Steamboat Springs History
James Harvey Crawford staked the first homestead in the Yampa Valley in 1875. The burgeoning settlement was incorporated a quarter-century later, with Crawford christening the city "Steamboat Springs." This unusual moniker is said to have originated with French fur trappers in the 1860s who likened the sound of one local hot spring to that of a steamboat chugging upriver.
Sadly, that chugging spring fell silent in the early 1900s when dynamite from railroad work disturbed the foundation of the spring. Though the sound of the spring was lost to the railroad, much was gained in return as the trains bolstered commercial industry in Steamboat Springs and, eventually, tourism. Not only did the new train depot become one of the largest cattle shipping centers in the West, it soon began welcoming visitors interested in Steamboat's mineral springs and the scenic natural beauty of the Yampa Valley.
Hundreds of years before Crawford and railroads came on the scene, Native American Indians were already familiar with the area. The Ute Indians claimed the Yampa Valley as their summer hunting grounds, and both the Ute and Arapaho tribes considered the hot springs to be sacred sites of physical and spiritual healing. Much like skiers after a long day on the slopes, the Utes would take a rejuvenating soak in these all-natural "hot tubs" after battles.
Around 1910, Carl Howelsen arrived. Known as the "Flying Norseman," Howelsen introduced ski jumping to the area and helped organize Steamboat's first Winter Carnival in 1914. Today, the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival remains the oldest continuous winter carnival west of the Mississippi, and Howelsen Hill is one of the country's oldest ski areas in continuous use.
As interest in skiing in Steamboat continued to grow, attention turned from the modest Howelsen Hill to the more impressive Storm Mountain. Thanks to the efforts and initiative of James Temple, groundbreaking on Storm Mountain commenced in July 1958. The Christie double chairlift was put into operation on January 12, 1963, marking the official opening date for the new ski area. On February 15, 1965, Storm Mountain was renamed Mt. Werner in honor of local ski racer Wallace "Buddy" Werner who lost his life in an avalanche while filming a movie in Switzerland.
Since its early days, Steamboat Springs has become a top U.S. ski resort and a year-round vacation destination known for eclectic shopping and dining, scores of music and arts festivals, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Through it all, Steamboat remains a working cattle-ranching community that's proud to celebrate its authentic Western roots.
Learn more about the colorful history of Steamboat when you visit for yourself. Start your search for Steamboat Springs vacation rentals, and browse our current Vacation Specials for a great lodging deal.