Steamboat celebrates 40 years

Legends gather Sunday in Gondola Square

— Forty years old.

The milestone has been known to set off its fair share of mid-life crises.

But for the Steamboat Ski Area, the anniversary celebration marked the success of a ski resort that struggled financially for years before it realized the dreams of its pioneer, Jim Temple.

That success took front stage Sunday night at Gondola Square, where fireworks, video presentations and guest speakers capped the resorts first 40 years and ushered in the next 40.

"It's hard to believe it's been 40 years," emcee Park Smalley said shortly before he offered a toast to "40 wonderful years."

"We're here not only to celebrate Steamboat's 40th, but to recognize the people who have made it so special," Smalley said to the crowd of more than 500 people. "These founding members had an infectious love for the mountains and all its surroundings."

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond then took the stage and introduced four Steamboat legends -- Loris "Bugs" Werner, Martin Hart, John Fetcher and Billy Kidd.

Fetcher's enthusiasm for the celebration quickly made him a crowd favorite, but his attention was focused on acknowledging Temple's sacrifice.

"Full credit (for the dream of the ski area) should be given to Jim Temple," Fetcher said. But it took many others to build and finance Temple's dream, he said.

Vermont-native-turned-Steamboat-icon Billy Kidd said he was first lured to Steamboat Springs by Olympic teammate Buddy Werner. Kidd has never really left since.

"Our sport has changed a lot, Steamboat has changed a lot, but one of the things that hasn't changed is this mountain," Kidd said. "The other thing that hasn't changed in Steamboat is the friendly people."

"The first 40 years have made this Ski Town U.S.A.," Kidd said. "The next 40 years look pretty exciting."

Following Kidd's remarks, the crowd was told to look up the mountain toward the top of the See Me trail, where ski school instructors held bright red flares and formed the number "40" as they stood on the slope.

As they slowly broke from formation and skied down the mountain, Pepsi Aerial Entertainer Steve Oliver buzzed overhead in his fireworks-equipped stunt plane. Fireworks spewed from Oliver's plane as he gradually spiraled closer and closer to the base of the mountain.

But the celebration wasn't over yet.

A special 10-minute video celebrating the birth of Steamboat Springs and the ski resort played from a giant television screen next to the stage.

The celebration's grand finale saw fireworks erupt from atop the ski mountain while the hundreds of spectators still gathered in Gondola Square oohed and awed.

"Outstanding," Kidd said of the celebration. "When you can have a sunny day and then a celebration like this, it's outstanding."

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