Top strange news stories from the past 25 years of the Steamboat Today newspaper
Aug. 25, 1993
Oak Creek motel offered as first prize in essay contest
Writers in Colorado and across the country had extra motivation to enter a local essay contest in August 1993. That’s when businesswoman Micki Stank offered up her Oak Creek motel, mobile home park and three-bedroom home as the prize for an essay contest. The contest asked entrants to submit a 250-word description of “Why I Want to Be the New Owner of a Resort in the Rocky Mountains.” The contest entry fee was $100. Stank, who was leaving the area to retire and spend more time with her family on the Front Range, said she was inspired by a similar contest for a bed and breakfast in Maine.“Leaving was a hard decision to make, but I’m not getting any younger,” Stank told the Steamboat Today. “The contest is a novel way of letting somebody do this who might never otherwise have a chance.”
Jan. 15, 1998
Had he not had a king-sized Snickers bar with him, Christian George would have been a lot worse off. George carefully rationed the candy as he endured sub-freezing temperatures for four days on Buffalo Pass in January 1998 after getting separated from friends while snowmobiling and getting lost. He eventually was spotted by a helicopter and rescued. George’s lucky streak didn’t last long, however. The next week, he was arrested for allegedly growing marijuana in his home in Larimer County. The arrest was initiated after a neighbor called to report a disturbance. They found George shouting in the street, claiming he was Jesus Christ.
May 18, 1999
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Colt saved in hot tub
It took some quick thinking and a neighbor’s hot tub to save a young horse from freezing to death in May 1999. Candy Bunn discovered the foal out in the cold on a routine check of her animals one morning. She initially thought it was dead. A neighbor carried the colt over to a nearby home and jumped fully clothed into a hot tub with the animal. They soaked for an hour until the horse’s temperature reached 98 degrees. The hot tub was reportedly a mess and took a long time to get a light brown color out following the soak. The tub’s owners didn’t mind, however. “It’s inspiring to see the foal come from near death back to life,” tub owner and neighbor Dick Gibbs told the Steamboat Today. “I feel great about the whole situation.”
Feb. 11, 2000
Car hit three times in one day
John T. Smith was perhaps the unluckiest man in Steamboat Springs on Feb. 11, 2000. That’s because his 1999 Subaru was struck by other vehicles three separate times in a short time period while sitting parked in the Christie base parking lot. “I’m a bit discouraged,” Smith told the Steamboat Today. “That wasn’t how I intended for my day to progress. I was going to meet friends to go skiing. Instead I watched my car turned into a bumper car.” His car was struck by vehicles that continued to lose control in the icy parking lot. Smith said it could have been worse. “All I know is I’m all right. I’m happy. It could be worse. It has to be humorous,” he said.
Feb. 8, 2001
Jail inmate goes on liquor run
A Routt County Jail inmate proved in 2001 you could escape from the jail for a quick liquor run without anyone noticing. But he also proved that if you drink what you bought back in the jail, you can get in some trouble. James Todd Reimer was serving two years at the Routt County Jail when he allegedly left his post shoveling snow outside the jail to buy a bottle of peppermint schnapps at a nearby liquor store. A long denim ranch jacket covered his inmate clothing. He and a fellow inmate reportedly were caught drinking the schnapps as they worked in the jail’s kitchen preparing cookies later the same night. Reimer faced charges of introducing contraband into jail and possessing contraband in jail, both felonies.
Guns hidden along Spring Creek
The Spring Creek Trail is no place to hide your guns. Steamboat Springs police arrested a Louisville man who was suspected of hiding a rifle and a semi-automatic handgun about 5 yards away from the popular trail in plain view. The weapons had rounds in them and sat next to a black sack full of ammunition. Chadwick Lee Wells was accused of hiding the weapons there and was arrested on suspicion of illegal possession of weapons and reckless endangerment. He told police a Mexican gangster was following him and had been trying to kill him for eight years.
Dozens of cats go missing in Steamboat Springs
July 2004 wasn’t a good time to be a cat in Steamboat Springs. There were reports of 50 missing cats at the time. The Colorado Division of Wildlife said the spike in missing cat reports likely was caused by a mix of predation by coyotes and foxes. Some in the city described the culprit as a mix of a dog and a coyote. Some of the cats made it home, while others weren’t so lucky.
Ferret gets new wheels
Scooter, the paralyzed ferret, was very lucky to meet Bill Higby, a local toy maker, who crafted a scooter for Scooter that helped the ferret regain its mobility. Scooter was previously named Two Cents, and under a previous owner, he was paralyzed while at a Rainbow Family gathering up in North Routt County. Higby told the Steamboat Today that Scooter was the sweetest ferret he’s ever owned.
Jan. 29, 2009
Spider bite leads to international hunt
Parents do anything for their children, and Benji Amsden traveled hundreds of miles to save one of his. The story of how Steamboat resident Amsden traveled to Mexico to get a foreign cure for his son suffering from a Black Widow bite gained national attention in 2009. A Hollywood production company planned to do a production on the adventure. When their son Mike was bitten by the poisonous spider in 2007, Amsden and Susie Mankens decided to forgo the use of an antivenin available in a local hospital that carried potentially fatal side effects. The family located an antivenin in Mexico City that was successful in treating Mike.
July 23, 2009
Death of Cowboy Bob brings closure in Routt County
The death of Oak Creek’s only homeless man ended a 25-year mystery a family was trying to solve in upstate New York. Known affectionately as Cowboy Bob here in Routt County, he was known as Bobby Matteson back home in New York. He left his home after returning from Vietnam and his family never heard from him until his death in Oak Creek. The family spent years searching for him using attorneys and private investigators. He had spent about seven or eight years in Oak Creek working odd jobs and spending nights at local bars. Although the news of his death was hard to hear, family members found closure and comfort after they finally figured out where Bobby had gone.
Dec. 13, 2011
Epic horseback ride ends with police chase
Had it not been for a Corona beer left in a saddle bag, a trio of horseback riders may never have made the front page of the Steamboat Today and become the most-read news story of 2011. After a day of galloping through town, riding through the aisles of Safeway and then trotting from bar to bar on Lincoln Avenue, things got out of hand on a Sunday night at the Old Town Pub. The staff at the establishment was initially cool with the idea of letting a horse into the bar, but not cool with the fact that the rider was bringing in a beer from the outside. When horseback rider Mike Miller tried to retrieve the beer from the bar staff for his friend who had brought it in, there was a scuffle between Miller and bar staff and police were called. Police chased the three horseback riders to a point along the railroad tracks near the Depot Art Center. Police used a Taser on Miller after they said he refused to dismount his horse. The friends’ epic horseback ride through town made national and international headlines.
May to July 2013
Bear targets Subarus
A young black bear that learned how to open car doors in Steamboat Springs gave residents here another reason to lock their vehicles in 2013. The bear especially had a knack for breaking into Subarus. Early in the morning of May 29, police were called about a bear that locked itself inside a Subaru hatchback on Ridge Road and alerted the property owner to the situation by honking the car’s horn. Police opened the car doors and let the bear out. The suspect bear later was trapped by wildlife officers and relocated.
Dec. 6, 2013
Dog has bad pot trip
Hailey the border collie became a local example of the dangers of leaving marijuana lying around in an era when the drug is becoming more common. It was suspected Hailey ingested marijuana that someone left behind at a park in Steamboat, and after a week, the dog still had not returned to being her old self. Local veterinarians reported the number of dogs they suspected had ingested marijuana was on the rise after the drug’s legalization here in Colorado.
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Steamboat Springs Planning Commission members will hold a non-voting discussion Thursday on where they would recommend establishing zones restricting or prohibiting short-term rentals, known as overlay zones.