after “retiring,” he announced the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. Known throughout the industry as “Golden Throat,” Lundquist won the National Football Foundation’s Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award and covers everything from golf (Masters and PGA Championships ring a bell?) to the gridiron. Our question: How about announcing runs on a powder day?
Best…Badge of Courage: The Howelsen Hill Poma
Every year, SSWSC hosts it annual “Poma Trauma” day at Howelsen, where local kids cowboy-up to ride the spring-loaded contraption without launching into orbit or sliding back down like a bowling ball and knocking over other brave tykes and toddlers. Runner-up: The Winter Carnival’s Shovel Race. Seriously, anyone who enters this event — where you’re pulled behind a horse down Lincoln Avenue while sitting on a metal shovel —is cruisin’ for a high-pitched bruisin’.
Best…Iconic Town Symbols
This one’s a tie between the venerable signs for the Rabbit Ears Motel and F.M. Lights & Sons. F.M. Lights, known for its 100 signs strewn about northwestern Colorado, was founded by Frank Light in 1905 and is now in its fifth generation of family ownership and management. Erected in 1953 by original owners H.L. and Evelyn L. Beswick, the 7’6” Rabbit Ears sign at the entrance to town celebrates its 70th birthday this year, after being named to the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.
Clang, clang. This one goes to knocking the bronze Buddy Werner statue on top of the Olympian’s namesake mountain with your ski pole for good luck (and hopefully good snow). Hopefully, this year you’ll have to reach down to do it instead of up.
Best…Side Work for Starving Artists: Murals
You hardly notice them as you drive or bike by, but these oft-overlooked collages — detailing everything from our valley’s biking options to railroad heritage — show that area walls can be converted into canvasses. Next up: a river-oriented theme being commissioned by Friends of the Yampa on the wall of the Ambulance Barn.
Best…Use of Electricity: The Lighted Man
No, it’s not YVEA. It’s Jon Banks, son of Claudius Banks, who started the Winter Carnival’s Lighted Man tradition in 1936. And now that he’s added a high-tech LED lighting system to his rig that shines 256 colors from his poles, skis, suit and helmet, all controlled by a microprocessor, it’s a more efficient use of electricity than ever. Three circuits control poles, suit and helmet, and six are programmed on each ski, so that if any one area has a problem, it won’t affect the entire suit. “LED light technology has gone crazy lately,” he says. “It’s a quantum leap better than the old stuff. Still, we don’t make any drastic changes because we don’t want any drastic surprises. We’ve yet to have a year where everything works 100 percent.”
Best…Neighborhood Amenity: Steamboat II/Silver Spur
In the winter it’s as quintessential as a neighborhood gets, straight out of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with sledding hills and 10K of groomed Nordic trails right out residents’ backdoors. Groomed thanks to the Steamboat II Metro District and HOA fees from Silver Spur, the trails wind through both neighborhoods in a series of loops and straight-aways, just seconds way from porch-side coffee. Bonus: views of Soda Mountain and Storm Peak and the fact that Fido gets to wag along.
Best…Place to Practice Donuts: Bridgestone Winter Driving School
Brody, donut, 360…call them what you will. You won’t find a better place to (legally) practice them than the Bridgestone Winter Driving School, the only school of its kind in the country. Coming up on its 35th anniversary, the school’s 77-acre facility off TwentyMile Road includes three ice-covered tracks littered with banked and off-cambered corners. And you get to upgrade from your Subaru to a Lexus.
Best…Tuber and Trout Patron
Taking advantage of a statute on the books since 2002, the Colorado Water Trust (CWT) gets this award for again working a deal to lease leftover water in Stagecoach Reservoir from the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District to boost flows in the Yampa, which dropped below 85 cubic feet per second in August. Who benefitted the most? Tubers and trout.
Best…Building for the Coneheads: Orange Peel Bicycles
With apologies to Chevy Chase of Saturday Night Live, can’t you just imagine them walking out the front door as one happy, cone-headed family?
It used to be easier in the olden days when skis were straight and 203cm. Now, rockered tips catch the wind, sidecut creates gaps, and fat waists affect uniformity. Our nod to the best ski fence in town goes to what’s affectionately known as the Ski Fence House on the corner of 3rd and Pine streets, which, at last count, boasted 287 separate skis in an old school barrier. Runner-up: The Grahams on 8th Street.
Best…Sign Winter’s a Little Too Long
At the end of every ski season, skiers and riders of all stripes — even those in striped swim suits — take turns trying to skim across a 75-foot-long pool at the base of Steamboat Ski Area in an annual rite of passage that still leaves psychiatrists scratching their heads. Ushering in spring and shrinkage, the ritual ensures revelers have seven months to dry out their boot liners.
Best…Can’t Wait Till It’s Over Project: Yampa Street Improvement
Best…Reason to Visit the Chiropractor
How is it that city plowers can pile-up a three-foot berm on every driveway out of just a three-inch storm? It wouldn’t surprise us if local chiros are subsidizing the driveway blockades. Nevertheless, this monthly, weekly and sometime daily shoveling ritual is part of the price of admission for living here.
Best…Rule: Clothing Optional After Dark
Seriously, in today’s litigious-filled world, it’s nice to revel in a rule that takes us back to the let-it-all-hang-loose freedom of the ‘60s and ‘70s — Strawberry Park Hotsprings’ clothing optional decree after dark. But please, no flaunting or gawking.
Best…Reason to Work Here: The Powder Clause
Like they say, size doesn’t matter. Whether it’s three inches or a foot, the local powder clause employed by local businesses beats any other perk, be it matching 401-K contributions or health insurance. But it’s like a stock option; you have to take advantage of it to get a return.
Best…Archaic Machinery: Ski Haus Snowcat
You can’t stop your kids, or even adults, from climbing inside the snow-cat outside Ski Haus. The 1957 Tucker Snow Kitten is owned by Ski Haus owner Rod Schrage, who, after seeing one in Ouray, had to have one and found one in Idaho in 1990. While he’s driven it in the Winter Carnival parade and has tooled around on Buff Pass (“It will go through amazingly deep snow, but it’s also amazingly slow,” he says), he hasn’t fired it up for a few years. But all that could change. “It’s on my list to get it running again,” Schrage says. “Kids come to the store just to play in it, but they’ve pulled all the buttons off the knobs.”
Best…Hope for the Future: Our Kids
Seriously, when we’re all six feet under in the Steamboat Cemetery, they’re the ones who will be up there skiing six feet of snowpack and running this fine hamlet of ours. Give them kudos every chance you get.
Best…Reason to Wear Goggles: Winter Carnival Street Events
While it still beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, manure’s another matter.
We’re blessed with plenty, from the horse atop the former Riggio’s building to the bronze elk in West Lincoln Park. But the most iconic has to be F.M. Lights’ equine Lighting, which first commanded its perch on Lincoln Avenue in 1949. “It’s been replaced once,” says the store’s Ty Lockhart, adding that it goes through two saddles per year. “People have fun with it. Grandparents come in with their grandkids telling them about when they used to ride it.” Lighting has received historical designation from the city and gets rolled into the store every night out of the elements. Which is more than can be said for his poor roof-top cohort a few blocks away, which was placed there decades ago when a Western store occupied the building.
Best…Use of Old Snowboards
Some knuckle-dragger with a Ph.D. likely figured this one out — a portable way to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Marketing slogan: The Steamboat Chiminea!
Best…Sign of Steamboat’s Genuine Western Hospitality
Best…Way to Appreciate Our Fore-bearers
The Tread of Pioneers Museum at 800 Oak Street provides the best blast from the past you can find in the Yampa Valley. This year look for its new Staking Their Claim: Pioneer Settlement in the Yampa Valley exhibit, highlighting early Yampa Valley settlers; Pioneer Kids Bedroom: Hands-on Discovery exhibit, letting kids dress up in historic clothes and play with antique toys; and A Legacy of Learning: Celebrating 50 Years of Colorado Mountain College and the Bud Werner Memorial Library exhibit, highlighting these two key local institutions; and the works of portrait and Native American culture photographer Edward S. Curtis.
Every January, in an event started by former World Bareback Bronc Riding Champion J.C. Trujillo, a herd of cowboys migrate up from the National Western Stock Show in Denver to try their hand at riding skis instead of roping steers. The result is the Cowboy Downhill, where carnage is as guaranteed as ski hostesses getting roped at the finish line.
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The Oak Creek Library, which has been somewhat hidden inside the Oak Creek Community Center for 35 years, will be moving to a more prominent location on Main Street in the fall.