Steamboat’s silver linings: Linda Danter finds joy in almost everything
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The late, Pulitzer prize-winning poet Mary Oliver gave three instructions about how to live a life: 1. Pay attention. 2. Be astonished. 3. Tell about it.
For the last 16 years that Linda Danter has worked as a guest service representative for Steamboat Resort, she has done just that.
She continues to find wonders in her daily duties on the mountain, sparking conversations with strangers and sharing her love of the local wildlife.
During a typical workday, Danter dons her yellow jacket, radio and, perhaps most important, the same cowgirl hat she has worn during her years at the ski area. She bedazzled it with red beads for Valentine’s Day and regularly accessorizes the rest of her uniform with Western-themed jewelry.
On Friday, she chose a pair of sterling silver earrings that matched the youthful twinkle in her eyes.
“I always try to dress up to make the guest smile,” she said.
Danter’s primary job is to manage the other yellow-jacketed ambassadors who give tours to guests and answer visitors’ questions throughout the day. She also skis around the resort and offers help to people who may have broken a piece of equipment or gotten lost on a trail.
“I’ve been called the map fairy,” she said. “They open a map, and I pop up.”
When not busy with all of that, Danter is probably checking in on her two favorite porcupines — but more on that, later.
Danter loves Steamboat Springs and the mountains that have become her office. She treats her job as more than just a means to a paycheck. It is a way to enjoy, as Oliver would call it, her one wild and precious life.
“I’ve spent my whole life having fun while I was working,” Danter said. “I guess I’m still doing that.”
Danter grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Even after decades in the mountains, she hasn’t shaken that unmistakable accent.
East Coast roots
Some people think she sounds like singer-songwriter — and fellow New York native — Cyndi Lauper, but she doesn’t hear the resemblance.
Her mother, now in her 90s, still lives in a full-security, high-rise apartment in the city. When Danter goes back to visit, she quickly remembers why she left.
New York, with all its concrete and industry and race-to-the-top mentality, can seem like a cold, heartless place to someone who prefers porcupines and human connection.
“People get in the elevator and don’t look at me,” Danter said. “That’s what I don’t like about cities.”
In Steamboat, she has no shortage of people she can chat with on the street, most of whom she recognizes from the ski resort or some program or fundraiser she has helped with over the years. She likes that other locals are just as sociable.
“When you go to City Market, you have to leave extra time because you’re going meet so many people that you know,” she said.
Danter graduated from college on the East Coast with a master’s degree in recreation administration. She immediately moved to Steamboat with her husband Rich in 1976. She took a job as a teacher at the community college in town, but class sizes were so small back then that she couldn’t get reliable work.
Danter eventually found work as a PE teacher at a school in Boulder at Baseline Middle School.
“It doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.
She loved Steamboat so much that she refused to permanently move to the Front Range. Instead, she bought a house in Boulder and stayed there only during the school week. On the weekends, she returned to play in the Yampa Valley.
Come Monday, she would wake up at 3 a.m. to make it on time to classes.
Danter brought the same gusto for her teaching job that she has maintained ever since. In addition to classes, she said she coached every sport offered at the school, except soccer.
Some of her former students, now grown up with kids of their own, visit Steamboat and seek out Danter while they’re here.
“They come and find me because they know this is where I am,” she said.
While no longer a teacher, Danter still makes lasting impressions on the people she meets around the mountain. She takes the singles lane at lift lines, so she can strike up conversation with new faces.
She loves how much she can learn about a person in a short, five-minute ride up a lift.
“You just ask them a single question, and they go off,” she said.
Perhaps, the only thing that Danter loves more than the people who visit the ski are the animals who call it home.
Like Oliver, who used the natural world as creative fodder for her poems, Danter delights in the mountain wildlife and regularly shares her joy with guests.
One of her “secret jobs” is to fill the bird feeders at several locations around the resort. Guests can spot one of the feeders attached to the signs at the top of Why Not. Another is at the Bar UE ski lift.
Danter even knows which aspen trees the bears like to scratch their claws on.
And, as foreshadowed, she loves porcupines — two in particular. They usually hang out in the trees to the side of the Ego run, north of the Thunderhead Lodge.
Their names are Burgess and Burgette, according to Danter, named after the creek that flows to the left of the run.
If she spots them, Danter will beckon kids to stop and take a look. She sometimes yells up at the porcupines and urges them to dance.
“Shake, shake Burgess!” she shouts. “Shake, shake Burgette!”
She said her enthusiasm spreads to the kids, who jump up and down at the sight of the quilled animals.
“I’m sure the porcupines are like, ‘Why is that wild woman is screaming at us every day,”’ Danter said, smiling.
Those who know and adore Danter can take comfort that she has no plans of leaving the resort any time soon.
“As long as I keep having fun, I’m going to keep doing it,” she said.
Her eyes glistened with tears as she talked about how grateful she is to have found a place she loves so much.
As per Oliver’s instructions, Danter makes sure to tell people all about it.
She wiped her eyes and said, with conviction pure as a poem, “This is such a wonderful place to share with people.”
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