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Steamboat’s new school will be named Sleeping Giant School

The new school in West Steamboat Springs will be called Sleeping Giant School. The Steamboat Springs School Board voted on the name Monday.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s official: the new pre-K through eighth-grade school under construction in West Steamboat Springs will be called Sleeping Giant School.

The Steamboat Springs School Board voted Monday between the top two choices brought forth through a committee and a community survey — Elk Mountain or Sleeping Giant — which both refer to the same distinct and storied landmark that creates the western backdrop for downtown.

Because the new campus is neither an elementary or a middle school, the committee recommended keeping the name simple with the word “school” rather than a name that indicated grade levels, said committee chair Lara Craig.

The majority of board members favored Sleeping Giant, which in some variation was the top vote getter in the community survey by a significant margin.

The committee was comprised of school staff, students, parents, community members and residents of Silver Spur and Steamboat II subdivisions, which border the property where the new school is being built.

The third favorite name option was Mary Brown, but school policy requires schools to be named after a geographical landmark. Craig said the committee urged the naming of a street or auditorium or other component of the new campus after Brown, a former council president and supporter of education. Brown passed away in 2018.

Craig also recommended incorporating Sandhill Cranes — as the school is near a nesting ground — and she noted the neighborhood holds the “adopted” birds in high esteem. Crane Lane was a popular idea for a road name.

Board President Kelly Latterman was the only board member who leaned toward Elk Mountain, but she still gave her full support to Sleeping Giant. She said having the notion of “sleeping” in the name of a school gave her pause, and she liked the roots of Elk Mountain as a namesake.

There were no comments from the public during the meeting.

Craig said she liked the nod toward the Ute Indian legend, as well as the appeal of the name to kids.

It won’t be the only Sleeping Giant School. There is at least one other in the country — Sleeping Giant Middle School in Livingston, Montana.

There are a few versions of the legend of the sleeping giant — a figure of local lore who, in one story, was cast into a permanent slumber after he saved the valley he loved dearly from an evil ogre.

The giant had been granted eternal life as long as he didn’t harm another being, but in order to defeat the ogre, he lured it to Steamboat Lake where the ogre fell into quicksand. The valley turned out for a ceremony to put the giant to rest, surrounding him with rattlesnakes so he would not be disturbed.

The giant is also often tied to the “Yampa Valley Curse,” which is said to make people who leave the valley forever yearn to return.

The Sleeping Giant legend is also attributed to the Ute Indians, to whom the mountain was said to be sacred land. Out of fear of losing their sacred place to the white people who were taking over the land, the Utes hunted all the rattlesnakes in the valley and set them loose on the Sleeping Giant for protection.

One of the first references to the name on record comes from a Nov. 18, 1908, story in the Steamboat Pilot. In that article, part of an edition focused on showcasing the valley’s attributes, a Steamboat mayor and realtor wrote about the future of the town and the new railroad, describing the landscape: “… over the low hills to the north can be seen the gentle slopes of Elk Mountain, the ‘Sleeping Giant,’ in the adjoining valley…” 

The earliest reference to Elk Mountain points to the name of a voting precinct in the 1896 election.

Regardless of the real origin story, there is one thing that isn’t disputed: That hill over there to the west sure does look like a big guy dozing on his back and makes for lovely ski mountain vistas and purple sunset panoramas.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.


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