Tales from the Tread: Museum receives Steamboat Pilot photo collection

Steamboat Pilot & Today

A vital part of Steamboat Springs’ history has been saved through the efforts of the Tread of Pioneers Museum and Steamboat Pilot & Today. The museum is proud to announce that it has received the entire historic photograph collection of The Steamboat Pilot newspaper — Steamboat Springs’ longest running newspaper and oldest local business, since 1885.

“When we (The Steamboat Pilot & Today) began planning our move to our new, more compact location on Yampa Street in downtown Steamboat Springs, we sorted through the photo archives and quickly realized we had accumulated a treasure trove of history and we needed a partner to help us preserve it,” said Steamboat Pilot & Today Editor Lisa Schlichtman.

In order to preserve this incredible piece of our history, Tread of Pioneers Museum’s Executive Director Candice Bannister stepped up and offered to take the substantial collection of approximately 10,000 photographs, digital images, slides, negatives and contact sheets. The organization and scanning of the massive photograph collection will become a multi-year project for the museum, and fundraising efforts have begun to support the efforts.

“The newspaper’s photographic lens has created an extremely valuable collection that must be preserved and made accessible through the museum’s digitization efforts. We knew it would be a lot of work, and would require a major shift in projects and attention for our staff and resources over the next few years, but this is an incredible opportunity, and this priceless collection warrants our focus and efforts,” said Bannister.

The museum hired and worked with a professional photo archivist to review, assess and plan for the project. Museum staff will begin the enormous task of sorting the materials before scanning the images, researching and documenting associated information, and adding all of the information into the museum’s searchable photo database at The collection will be joined with more than 7,000 images that the museum has already digitized and preserved since 2002 that are accessible to all users online. The Tread of Pioneers Museum hosts the only online photo database in Northwest Colorado, and has spent over 15 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on photographic preservation and digitization.

“Not only did we receive high quality photographs from trained photojournalists, but we also received reporter notes and copy material, as well as associated printed newspaper articles,” explained the museum’s Curator, Katie Adams. “This provides the museum and the public with background information and photograph identifications that deepen the collection and its value–it’s really remarkable.”

Initially, museum staff will focus on early photos of Steamboat history (1881-circa 1969). However, the majority of the collection dates from the 1970s-1990s, which is an exciting addition to the museum’s archives. More recent photo subjects include the following.

  • Denver’s failed bid for the 1976 Winter Olympics, 1970-1972
  • Ski area gondola accident, January 1972
  • Stagecoach Ski Area, 1972-1974
  • Yampa River flood, 1974
  • Rocky Mountain Airways crash on Buffalo Pass, December 1978
  • Snow drought, 1976-77 and 1980
  • Twentymile Coal Co. opening, 1983
  • Good News Building explosion, February 1993
  • Gerald Boggs murder trial, 1993-1994
  • Lake Catamount ski resort controversy, 1993-1995
  • Mount Zirkel Wilderness tree blowdown, 1997

“When I picked the first random unmarked envelope, I discovered at least a dozen photographs from the 1978 Rocky Mountain Airways airplane crash site,” said Adams. “This is an important event in our history that made national headlines, and though we had newspaper articles on file in our research center, we did not have photographs from this event in our current photo collection. The Pilot’s collection shows us how much we have yet to collect and preserve to thoroughly chronicle the history of our region.”

Roles of newspapers in communities cannot be overstated. The Steamboat Pilot newspaper, from its earliest days, was a critical communication vehicle that helped to connect isolated homesteads, ranches and community members with neighborhood happenings and news from around the region, state and country. For over 130 years, The Steamboat Pilot has chronicled and captured the local business, promotion, development, daily activities, major events, significant people, births, deaths, marriages and milestones that capture the history and heritage of our region.

“The museum has been an amazing partner, and I am beyond thrilled that the area’s history as chronicled by Steamboat Pilot & Today journalists will be saved,” said Schlichtman. “I personally have a deep love and appreciation for history, and in my opinion, these photographs and yellowed clippings are priceless.”

The Tread of Pioneers Museum staff will work with the Steamboat Pilot & Today staff to print significant and unusual photographs from collection in the newspaper. Stay tuned for more on this exciting project.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum is actively fundraising for this important project. To contribute to the Steamboat Pilot photo project, contact Candice Bannister at the Tread of Pioneers Museum at 970-879-2214 or

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