Community legends honored with awards

— One legend and one future legend with connections to the ski history of Steamboat Springs were recently honored for their contributions to the community by receiving the Stanley L. Larson Award and the Leckenby Pioneer Award.
The awards are given to community minded people who have a historic connection to Routt County.
The Larson Award, which goes to someone who has passed away, was awarded to Gates Gooding, 1922-1972. Gooding, who has family lineage in Steamboat dating back to the late 1800s, is one of the best symbols of the cohesive link between the city of Steamboat Springs and skiing in the Yampa Valley.
An avid skier himself, Gooding was the president of the Winter Sports Club, president of the Chamber of Commerce and the city clerk for Steamboat Springs.
As owner for the Routt County Abstract Company, many of the duties of the city, ski club and chamber happened right in Gooding's office, said Lynn Abbott, Gooding's niece who presented the award.
"The place was always buzzing," Abbott said.
Gooding also helped raise funds to send local skier Bud Werner to the Olympics in the '60s and then was the driving force behind the construction and naming of the Bud Werner Library.
His son, Tyler Gooding, accepted the award on Oct. 30. He said it was an honor that the community recognize a man who "never would toot his own horn," Tyler Gooding said.
"It was great. I always thought that he was one of the greatest unsung heroes in town," he said.
Gates Gooding also was a 13-year member of the Ski Club Board, Winter Carnival chairman and chief of the cross-country course during events such as the Junior Nationals and the NCAA Championships.
A one-time competitive skier, Gooding was known in Steamboat as "Mr. Ski Town," according to a 1969 Steamboat Pilot article on the legend.
Gooding started out skiing at age 5, exploring the backcountry with his father. That eventually led him to race in alpine events for the University of Colorado. However, his willingness to volunteer for anything that has to do with skiing is really what gave him the nickname and is what earned him the Larson Award.
"He was willing to help anybody," Tyler Gooding said.
Gooding married Steamboat native Doris Harwig in the '40s. She helped Gates with his business and volunteering.
"I am really nothing without my wonderful, wonderful wife," he once said.
The Leckenby Pioneer Award was given to lifetime Steamboat local Pete Wither.
"I was surprised and totally flattered," Wither said about the award. "It feels great to be up there with the other people that have been recognized."
The 20-year-old award goes to someone who embodies the values of the pioneer spirit in Routt County and is applying those perspectives as an active community member.
Wither's grandparent's were involved with the gold rush to Hahn's Peak in 1888 until the gold went dry in 1902. The couple then moved to Steamboat Springs, where they owned a mercantile and later had Wither's father.
Wither may be best known for his 30 years of work with the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Until last year, he was the company's ski patrol director.
Wither was a City Council member from 1983 to 1991 and is currently the president of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, Rocky Mountain Youth Corp. and the Routt County Riders Bicycle Club. He also is the vice president of the Parks and Recreation Commission.
"My family has been here a long time and I just want to give back to the community," Wither said.
With the ski patrol job behind him, Wither is working in real estate. Along with that transition out of skiing, he is making an impact on another sport that is blooming in Steamboat Springs: mountain biking.
In 1991, Wither convinced Ski Corp. to develop the trail system on the mountain.
"I not only helped with the design," Wither said of his involvement, "but I went out there to work the trails myself."
That work earned him "Pete's Wicked Trail," a bike run on the mountain named after him.
"I love that sport," he said. "I like it as much or more than skiing," he said.
That's saying something, looking at Wither's resume.
He was a competitive skier in his teen-age years, coached by Olympian Gordy Wren. After two tours in Vietnam, Wither worked as ski patroller at Winter Park. When Mt. Werner was developed, Wither and his new wife, Barbi, moved back to Steamboat, where he helped install lifts and later worked for the ski patrol. In 1983, he was given the director's position.
Also, Wither was on the Colorado Ski Museum Board of Directors, represented the United States as a member of the National Ski Patrol Safety Team at several international gatherings and served as the National Certified Director for the National Ski Patrol.
"I still love to ski," he said.
Wither still loves Steamboat, too. He encourages the younger generation to stay and get involved with helping the community.
However, the longtime local said he understands some of the difficulties of living in a resort town, remembering scraping by with Barbi early on.
"It's difficult and it's expensive, but you can do it," he said.
Keeping the big picture in mind is important, Wither said.
"You got to work anywhere that you live. Why not work someplace you want to be," he said.

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