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Tom Ross: A serious newspaper enriches every community

Tom Ross
Tom Ross staff photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — I’ll never forget the day in late January 1979 when I walked through the door of the historic Steamboat Pilot newspaper building to interview for an open position for a sports and education reporter.

I was pretty darn confident about my chances. After all, I’d come off a two-year stint at the Chilton Times Journal, deep in America’s Dairyland.

I had covered a grim murder trial, interviewed future Oakland Raiders Hall of Famer Dave Casper and his coach, John Madden, in the locker room after a game in Lambeau Field. Most impressive, in my mind, is that I visited and wrote about 75 dairy farms over the course of two years.

Still, I came close to blowing my chances with the late, great Pilot Editor Dee Richards by showing up for our interview in inappropriate attire. Blame it on my father who preached to me, “You can never be over-dressed for a job interview.”

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Hence, I walked through the door of the Pilot office on Lincoln Avenue wearing a three-piece suit and a tie. It may be that the only thing that saved me was the fact that my hair was suitably long for the late ’70s.

It got back to me that Dee broke out in a fit of giggles after I left the building. My new colleagues Ross Dolan, Paula Lawrence and Christine McKelvie straightened me out later.

In spite of my sartorial peculiarities, I got the job. And my first sports story published on page 3 of section C, of the March 1, 1979, edition of the Pilot. The story was about area ranchers who lived for chariot races in the snow. The text was accompanied by my photograph of a pair of quarter horses pulling a rancher perched in a homemade chariot.

The sporting event, which took place on a quarter-mile straightaway on the south side of the rodeo arena at Howelsen Hill, was completely new to me. Each heat involved two teams, and Colorado law allowed Calcutta betting —the highest bidder for each team was in on the action.

The pounding hooves of the teams kicking up snow, and the drivers urging the horses on even as they struggled to keep their footing in the homemade “chariots” — typically a modified 80 gallon oil drum on light, spoke wheels — was thrilling.

Just think. I had yet to cover my first ski jumping contest and World Pro slalom ski race. And there were rodeos, kayak races and elk hunting trips to tag along on. I understood that there would also be many government meetings in my future, but I could hardly imagine a better small market newspaper than the Steamboat Pilot for a writer who loved photography.

Tom Ross retired from the Steamboat Pilot & Today in 2018 after 36 years in the newspaper business. He continues to write a regular column for the paper.


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