By Greg Packer, born and raised in Steamboat Springs, CO
My parents met in Steamboat Springs in 1976. My mom found her way to Steamboat after her car broke down just outside of town. My dad had taken a trip west but ran out of money to make it back home. Both of them landed what they thought were going to be temporary jobs in Steamboat, but after a short period of time, neither of them could overcome the power of the Yampa Valley mystique. Several years later, I was born.
Born and raised in Steamboat, a.k.a Ski Town USA , I grew up with a view of the world through Champagne Powder glasses, (actually they were goggles) that is, the wisdom bestowed on me during my childhood spent in one of the top ski destinations in the country, taught me more than just how to ski, but rather how to live, what to do, and how to act.
Be passionate. In Steamboat, the spirit of skiing ebbs throughout the entire community. Growing up as a skier in Steamboat is comparable to playing high school football in Texas, skiing is everything and like the gridiron, life revolves around the mountain and the snow. Locals are outwardly passionate about skiing and riding, and that passion is contagious to guests from out of town.
Sharing is caring. Guests probably think that’s our town motto because the people who live here are so out-of-their-way friendly and unconditionally welcoming. They love sharing their town with visitors and sharing their pristine Champagne Powder lines with fellow skiers and riders.
Vacation wisely. I didn’t really realize as a kid that I was growing up in a world class resort town. I thought everyone who came to ski in Steamboat was coming from another place that also had great people, great snow, a great mountain, and a great spirit. It didn’t occur to me until I was older that our life, was our vacation.
Channel creativity and imagination. Growing up in Steamboat was an incredible experience. When skiers and snowboarders come here for vacation, I encourage them to escape their normal life and pretend they are locals too and do what the locals do; relish in the Champagne Powder snow, immerse themselves in our real town with real western heritage, frequent the hot springs, and other local hideouts.
My advice to parents; be careful what you teach your kids, you never know where it may take them. I was raised on skis. My mom prides herself on the fact that she put me in ski lessons the day after I learned how to stand on my own two feet. Some of my earliest memories are those of ski trips as a young child strapped onto my dad’s back and learning the two fundamental techniques taught in ski school – pizza and French fry. When I was older I began skiing competitively as a member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
Live life in the present. My childhood memories make me realize now why Steamboat is one of the top family ski resorts. I didn’t appreciate it then, but now I know that everyone who comes to Steamboat can’t help but make close friendships, is presented with unique learning opportunities, has the ability to train with Olympians, and bathes in a culture centered on big mountains with big snow.
When I look back at my childhood in Steamboat, I remember, the incredible friendships I made, and growing up in the security of a close-knit community, a feeling that guests feel as soon as they arrive. Now, as I grow older, I realize the strength of the Yampa Valley mystique. The mystique that mesmerized my parents was: Once you get here you can never leave. Yet, the more spellbinding version of the magic, which I’ve fallen victim to, goes something along the lines of: I can’t find the same level of happiness anywhere else.
Whether you are a Steamboat native like I am, a transplant like my parents, or a guest like many others, heed my advice, beware of the magic of Steamboat and the Yampa Valley.