History of Steamboat Springs
When people think of Steamboat Springs, they might conjure up thoughts of 'Ski Town USA', or world-famous tree skiing through Champagne Powder snow at the Steamboat Ski Resort. Or they might think of a genuine community with a generations-old ranching heritage and abundant year-round outdoor activities. Some might remember the people of Steamboat Springs and how they go out of their way to say hello, or a quick smile and wave from a friend or acquaintance on the street. None of these people would be wrong - Steamboat Springs is all these things, and more.
The Ute Indians were the first to inhabit the Yampa Valley, hundreds of years before fur trappers came to Steamboat in the early 1800's. They were likely here for the lush valley in the summertime and the abundant hunting opportunities throughout the region. At some point the trappers thought they heard the chugging sound of a steamboat steam engine, but it was actually a bubbling mineral spring that sounded like a steamboat - hence the name 'Steamboat Springs'.
Ranching has always had a stronghold on Steamboat Springs and the Yampa Valley. To this day ranching, cattle and hay production serve as the livelihoods for many residents of Routt County. In the early 1900's, Steamboat Springs was the largest exporter of cattle in the western United States. In addition to ranching, mining is another industry that helped build the foundation and heritage of Steamboat Springs before the first ski-turns were carved down the mountain. Today the Twentymile Coal Mine outside of Steamboat Springs is the fourth largest underground coal mine in the US.
Although ranching and mining are still alive and well in Steamboat, it is the tourism industry that now dominates the local economy. In the early 1900's skis were one of the best ways to get around town in the winter time. In 1913 the legendary Carl Howelsen moved to town and started ski-jumping. Howelsen, dubbed the 'Flying Norseman', built a 100-foot jump and solidified himself as the father of skiing in Steamboat. Howelsen Hill is the oldest continuously running ski area in Colorado, founded in 1915 by Howelsen himself. Now Steamboat Springs boasts over 54 Olympic athletes, more than any other state and possibly more than any town in the world.
Ski Area Arrives
In 1963 the Steamboat Ski Resort launched as Storm Mountain with one lift and an A-frame warming hut at the base. The mountain was renamed Mt. Werner in 1964 after Buddy Werner, a famous local Olympic skier who, sadly, died in an avalanche. Today the Steamboat Ski Resort boasts over 19 lifts (including the Silver Bullet Gondola), 128 runs, and almost 3000 skiable acres of terrain. Steamboat averages 350 inches of snow per year and is famous for its tree skiing and light, fluffy, 'Champagne Powder' snow.
Today the summertime in Steamboat Springs is almost as popular as the winter, with tourists and locals alike. The Yampa River serves as a recreational magnet, drawing fisherman, rafters, kayakers, and tubers into the water. Activities throughout the summer like the Steamboat Marathon, Fourth of July Cowboy Roundup Days, the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, Art in the Park, the Summer Free Concert Series and Strings in the Mountains Music Festival are all good reasons to spend time in Steamboat during the summer.
Though Steamboat Springs evolves and changes with the seasons and years, the genuine community spirit, caring residents, and lush abundant valley anchors the place Steamboat's residents call home.
For more information about the rich history and heritage of the Steamboat Springs area, please check out the Tread of Pioneers Museum.