By John Meyer
The Denver Post
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At first glance, perhaps it doesn’t look like such a special photo: five guys on skis posing at the summit of Storm Mountain in March 1958. But that shot taken by Merle Nash represents so much of what Ski Town USA and the Steamboat ski area — currently celebrating its 50th anniversary — are all about.
The men in the photo that day were exploring the mountain that would become a great ski destination known worldwide for “champagne powder.” It includes Jim Temple, the area’s founder, and John Fetcher, its other visionary. The others are Steamboat Olympians: Buddy Werner, the first great American ski racer, along with brother Loris, who made Olympic teams as a ski jumper and alpine racer, and jumper Jon Elliott.
It’s such a symbolic picture. Temple and Fetcher were ranchers in a town built on ranching. Both loved to ski and saw great potential in Storm Mountain, which would be renamed Mount Werner after Buddy was killed in a Swiss avalanche in 1964. The Werners and Elliott grew up competing at historic Howelsen Hill near downtown Steamboat Springs.
At a recent gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary, Loris Werner recalled how Temple fell and ripped the seat of his pants the day that photo was taken, near the bottom of what is now the Rainbow trail.
“So henceforth the saddle of Rainbow, we always referred to it as Temple’s Crotch,” Werner said.
Steamboat has to be America’s friendliest ski town, and I had a wonderful time at the party, catching up with so many longtime friends. Temple and Fetcher are dead, but their sons were there.