Steamboat Pilot & Today’s top news stories of 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s a newsroom ritual. During the last few weeks of the year, the Steamboat Pilot & Today news team takes time to reflect on the past year.
We study analytics that show us what stories people read and how long they spent with those stories. We talk about the topics that seemed to resonate most with our readers, and we use that information and those conversations to pull together our annual Year in Review, which publishes today.
This process provides an opportunity for us to stop and gain perspective on a year’s worth of work. And as we refine our list of top news stories for 2018, we gain new insights into the communities we serve, because how people respond to the news, especially stories of tragedy, reveals a lot about who we are and reminds us why the Yampa Valley is such a special place to live, work, play and visit.
1. Body found near Soda Creek just outside Steamboat city limits
2. Autopsy provides few clues in death of Matthew Shelters
3. Head-on crash on Colo. 131 outside Steamboat leaves 1 dead, multiple injured
4. Friends, family looking for missing 38-year-old Steamboat resident Matthew Shelters
5. Clark resident Sancy Shaw remembered as supermom, beloved teacher, believer of Christ
6. Body found on Emerald Mountain believed to be Steamboat man
7. Yampa River is placed on call for 1st time ever
8. Silver Creek fire blows up
9. Autopsy confirms Steamboat man’s cause of death
10. Results: Routt County 2018 election
Our most highly read stories of the year dealt with tragic events and natural disasters — the disappearance and death of Matthew Shelters, the Silver Creek wildfire and the untimely deaths of several beloved members of the Routt County community including North Routt teacher and mom of four Sancy Shaw, 10-year-old hockey player Drew Rushton, Hayden wrestling coach Chad Jones and Steamboat civic leader Mary Brown.
Our biggest news story of the year was most definitely the Matthew Shelters story.
We reported on the 38-year-old bartender’s disappearance in April and the discovery of his body near Soda Creek on July 4. We also published stories about the ongoing search, about Shelters himself, and last month, we reported on a detailed investigative summary that was conducted by local and state law enforcement officials following the discovery of Shelter’s body.
These stories were tough to tell for our reporters and painful to read for those who were grieving the loss of a friend and family member. During 2018, eight of those stories were among our top 25 most-read stories.
Our most engaging story was written by former Sports Editor Joel Reichenberger about Tim Fletcher’s battle with ALS and his determination that his disease would not keep him from watching his sons, Bryan and Taylor, compete in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The article was viewed over 6,000 times, and people, on average, spent more than 3 minutes reading the story, which is a significant amount of time when it comes to online news consumption.
The 2018 list of top stories reveals that our community, at its core, is compassionate — a quality that was confirmed when we reported in December that Steamboat Springs was the most generous city in the nation according to GoFundMe.
We also have learned this year that Steamboat comes together around issues that we’re passionate about as witnessed by several peaceful protests and marches that were held outside the historic Routt County Courthouse — students marched for their lives, and the community came out in droves to support them. Residents also stood for public lands when U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made an appearance in Steamboat.
Politics also fueled a midterm election that attracted record voter turnout in Routt County this past November. A newcomer unseated an incumbent in the race for county commissioner, and Beth Melton’s win symbolized a possible shift in local politics that mirrored what’s happening on the national level. Voters overwhelmingly renewed an education fund sales tax but narrowly defeated a tax to support winter air service, which seemed to provide a snapshot of local priorities.
And the interest people took in local election results also was impressive. Our 2018 election page and a story that provided readers with live updates on election night were among the year’s top 30 most-read stories when it came to online traffic.
Another big story of 2018 was the Olympic Games in South Korea. The fact that 15 athletes with Steamboat Springs ties competed in the Winter Games reignited the community’s pride in its Olympic heritage, and highlights of the competition were Arielle Gold’s bronze medal in the women’s halfpipe and Mick Dierdorff’s fifth-place finish in snowboard cross.
And then there were the feel-good stories that captured the hearts and interest of our readers, from local fireworks guru Tim Borden’s quest to create a world-record firework that will be shot off during this year’s Winter Carnival to the successful release back into the wild of an eagle that had recovered from lead poisoning as well as the usual stories of mischievous bears breaking into condos and Subarus in search of snacks.
It is impossible to list every story that made an impact in 2018, but after much thought and reflection, here are the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s top news stories of 2018.
Relief and sadness set in after police recovered the body of a man they believe is 38-year-old Steamboat Springs resident Matthew Shelters, who went missing more than two months ago. The body was found by Routt County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski on the afternoon of July 4 along the bank of Soda Creek just north of Steamboat city limits. “We’re very saddened by the outcome,” Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said. “We’re glad for the closure for the family. I think that’s something we desperately wanted to happen.”
Clark resident and North Routt Community Charter School teacher Sancy Shaw is being remembered as an amazing mother of four and pillar in the North Routt community. Shaw, 38, was killed Christmas Eve in a crash on Interstate 70 near Genesee and the exit for U.S. Highway 40, and Shaw’s 6-year-old daughter Charlee, who was a passenger in the car, was transported to Children’s Hospital in Aurora in critical condition.
A driver was cited by Steamboat Springs police after interrupting the “March for our Lives” demonstration with an obnoxious cloud of dark exhaust. The local event was part of a nationwide movement aimed at raising awareness around gun violence and school safety, and the peaceful protest turned hostile when a blue pickup drove by and spewed exhaust at the demonstrators on the sidewalk.
“New Steamboat Resort gondola to offer faster ride, more capacity,” Nov. 30, 2018
After years of pondering and planning, Steamboat Resort announced it will be replacing the gondola. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President and COO Rob Perlman made the surprise announcement during an event in Gondola Square, where he gave praise to a great early season and the work that staff has done to prepare the mountain.
“Hayden community mourns death of high school wrestling coach,” Sept. 18, 2018
Chad Jones represented Hayden High School when he was a senior by bringing home a state wrestling title, and he influenced his community by passing on his love of sports to a new generation of athletes as a youth football and wrestling coach. The 39-year-old Jones, who took the job as the Tigers head wrestling coach in 2012, died Sept. 17 in his Hayden home, and now the community he loved is grieving for a man who seemed to have an impact on the entire town.
“Protesters crash U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke’s speech,” Aug. 10, 2018
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s speech at the top of the gondola at Steamboat Resort on Aug. 10 was interrupted by two people who broke out in protest and had to be escorted out of the event, which was part of The Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference. It appeared the protesters had tickets to the event with plans to create a scene.
“Family celebrates son’s love of hockey, family, friends,” Dec. 4, 2018
It’s easy to hear the love in Yancey Rushton’s voice as he talks about his 10-year-old son, Drew, and compares him to the likable comic-strip character Dennis the Menace. In March, Yancey and his wife, Leigh, learned that Drew, their youngest son, was battling a rare condition called aplastic anemia where the body stops producing red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. On Dec. 2, with his mom curled up in the bed beside him and his hockey trading cards nearby, Drew died peacefully from pulmonary veno-occlusive disease caused by aplastic anemia.
“Steamboat’s Arielle Gold wins Olympic bronze in the halfpipe,” Feb. 12, 2018
Steamboat Springs snowboarder Arielle Gold won bronze in the halfpipe on her third and final run of the competition. Gold scored an 85.75, which moved her from fourth place to third, and she found redemption after bowing out of the Sochi Games with a dislocated shoulder.
“Steamboat fireworks guru Tim Borden going after world record,” June 3, 2018
Steamboat Springs fireworks fanatic Tim Borden will attempt to launch the largest firework ever set off in the world. To make it official, Borden will pay to have representatives from Guinness World Records visit Steamboat to verify the measurements before the 62-inch diameter shell is shot into the air during the Steamboat Springs Winter Sport Club’s Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza on Feb. 9.
“Smartwool announces headquarters will move from Steamboat to Denver,” Aug. 13, 2018
Smartwool employees are still processing news of the company’s planned move from Steamboat Springs to Denver. “It’s a very sad day to have to move out of this amazing community that we have here in Steamboat,” Smartwool President Jen McLaren said. Smartwool’s parent company, VF Corp., said the brand’s headquarters would be relocating to the Denver metro area within the next two years.
“Silver Creek Fire blows up, jumps containment lines,” Sept. 12, 2018
The Silver Creek Fire southeast of Steamboat Springs blew up Sept. 12, prompting evacuations and sending the fire over containment lines. It was the first time a large plume of smoke from the fire could be seen from Steamboat, prompting some community members to think it was a new fire.
“Yampa River is placed on call for first time ever,” Sept. 5, 2018
For the first time, water users on the main stem of the Yampa River have been curtailed. Due to low water conditions in the lower stretch of the river near Dinosaur National Monument, the Colorado Division of Water Resources placed a call on the river Sept. 4. The call applies to water users upstream from the river’s lowest diversion point, which essentially places the entire river on call.
The future of the air program that brings tourists to Steamboat Springs during the winter months is now in peril after voters defeated the sales tax. The issue failed 3,679 votes to 3,347 votes. “We’re good for this winter, but we’re obviously going to get into some serious discussions going forward,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Rob Perlman said. “All along, we’ve said if it doesn’t pass, we’ll have to make very difficult decisions. It doesn’t bode well for the air program.”
“Steamboat loses a leading citizen in Mary Brown Tomasini,” May 25, 2018
Former Steamboat Springs City Council President Mary Brown Tomasini, who played a role in the original construction of the Yampa River Core Trail and spearheaded the creation of the Steamboat Springs Boys & Girls Club, died May 24 in Denver from complications related to a severe spinal injury she suffered in summer 2017. She was 68.
There’s nothing Tim Fletcher loves more than watching his sons Bryan and Taylor — world-class athletes in Nordic combined — compete. Even though it was difficult, even though it was far, even though it was complicated, he wasn’t going to watch from home when his boys competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang — their second Olympics together and the third featuring at least one of his sons.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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