Tales from the Tread: Valley View Lodge
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
For over 83 years, the Valley View Lodge property below the West Summit of Rabbit Ears Pass has been home to a variety of businesses including a lodge, farm-to-table restaurant, private prep school, tennis center and condominium complex.
Les and Clara Chalmers purchased the 160 acres known as “the potato patch” from A. H. Poppen in 1936. Their vision was to build a lodge, restaurant and tourist cabins on the property that was just 9 miles east of downtown Steamboat Springs, adjacent to the current Timbers Condominiums. Clara Chalmers’ goal was to serve “fresh vegetables from her garden, fresh eggs and poultry, and dairy products from the ranch.” The new Valley View Lodge opened with a party on New Year’s Eve, 1937.
Valley View quickly became a “popular place for Sunday vacationing, for dinners and parties and club meetings,” as reported by the Steamboat Pilot. “Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers and the latter’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. O. W. Anderson, have transformed the ranch into an attractive resort.”
The lodge became a four-season destination in November 1937, when the U.S. Forest Service constructed a 3.5-mile ski run on Rabbit Ears Pass, beginning at the ranger station and ending at Valley View. Varying from flat to a steep 55% grade, the trail ran along the telephone right-of-way. Less-daring skiers could opt for a cross-country course atop the old highway. Those same trails were popular summer hiking paths. In winter 1938, the “ski club of Steamboat Springs” provided a bus to take skiers from town to the lodge and the Rabbit Ears ranger station on Sundays and holidays.
Tragically, Les Chalmers died in October 1952 in a ranching accident. Clara Chalmers then sold the lodge, ranch and surrounding grazing land for $30,000. In December 1954, a fire destroyed the lodge, after firemen fought the blaze in sub-zero temperatures. The lodge, including kitchen, dining room, living room and bedrooms, burned to the ground. The service station, garage, five cabins and utility buildings were not damaged. Thankfully, no one was injured.
Rebuilt within six months, the new lodge had 21 rooms, including 13 bedrooms, four baths, a kitchen, utility room, a living room with a large fireplace and a dining room that could serve 40 patrons.
The property changed hands multiple times in the 1960s and was eventually subdivided. In 1969, a group of local investors announced that the “lodge and cabin complex will now be known as Storm Mountain Inn.”
Numerous facilities were developed, including condominiums, a swimming pool and a tennis center. The Cliff Buchholz Tennis School was established in 1972 and was succeeded by the Colorado Ski and Racquet Club. At one time, the complex included six championship courts, spectator seating for 150, and a 6,200-square-foot pavilion.
Buckingham Academy, a private, four-year, coeducational high school, opened Sept. 6, 1973, adjacent to the tennis center. Sixty-seven students from 21 states attended the first year. Disaster struck when a predawn fire in February 1975 destroyed the boys’ dormitory, and the school closed in 1976 due to financial problems.
The Timbers Restaurant was listed for sale along with the lodge, tennis and swimming facilities in 1977. The Golden Eagle Restaurant at Sky Valley Lodge opened for dinners and barbecues in 1979. The lodge encouraged visitors to “relax and catch that Above it All feeling” for a special nightly rate of $29 in July 1981.
In January 1988, the property called Sky Valley was put on the market. It encompassed 76 acres including the former tennis center, restaurant and several other buildings. Like a phoenix, Sky Valley Lodge rose again and reopened in 1990, offering complimentary breakfast and romantic getaway lodging packages.
“I fondly remember going up to the Sky Valley Lodge for dinner in 1999 to 2000,” Tread of Pioneers Museum Executive Director Candice Bannister said. “A well-known chef named Tom served a handful of nightly specials, no menu, and it was some of the best food and atmosphere in town. The small dining room held maybe 10 tables, and the ’80s ski lodge feel transported you to another time.”
What do you remember about the Valley View Lodge or Sky Valley Lodge? Post your comments on the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Written by Christine McKelvie and Cheri Daschle.
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