Tom Ross: Pine Grove Road before it was paved

Tom Ross

Keith Selbe stands outside one of the cabins at his former property on Pine Grove Road. (Courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The public uproar this month over the Steamboat Springs City Council’s approval of a new Marriott hotel at the Selbe property on Pine Grove Road took me back 43 years to the winter of 1975-76, when Pine Grove Road was yet to be paved.

I lived on Pine Grove Road that season and took daily ski-fitness jogs on its gravel surface through the fall. Oftentimes, the only vehicle I encountered was the Jeep driven by Keith Selbe. He always lifted his forefinger from the steering wheel — a subtle symbol of acceptance.

Weeks earlier, with my fresh diploma from the University of Wisconsin, a manual typewriter and an orange crate of rock albums in the back seat of my Opel coupe, I had moved to Steamboat based solely on an article in SKI magazine, about a “cowboy ski town.”

I found two guys to share a two-bedroom apartment at the relatively new Pine Grove apartments, which are now the Legacy Vacation resort timeshare.

Steamboat Springs was a very different town in the mid-’70s, and so was Pine Grove Road. There were no stoplights, no roundabouts, no fast food restaurants for miles.

Both grocery stores were downtown. City Market was where Natural Grocers is today, and Safeway was diagonally across the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Third Street, where the U.S. Post Office is today.

The biggest advantage to living at the Pine Grove was the fact that it was immediately behind the Pine Grove restaurant, which did, and still does, occupy a historic barn that dates to the late 19th century.

In those days, the Pine Grove hosted rock bands in the former hayloft. Needless to say, we spent a good deal of time there. On nights when we stayed in the apartment, the muted thump of the bass guitar rocked us to sleep.

Read more

Read more about Keith and Anne Selbe’s life together in Steamboat Springs in the online version of Three Wire Winter magazine, hosted by the Bud Werner Memorial Library. Thanks to the Tread of Pioneers archive, you can also listen to the Selbe’s describe their lives in Steamboat in their own voices.

During that first winter in Steamboat, we would end the ski day with a screaming run down See Me and continue right down Ski Time Square Drive to Dos Amigos for happy hour. But don’t bother looking for “Dos” today. It was torn down a decade ago on a site that has yet to be re-developed.

We all know change is a fact of life, and I’m somewhat hesitant to criticize city officials for approving the new Marriott. After all, it’s on a parcel of land zoned for commercial activity. It’s also the case that we’ve had more than five years to do something about it, since a less intrusive development plan approved in 2007 on the same site came to a halt in the Great Recession.

Still, I think we’ve lost an opportunity.

In two recent trips to cities with national historic districts, from Bisbee, Arizona, to Walla Walla, Washington, I was reminded how it is historic neighborhoods and commercial districts that create identity in resort communities like ours.

The stand of tall pines, which shades a historic log home with significant stonework at the hotel site next to Fish Creek, is part of the community’s heritage, and it’s slipping away.

Selbe grew up on a cattle ranch in Kansas and died in 1994 at age 81. He was every bit a cowboy — competing in roping events at the rodeo and favoring sorrel quarterhorses bred in the Elk River Valley by Quentin Semotan.

And to be accurate, Selbe was also tolerant of change.

“I have always lived among good neighbors here and still do,” he told a Steamboat Springs High School student writing for Three Wire Winter in 1982. “I find out that, as I get acquainted with new people, they are good people too.”

I just wish I’d done more to preserve Keith and Anne’s legacy, along with their hideaway in the pines.

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

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