Quaint Museum Reveals Steamboat Spring’s Rich History.

Ski Joring was the way to get around the valley when the snows came.
Credit TOP Museum

In 1947 an AP dispatch to 1,000 daily papers dubbed Steamboat Springs, Colo., “Ski Town, USA” with the declaration that of its 1,700 residents, 1,685 were skiers.

The others were children under the age of one.

Enthusiasm for skiing run deeps in this town. And you can learn all about it at The Tread of Pioneers Museum in downtown Steamboat. Native Utes, trappers, Yampa Valley settlers, ranchers, miners, farmers, cowboys, skiers, ski jumpers, snowboarders, outlaws, and lawmen, they all shared a part in the creation of this friendly town, sitting just below one of Colorado’s best loved ski resorts.

Famed Norwegian ski-jumper and circus star Carl Howelson arrived in 1913 and taught early residents of Steamboat Springs how to ski and ski jump. Suddenly, the valley’s ranchers were exploring the surrounding mountains on homemade wooden skis, school kids filled recess with downhill races, and locals became expert jumpers.

Billy Kidd, first American to medal in Alpine skiing, has lived in SBS since 1970. Here he is at 20.
Credit: TOP Museum

Favorite fact: Three Wire Winter is agricultural lingo used in the Yampa Valley to indicate that snow has reached the third strand of barbed wire on a four-strand fence, roughly 30 inches. A three-wire winter is just about right, with enough snowpack for spring run-off; more makes it difficult for feeding cattle in winter as well as damage to the barb-wire fences, according to Bill Fletcher, an Elk River Rancher.

The museum has an extensive historic photography collection, a few of which are included here. Go to the museum website to view and purchase online.

The museum is located downtown at 800 Oak Street. New exhibits this year include Staking Their Claim: Pioneer Settlement in the Yampa Valley highlighting early Yampa Valley settlers; Pioneer Kids Bedroom: Hands-on Discovery, letting kids dress up in historic clothes and play with antique toys; and A Legacy of Learning: Celebrating 50 Years of Colorado Mountain College and the Bud Werner Memorial Library exhibit, highlighting these two key local institutions; and the works of portrait and Native American photographer Edward S. Curtis.

The Museum Gift Shop has locally made jewelry, postcards, and photographs. Hours & Admission: Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $6 for adults, $5 seniors over 62, $2 children ages 6-12, under 6 free.

The Harbor Hotel sleigh picked up skiers from the train depot and delivered them to the popular hotel at 7th and Lincoln, circa 1957.
Credit: TOP Museum


  1. Caption reads that Billy Kidd was the first American to medal in Alpine skiing. This is incorrect. Andrea Meade Lawrence won two gold medals in the 1952 Games. Jean Saubert won two medals, bronze and silver, during the same Olympics as Billy Kidd. He won one, the silver.

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