Steamboat: A Historic Town Turned Ski Empire

Established almost a century and a half ago when settlers discovered the mineral hot springs long-coveted by the nomadic Native Americans, Steamboat Springs has become one of Colorado’s largest and (arguably) best ski resorts.  

What now is a bustling town situated within the idyllic Yampa Valley, Steamboat was once the summer hunting grounds for Native American tribes, specifically those of the indigenous Ute communities. The valley’s natural meadows and overflowing springs made for irresistible grazing lands. In addition to ample food supply, it was believed that the land was enriched with many health benefits, from the mineral-filled waters to the youthful nature of the valley. But as temperatures plummeted, the Ute tribes migrated west to chase the warmth. 

It wasn’t until the late 1800s, that inspirations of a town were first introduced. Attracted by its beauty and vast resources, businessman James Crawford saw immediate potential in the valley. With the help of some colleagues, James prompted the foundation of the Steamboat Springs Township Company in 1883. By 1902 the town had several hotels, banks, grocers, and local businesses. The railroad was built in 1909, and with it came the tourists. As the town began to gain recognition, many such as Norwegian outdoorsman Carl Howelsen were allured by its potential. An avid ski jumper, Carl spearheaded the town’s transition into all things snow, specifically its first ski resort and the now-named Howelsen Hill. By 1960, Mount Werner was Steamboat’s official second ski area.  The terrain became so popular that in 2010, the resort even trademarked its own snow, naming it “Champagne Powder” after the extremely light and dry texture.

Today, the Steamboat Ski Resort boasts nearly 3,000 acres with 170 runs and 17 lifts.  It is currently being enhanced and expanded and when complete, Steamboat will be Colorado’s second-largest ski resort. Although certainly among the notable ski empires on the map, Steamboat Springs is recognized for its authenticity–a characteristic that can only come from a town so rich with history. 

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Hallie Myhre & Christy Belton

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