Buyers and Sellers
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Before you shop for a new home, one of the first things you need to determine is which homes are in your price range.
The amount of home you qualify for is based on your monthly income, monthly debt and the amount you can put down for a down payment.
Lenders use “qualifying ratios” to determine a safe amount to loan a potential homeowner. A standard ratio is 33/38, but ratios can vary depending on the lender, said Lynn Reiff, mortgage consultant with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Steamboat Springs. For example, the FHA uses a ratio of 29/41.
“The 33/38 ratio is the basic, but depending on how good your credit score is and how much money you are putting down and how many cash assets you have, we could go higher,” Reiff said.
In the ratio, the first number is the “front ratio.” This is the maximum percentage of your monthly gross income that will be spent on monthly housing costs, including principal, interest, taxes, insurance and any Homeowner’s Association fees. In the example ratio cited above, you can’t spend more than 33 percent or one third of your income on housing costs.
The second number is the “back ratio.” This is the total of all your consumer debts – car payments, credit card payments, students loans etc… – as a percentage of your monthly income. A “38” back ratio means that, as a maximum, this figure should be thirty-eight percent of your monthly income.
In the 33/38 ration example, if you make $5,000 a month, your maximum monthly housing cost should be around $1,650. Including your consumer debt, your monthly housing and credit expenditures should be around $1,900 as a maximum.
Once you know your maximum monthly payments, you subtract. You have to do a little estimating, too. Estimate what your monthly taxes and insurance will be and subtract them from your maximum payment. That leaves you with the principal and interest payment.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
People ready to own a home in Steamboat Springs are always faced with a tough decision – whether to buy an existing home or find the right piece of land and build a home.
There are benefits to either route. But what most motivated buyers want to know is which one will be the most economical and what will give them the most satisfaction.
For buyers who can afford to get into mid-level and higher homes in and around Steamboat Springs, on paper, building a home can appear to be less expensive.
However, unforeseen costs during construction and the buyer’s personal situation must be considered, Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors President Randall Hannaway said.
“Building is a tedious and tenacious process,” Hannaway said. “But it also can be a rewarding one.”
Technically, it is less expensive to build. Hannaway explained that if two similar properties were for sale, side by side, except one had a home built on it and one was vacant land, generally, it would be less expensive for the buyers to purchase the empty lot and build a home similar to the neighbor’s.
However, that is in an ideal world, he said. Who knows what can be underneath the ground, for example, that could throw costs off. He recalled seeing a $100,000 difference between the foundation costs on the two adjacent properties, because one of the lots had large boulders to remove while the other didn’t.
“No matter how well organized and well planned you are, there are always unforeseen costs,” Hannaway said.
The amount of time the owner can spend on the construction site also plays a role in building, too. In fact, it is not uncommon for residents to acquire property in Steamboat Springs then spend months and years of free time building their dream homes.
“If you know what you’re doing, or if you have friends that know what they are doing, it will be more inexpensive,” Hannaway said.
If the owner is banging nails and being a major player in the construction and planning, significant cost savings can be achieved. However, the owner also can be rudely awakened by how time consuming, and cash consuming, the process can be.
Someone who plans to work on building his or her own home must consider the financial impact of doing so. Is there time off from work that has to be taken? Is the family renting while their new home is being built? Is it an out of town buyer who is paying to travel to the Yampa Valley frequently to build the home? All are indirect costs associated with building your own home.
Buying a home that is already built often is less expensive – and more practical – when such indirect costs are factored.
But the homebuilder has two important perks that come from successfully weathering a construction process.
“You come closer to getting exactly what you wanted,” Hannaway said.
The first great perk is that the house is built around what the owner wants. If it works out, the owner can have an influence on every nuance of the home.
The second is the reward of seeing the project through, especially if the buyer has a hand in the construction process.
“It can be very rewarding,” Hannaway said.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HOME BUILDERS
If you’re in the market for a new home, you should shop for your builder as carefully as you shop for your home. Whether you are buying a condo, a townhouse, a house in a subdivision, or a custom built house, you want to know that you are buying a good quality home from a reputable builder.
Here are a couple of tips to help you choose a builder.
• Make A List of Possible Builders. Once you have thought about the type of house you want, you will need to find a builder.
Contact the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association at 879-0882 to obtain a list of builders who construct homes in the Steamboat Springs area.
Look in the real estate section of Steamboat Pilot & Today for builders and projects. Looking through the ads and reading the articles can help you to learn which builders are active in this area, the types of homes they are building, and the prices you can expect to pay. Make a list of builders who build the type of home you’re looking for in your price range.
Local real estate agents may also be able to help you in your search. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Ask about builders they have dealt with directly, or ask them for names of acquaintances who have recently had a good experience with a builder.
• Do Your Homework. Once you have a list of builders, how can you find out about their reputations and the quality of their work? The best way to learn about builders is to visit homes they have built and talk with the owners.
Ask builders on your list for the addresses of their recently built homes and subdivisions. Builders may even be able to provide names of some home owners who would be willing to talk with you.
Drive by on a Saturday morning when home owners may be outside doing chores or errands. Introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Talk to several owners, and try to get a random sample of opinions. The more people you talk with, the more accurate an impression of a builder you are likely to get. At the very least, drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing.
When you talk to builders and home owners, take along a notebook to record the information you find and your personal impressions about specific builders and homes. Doing so will help you to make comparisons later. Some questions you can ask people include: Are you happy with your home? If you had any problems, were they fixed promptly and properly? Would you buy another home from this builder?
Usually, people tell you if they are pleased with their homes. And if they are not, they’ll probably want to tell you why.
• Shop For Quality and Value. Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses sponsored by builders are good opportunities to look at homes. Model homes and houses displayed in home shows are often furnished to give you ideas for using the space. You may also ask a builder to see unfurnished homes.
When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction features. Inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork, and paint. Ask the builder or the builder’s representative a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question. What seems like an insignificant question might yield an important answer.
Find out how many years the company has been in business because experience is important.
Ask what industry-sponsored training programs the builders or their staff have taken in recent years. Housing technology is constantly changing and professional home builders invest in keeping up-to-date.
Make sure home building is the builder’s profession. Many of the problems consumers run into are caused by amateur builders with little experience or training.
Also ask about the trades who work for the builder (framers, plumbers, electricians, etc.). Make sure they are established and reputable firms.
• Service: Review the warranty and find out what type of service you can expect after you move into your home. Some builders provide homeowners with comprehensive closing books. These helpful books provide valuable information including how to care for the new home, as well as warranty and maintenance information on each product or appliance within the home.
Doing your homework and understanding how custom builders work will give you the confidence you need to correctly select a custom builder that’s right for your own specific needs.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Each ski area is not the same, as homebuyers interested in resort towns soon discover. The decision to invest in property in a resort town requires consideration of properties in more than one resort.
Most people who are considering resort life are looking at a range of towns, said Cam Boyd, a broker and co-owner of Prudential Steamboat Realty.
“A lot of times when people are looking at buying property in Steamboat Springs they’re looking at other resorts as well,” Boyd said. These buyers usually consider places such as Winter Park, Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, and even towns in Utah and Wyoming, Boyd said.
A buyer’s final decision is based on several factors, one of which is simply what each resort town is like. One attraction of Steamboat, Boyd said, is that it feels like a town.
“We have a lot more of a town atmosphere, whereas some of the other resorts are just resorts,” Boyd said. “A lot of people really like having a sense of a community.”
Buyers for whom the resort home is a second home should consider how far away they want to drive or fly from their hometown to get to the resort. Steamboat’s distance from the Front Range is one barrier for people in cities such as Denver and Boulder who don’t want to spend an extra hour and a half in the car. Proximity is less of a problem for people living further away who have to fly into Steamboat, Boyd said.
The fact that Steamboat is more out of the way than other resorts can also be a plus, Boyd said. Because the town doesn’t have as much traffic through town from Front Range skiers who come up for the day, it stays quieter during the winter.
Another important consideration is price. Compared to Aspen, Jackson Hole, Telluride and Vail, homes in Steamboat are reasonable. But for people who haven’t visited other resort towns, Steamboat may seem expensive.
The quality of skiing also plays into the decision of which resort town to pick. A lot of people come to Steamboat Springs because they like the mountain here, Boyd said. Parents with children also tend to choose Steamboat because it is a family-friendly resort.
“Lots of people buying here love the ski area,” Boyd said. “The ski area is really conducive to families because it’s not real difficult, but it’s big enough so they never get bored.”
Two final attractions for Steamboat are the good weather and the breathing room.
Compared to weather in resorts in Summit County, which sit at elevations that are thousands of feet above Steamboat, the weather in Steamboat is mild. Winters are less harsh and the quality of snow in Steamboat is better. That also means that summers come more quickly, a plus for the golfers and bikers.
Also, because Steamboat sits in a broader valley, there’s more elbow room and a better chance for people to buy a 35-acre ranch or a 100-acre ranch, or even a home with a large backyard.
After comparing a handful resort towns and deciding which features of resort living are most important, buyers should know enough to make an informed decision that keeps them happy for years to come.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Routt County introduced the land preservation subdivision (LPS) in 1995 as a way to encourage developers to better utilize property and protect open space from future development.
A land preservation subdivision preserves agricultural land and creates additional lots within a smaller area by promoting the clustering of homes within one specific area instead of spreading them throughout a property.
The county didn’t suggest a new way of subdividing property without throwing in a little incentive – it awards developers one bonus lot for every 100 acres of land they don’t touch.
A landowner who wanted to develop 140 acres could divide his property into four 35-acre lots under Colorado state law. If the landowner wanted to preserve 100 of those 140 acres, he could divide the remaining 40 acres into five lots under LPS regulations.
A land preservation subdivision yields higher profits than subdivided lots when bonus lots and design savings are factored in, county planner John Eastman said.
Clustering houses also reduces construction costs. A land preservation subdivision requires fewer roads and shorter utility and water lines because development is not so scattered.
Potential buyers may find lots in a land preservation subdivision more appealing because they can live adjacent to agricultural land but do not need to bother with fencing, plowing or haying their property.
“LPS lots offer all the benefits of a rural lifestyle without the headache of owning 35-acre lots,” Eastman said.
The developers who create a land preservation subdivision and the buyers who build on LPS lots are not the only people who benefit.
Clustering houses maximizes the value of property by setting aside a majority of the land for agricultural purposes.
Buyers share the open space in common and have assurance the landscape will not change, County Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch-Bush said.
Open space in a land preservation subdivision is honored for 40 years, at which point the county can either approve or deny a request to develop the land.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Like many ski resorts, Steamboat Springs has its share of luxury developments.
Buyers interested in a luxurious lifestyle are finding that Steamboat’s lower average home prices mean they can stretch their dollars more here than in other resort towns such as Aspen and Vail.
But when cost isn’t a central consideration, other factors become important. One factor to consider when buying a luxury home is location, according to Tony Walton, the managing broker and owner of Mason & Morse Real Estate Steamboat.
“With an investment of the size these folks are willing to make, they are very concerned with being in the right place,” Walton said.
For many luxury-home buyers, Steamboat is that right place. Compared to some resort towns where high-end living means a flashy lifestyle, Steamboat is more low-key, a factor that attracts people from all around the country, Walton said.
“People who have been very successful in life and have the means to afford pretty much anything they want, but who are not flashy, tend to gravitate to Steamboat,” Walton said. “Here, they don’t have to get dressed up to go to the grocery store.”
As in many resorts, Steamboat has areas with almost entirely luxury homes and others with almost no luxury homes. Examples of high-end developments include the southern section of the valley, including Dakota Ridge, Catamount and Storm Mountain Ranch. Other examples include the Strawberry Park area and the Sanctuary near the ski mountain.
Luxury homes mean larger lots, larger homes and amenities that add value. For instance, Catamount Ranch and Club has a private golf course and a 530-acre lake, and so offers recreation opportunities outside homeowners’ backdoors. The developers of Storm Mountain Ranch have invested heavily in fishing, so homeowners here can take advantage of well-stocked creeks and ponds.
When starting the search for a luxury home, Walton recommends skimming through local real estate publications to get an overview of the market. Then, he said, interested buyers should talk with their brokers and start to narrow their options.
Walton also suggests that potential buyers make sure the subdivision or development they are interested in is well run, and that the homes have a good resale market.
“Don’t buy something that’s tough to sell because you never know what bends in the road life will bring,” Walton said.
Even with the poor economy, the luxury homes in Steamboat and other resorts tend to fare well, Walton said.
“If (a luxury home) is in the right place and if it’s done well and if the seller has a realistic price on it, it tends to have activity,” Walton said. “But if it’s overpriced or in the wrong spot, it won’t sell.”
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Buying a home is the biggest investment that many people make during their lives. Knowing how to negotiate the best deal possible not only makes this purchase less stressful, it also makes it easier for buyers to find the properties that fit their needs and fall into their budgets.
A few simple tips can make the process easier. Most of these suggestions come down to being informed: the more buyers know, the better chance they have of getting what they want.
First, a buyer should learn who is representing the seller. Many real estate brokers are sellers’ brokers, which means they try to get the sellers the best terms. Transaction brokers facilitate the sale but don’t represent either the seller or the buyer.
Exclusive buyers brokers don’t accept real estate listings, and instead serve only buying clients, so may have an advantage in getting the lowest price for the buyers. Knowing which type of real estate agent is involved can help both buyers and sellers in the home-buying process.
Doug Labor of Buyer’s Resource Real Estate in Steamboat, is a local buyer broker. The best way to find buyer brokers, Labor said, is to search online, call local real estate boards or contact the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Brokers.
The next step to being prepared to negotiate for a house is to know what’s on the market. By looking at a dozen or so properties, a buyer can feel more comfortable about the property he or she has in mind before making an offer.
“I like taking clients around even if they like the first one we see,” Labor said. “Even if they fall in love with it and are ready to make an offer, I think it’s good to look at five to 10 other properties so in their mind’s eye, they can know there’s value in what they’re trying to purchase.”
A good way to start to learn about properties in the area is to peruse through local newspapers, markets or online resources to get a sense of real estate values.
Another good first step is to get pre-approved to finance the purchase. The pre-approval process helps establish a spending budget and also is more powerful once both buyers and sellers are at the bargaining table. Pre-approved buyers can close on a deal after a few days, instead of having to wait weeks or months.
Once a property of interest is identified, the more information on the property that the buyer can find, the better he or she will be able to negotiate. If the property has been on the market for a long time or if the price has already been reduced, the seller might be more willing to negotiate.
“Whenever I console my clients on certain properties I look at the days on the market for an indication of what we can offer,” Labor said. “Brokers should ask why the seller is selling.”
It’s good to know if there are any other offers, or if and why previous offers have been turned down. Knowing the condition of the property – for instance, if it’s being rented or is vacant – helps the buyer choose what offer to make. Information on how long the seller has owned the property and how much they paid for it are available in county records.
The buyer can get a feel for what sort of competition should be expected by learning how long properties stay on the market in the area.
Before making an offer, buyers should consider if the seller is leaving other furniture or appliances behind, and if there are other factors such as termites or crime that could affect the property value.
Two final pieces of useful information are the sale price ratio in the area, as well as the average price per square foot of recent sales in the area.
Labor has been tracking the ratio of sale price to list price since 1999. At that time, sale price was about 95 percent of list price. The ratio rose to a high of 98 percent in the second quarter of 2001, and now has dipped back down, hitting 94.3 percent in the first quarter of 2003.
The key to negotiating for a house is to be informed, and then to stay relaxed and patient through the actual negotiating process. Buyers shouldn’t let sellers know that they have fallen in love with a house, and buyers also should avoid bidding wars with other house-hunters.
Finally, the most important part of the negotiating process is to know one’s own limits. A buyer should never be talked into spending more then he or she can afford.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Steamboat Springs is a small town, but it still has a diverse range of neighborhoods. For first-time homebuyers, people new to the area, or even Steamboat natives, deciding which neighborhood to live in can be tough.
A few helpful hints, however, can make this decision easier, and can help potential homebuyers quickly find the neighborhood that’s best for them, making it more likely that they’ll be happy with the home they choose.
The first factor to consider is price range. A lot of homes in Steamboat are simply out of the question for some buyers, said John Worden, a broker at RE/MAX Steamboat.
“I think affordability and price range would be one factor to think about early on,” Worden said. “If you can spend up to half a million, that’s going to limit you in some areas.”
Another factor buyers should think about in the beginning is whether they want to build their own home or buy an existing home. If they decide to build a home, the next decisions include what size and style of house they want, as well as how large of a lot they’ll need. The decision to buy an existing home means buyers should consider whether they want a new, modern home or an older home or a fixer-upper.
After figuring out how much they can spend for a home and whether they want to build their own home, Worden said that buyers should make a list of what features are most important.
One important factor is location. Living downtown could mean being able to walk a few blocks to work, while living on the mountain could provide easy access to the ski slopes. Subdivisions that are further away from town could provide the solitude and privacy and larger lots that are important to some buyers, but could also mean a longer commute to get groceries or to get to work.
Thinking carefully about location can help potential buyers narrow down their list of possible homes to buy before they even start looking.
Another important factor is the character of the neighborhood. A good way to get a feel for a neighborhood’s personality is to talk with the people who live there, and ask what they like about the neighborhood and what they don’t like about it.
How much utilities in the neighborhood cost, as well as what sort of growth is projected for the neighborhood are both important for making an informed decision. Buyers should also research what whether property values in the neighborhood have been rising or falling or staying about the same over the last few years.
Buyers also need to ask themselves whether they want paved streets or gravel roads, whether they mind being on well and septic, what sort of landscape they want to live in, how close they want to be to their neighbors, and what sort of amenities they want to have out their back doors.
The decision ultimately comes down to tradeoffs, Worden said. It’s nearly impossible for a buyer to get exactly everything that he or she wants in a single home. For instance, Worden said a lot of buyers come saying they want a home with a killer view, nice trees and a stream. But, interestingly enough, it’s hard to get all three of those features together. Homes at higher elevations mean a better view, but no stream. Homes with trees mean less of a view.
“The important thing is to prioritize,” Worden said.
The next step, once buyers make a list of what they want, is to get in touch with a local broker who can help show them around the area.
“Once you have that list, definitely call your broker,” Worden said. ” Then your broker will be able to zero in on it for you.”
Then, buyers should look at a lot of homes and take their time in making a decision.
For out-of-towners who are new to the Steamboat area, Worden had some additional tips. First, these buyers should schedule a week to two-week vacation to Steamboat so they can start looking. It’s important to have enough time to drive around the different areas and get a feel for what’s available.
Another tip is to look at the area when it’s covered with snow. Out-of-town buyers often forget that Steamboat is covered with snow for more than half of the year, and pick a property based on what it looks like in the summertime.
“It wouldn’t hurt to look at something when it’s covered in snow because it does look like that a lot,” Worden said.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Owning a home away from home can pose unique challenges.
Lawns need to be mowed, snow piles up and pipes can break while homeowners are not there.
David Baldinger Jr., managing broker of Steamboat Village Brokers, advises homeowners to find a reputable property management company or caretaker.
“If you leave your house vacant, all kind of things can go wrong,” Baldinger said. “The benefits will outweigh the costs.”
A management company can provide the minimum service of maintenance, landscaping and snow removal or go as far as providing shuttles at the airport when homeowners arrive and making sure the refrigerator is stocked.
Regardless of the level of service, Baldinger said one of the most important tasks is to ask for references when looking at property management companies. And finding the right property management company also means knowing the level of service the homeowners want and if they want to rent their homes when they are not there.
“If the number one goal is rental income, you are really looking at how successful are they at renting a home, how much income can they provide and what is the business arrangement between you and the rental agency,” Baldinger said.
He said fees for property management companies can run from $200 a month to thousands of dollars.
Randall Hannaway, an owner of Colorado Group Realty, also recommends hiring someone to check in on homes. He said the people homeowners hire to look after their homes are useful in creating connections to the community.
“The key thing is really making a relationship with the local people,” Hannaway said. “Locals know who to call, who mows lawns, who plows snow, who needs to come in and treat the decks.”
Hannaway’s company started a separate division – Mountain Lifestyles – just to provide extra services to second-home owners. He said clients used to give them a spare set of keys in case anything would happen and asked them to do extra tasks from getting tires changed on their vehicles to finding a nice Christmas tree.
Hannaway estimates that about 70 percent of the second-home owners in homes worth more than $500,000 have a caretaker or property management company looking over the homes.
“Things are going to happen,” Hannaway said. “Things are going to break. The difference between a small problem and a large problem is the passage of time.”
He also has another piece of advice: getting a good alarm system. An alarm system is not just for theft he said. Such a system also can set the temperature and lighting in the house.
“It is the most important thing, at least in my experience,” he said.
Hannaway said surveillance cameras can be useful for second-home owners. Cameras can allow homeowners in Texas to monitor what is going on at their Steamboat homes.
Baldinger tells clients to think about when they are going to use the property the most. He said a family that is going to vacation mainly in the winter for the ski season might not want to get a house in the country a good distance away from Steamboat.
“Sometimes they don’t realize how different things are in the summer and how different it is going to be in the winter,” Baldinger said.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Although it’s known for its skiing, Steamboat Springs has a range of recreation options for adults that don’t involve snow, many of which are sponsored by the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services.
From June through August, adults – or anyone 18 years or older – can choose from softball and soccer leagues.
Softball brings out the competitive spirit and camaraderie of hundreds of Steamboat residents each summer. There are women’s, men’s and co-ed teams, which play games Monday through Thursday at the fields near Howelsen Hill.
Co-ed soccer games are held every Tuesday and Thursday, and for enthusiastic soccer fans, there is the option of continuing to play indoors during the winter.
Men’s flag football is the choice sport of fall, with games on Wednesdays during late August through October.
Once the snow begins to fall in the winter, adult sports teams turn to indoor gyms. There is open gym basketball and volleyball available in a drop-in format.
For more committed players, there is a winter basketball league, with A league and B league games held on Sunday and Monday nights at Steamboat Springs High School. The Co-ed winter volleyball league has games every Wednesday at Steamboat Springs Middle School gym.
These city-sponsored sports leagues require registration by certain dates. For more information, visit the office’s online site at www.steamboatsprings.net/recreation or call (970) 879-4300.
The city also sponsors a variety of sports competitions. Snowshoe 5K and 10K runs, Town Challenge mountain bike races, and the Steamboat Pentathlon, which involves alpine skiing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and running, all challenge Steamboat residents and visitors to perform their best.
Adults can get involved with other recreational teams that aren’t sponsored by the city. In summer, rugby practices and Ultimate Frisbee pickup games are open to players of any age and any skill level. These sports are usually advertised in the newspaper and are open to drop-in players.
Adults who enjoy individual sports should check out the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and Howelsen Hill Ice Arena, where ice skaters and hockey players stay active throughout the year.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
It’s easy to enjoy the arts in Steamboat. From the free concert series that takes place in the summer and brings big-name bands to Howelsen Hill and the base of the Steamboat Ski Area, to the free bus tours of local art galleries, residents and tourists have a range of options when it comes to exploring the arts.
New residents who aren’t familiar with the area will quickly learn that Steamboat is a place where the arts thrive.
One of the city’s historic centers for art is the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, which was established in 1913 and is the oldest continuously operating school of its kind in the nation. The theater and camp has attracted a number of distinguished performers, including Jessica Biel, Dustin Hoffman, Joan Van Ark and Sammy Bayes, as well as students from all over the world. Residents and tourists can sample what the camp is all about by attending student performances offered throughout the summer.
A variety of other dance schools and programs in town offer classes and performances covering ballet, jazz, modern, tap and more. There are also outlets for theater and drama, most notably, the Steamboat Community Players, which puts on several shows each year at the Seventh Street Playhouse. Past performances include “GodSpell, “The Fantaskticks” and “The Foreigner,” as well as improvisational theater, juggling shows and comedy performances.
A central player in the local arts scene is the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, a nonprofit programming and service organization. The Arts Council is based at the Depot, which was built in 1909 and used for rail service through 1968, and now houses gallery shows featuring a variety of artists. The Arts Council sponsors multiple programs, including the a series that highlights emerging artists, the Kaleidoscope program in which children explore the arts with local and visiting artists, and its own yearly spring fund-raiser, “Caberet,” a local comedy show.
The Arts Council also sponsors arts and crafts shows, such as Art in the Park. This mid-summer weekend event attracts more than 200 artisans, food vendors and musicians, and is attended by up to 10,000 people.
Steamboat has a variety of art galleries, including Mad Creek Gallery, which specializes in contemporary landscape paintings and western bronzes, Two Rivers Gallery, which specializes in fine art of the American West, and Steamboat Art Company, which houses fine jewelry, Colorado pottery, local photography and more.
With the range of music that residents and visitors can hear at free concerts, restaurants and shows, Steamboat might be considered a musical paradise.
A highlight of Steamboat’s music scene is Strings in the Mountain, one of the foremost music festivals in the country, which presents a diverse program of music with a focus on chamber music throughout the year. In 2001, the July to August season involved more than 170 artists in a chamber-music series, a contemporary music series and a youth and family concert series. The variety of free community programs included “Music on the Green,” a series of 10 lunchtime concerts at the Yampa River Botanic Park, a weekly lecture and discussion series, senior citizen outreach concerts and a school outreach program.
Other known music programs include the Emerald City Opera, which attracts artists from opera houses around the world as well as local opera buffs, and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra, which has also provided local classical music since 1991.
Whether looking at paintings and sculptures, seeing a play or watching a dance show, or listening to a music concert, art-lovers and people who simply like to look and listen will be able to satisfy their appetites for the arts in Steamboat Springs.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Anytime of the year, whether snow is piled on the ground or green grass is sprouting, there is a wealth of recreational and educational activities for local and visiting children in the Steamboat Springs area.
In the wintertime, many children take part in some sort of winter sport. With an ice skating rink, a ski jump hill, endless Alpine and cross-country ski trails, and the knowledge that Olympic athletes have trained on these grounds before them, children often find a winter sport that catches their interest.
The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club offers programs in disciplines including Alpine, cross-country and freestyle skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping and snowboarding. There are practice sessions, in which children receive top-notch coaching, and competitions that motivate children to perform their best and have fun at the same time. There are even summer camps that help kids stay in shape in the off-season.
For children who want to stay indoors when the weather gets cold, there are multiple recreational sports leagues offered through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department . Leagues are offered throughout the year, with basketball being a popular choice in the winter, and soccer and baseball being top choices in the spring.
The Howelsen Hill Ice Arena offers year-round opportunities for children to strap on their skates, get on the ice and enjoy hockey programs and ice-skating lessons.
During the school year, there are several programs that help keep students busy after the school day ends. Afterschool Action is an after-school program for youth in kindergarten through fifth grades that provides children with fun recreational activities. School Days Off is a supplemental program to Afterschool Action and operates when school is not in session. Kids Night Out is held on Friday nights throughout the year and features various activities for children to enjoy.
For Preschoolers, there’s Pee Wee Adventures, a program that stimulates creative thinking and playing through various activities. And for teenagers, there’s the Dock, a hangout that offers dancing, movies, snacks and more every other Friday night.
When school shuts down during the summer, a number of programs that cater to children are offered. These programs range from all-day activities to quick nature walks on a trail.
The wildly popular summer recreation camps offered through Steamboat’s Parks and Recreation Department fill up quickly, but because the camp programs are offered on a day-by-day basis, parents can often find daily openings throughout the summer. Activities run the gamut of local recreational opportunities, including horseback riding, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, swimming and hiking.
Yampatika, a local nonprofit environmental education organization dedicated to teaching about the natural and cultural resources of Northwest Colorado, also has a number of summer youth programs for children who are ages 3 to 14. In addition, Yampatika offers field seminars throughout the summer to explore topics such as wild mushrooms and animal tracking. Many of the seminars are family oriented.
Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp also has a number of camp programs throughout the summer for children of all ages. The programs let children explore theater, dance, music, creative writing and the fine arts. In addition, Perry-Mansfield offers equestrian camps for a wide variety of age groups.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
People of most faiths can find a place to worship in Steamboat Springs and around Routt County. In Steamboat Springs, there are more than a dozen places of worship, which are listed below. Many offer youth programs and other services:
- Anchor Way Baptist Church has a Sunday worship service at 10:30 a.m. and Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. at its at 40650 Anchor Way location. It also holds a Mountain Top Service at Vista Overlook during ski season at 1:30 p.m. For more information, call 879-7062.
- The Christian Science Church has worship services on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and at 7:30 p.m. at its building at the intersection of Seventh and Oak streets. For more information call 879-5028.
- The Church of Christ has Sunday Bible study at 9:30 a.m., Sunday worship at 10:45 a.m., and a Bible study on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at 39820 West U.S. Highway 40. For more information call 879-6670.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has Sunday worship at 10:00 a.m. at 1055 Central Park Drive. For more information call 879-0220.
- The Mission of Concordia Lutheran Church has worship services on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. at 755 Concordia Lane. For more information call 879-0175.
- The Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has services at 3000 River Road. For more information call 879-0220.
- Euzoa Bible Church has worship services on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and also has Sunday Bible school at 11 a.m. at its 32305 Routt County Road 38 location. For more information call 879-0123.
- The First Baptist Church has worship services on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., and has Sunday school at 10:00 a.m. at 40995 Elk River Rd. For more information call 879-1446.
- Har Mishpachat, a Jewish Community Group, offers services and educational programs. For more information call Jane at 879-0064.
- The Holy Name Catholic Church has worship services on Sunday at 8:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at 524 Oak St. For more information call 870-7599.
- The Seventh Day Adventists Church has worship services on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. at 347 12th St. For more information call 879-3857.
- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has worship services on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and on Thursday at 7:00 a.m., and has Christian education on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at its location at the intersection of Ninth and Oak Streets. For more information call 879-0925.
- The Steamboat Christian Center has a worship service on Sunday at 10:00 a.m., Sunday school at 9:00 a.m., an adult Bible study at 6:30 p.m. and a youth service on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. at its location on East U.S. Highway 40.
- The Steamboat Springs Evangelical Free Church has a Sunday worship service at 10:00 a.m. at the Christian Heritage School, 27285 Brandon Circle in Heritage Park. For more information call 879-3020.
- The United Methodist Church has a Sunday worship service at 9:30 a.m. at its building at the intersection of Eighth and Oak Streets. For more information call 879-1290.
In Hayden, there is the First Baptist Church of Hayden, Hayden Church of Christ, Hayden Congregational Church and Mission of Grace Baptist Church.
In South Routt, there is the All Saints Episcopal Church, the Community United Methodist Church, the First Baptist Church of Yampa, the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, the McCoy Community Church, the South Routt Bible Church, St. Martin of Tours and the Yampa Bible Church.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Sitting at the top of “Woodchuck Hill,” with views of skiing on Mount Werner and Howelsen Hill, as well as views of Steamboat’s downtown area, is Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus.
The campus is only a few blocks from a range of restaurants and shops, the Yampa River, and the bus stops that take students to the Steamboat Ski Area.
The college’s associate’s degree program includes the Colorado Core Curriculum with each degree, which is guaranteed to transfer to Colorado’s four-year colleges and universities. Students can also spend their time at the college learning a skill that they can put into action as soon as they graduate.
But CMC is not just for full-time students. It offers a variety of courses – from gourmet cooking and plant identification to ski tuning and photography – that allow residents and visitors who can only invest in one or two short classes to improve on a skill or learn something new.
The college’s main building is Bristol Hall, which holds classrooms, faculty offices, a library with Internet access, a gymnasium, and computer and science labs. In Willet Hall, there is a bookstore, dining hall, the Learning Resource Center and the student union. A residence hall is a new addition to the campus and was completed in 1997.
With an array of lodges, restaurants and businesses in Steamboat, students can combine classroom learning with work experience, and can also find opportunities for part-time work. But students should be careful not to fill up too much of their time with work and classes, as there are multiple ways to enjoy the outdoors through snowboarding and skiing, backpacking, hiking, biking, rock climbing, canoeing, fishing and hunting.
Students also have a range of campus clubs and activities to choose from, including the Colorado Mountain College ski team, which competes in Nordic and alpine events against other colleges and universities.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Routt County, which covers 2,231 square miles of Northwest Colorado, is home to stunning mountain views, rolling ranch lands and dense forests.
The county had 20,405 residents in 2002, according to Census estimates. The population fo Steamboat Springs was 10,200. The population in Steamboat explodes in the winter, when tourists from around the nation and world visit to experience the champagne powder and small-town feel that Steamboat offers.
The county has slightly more men than women, with a total population that is about 54 percent male and 46 percent female. The county’s median age is 35 years, and the average family size is 2.92 people.
Routt County is predominantly white. In the 2000 Census, 96.9 percent of the county’s residents identified themselves as white. Of those, 93.7 percent were white, non-Hispanic and 3.2 percent were Hispanic. American Indians comprise 0.5 percent of the population as do Asians and Pacific Islanders. Blacks make up just 0.1 percent of the population.
Other communities in Routt County include Clark, Hahn’s Peak, Milner, Phippsburg, Toponas, and the towns of Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa. In 2000, Hayden had 1,634 residents, Oak Creek had 849 residents, and Yampa had 443 residents. In many of these communities, jobs are provided by ranching, agriculture, mining, forestry and power production.
The county’s population is projected to increase to almost 32,000 over the next 25 years, according to the Yampa Valley Partners Community Indicators Project.
Home prices are on the rise in most parts of the county, especially in Steamboat Springs, according to the United States Census. The median home value countywide is $268,500, which ranks the Routt County 26th out of 3,141 counties nationwide. Median home values in Steamboat Springs rose 157 percent in the 1990s. Steamboat’s $308,100 median value for owner-occupied homes puts it in the top 3 percent in the nation.
In Routt County, 5.9 percent of the population was at or below poverty level in 2000, compared to 9.3 percent of the population in the state of Colorado.
Employment opportunities have changed in Routt County over the last 30 years. The approximately 600 jobs available in agriculture have stayed about the same, while the number of jobs in services, retail trade and construction have all grown from several hundred to several thousand.
The average wage, adjusted for 2000 dollars, in Routt County has risen slightly from $26,419 in 1970 to $26,536 in 2000. Colorado’s average wage rose from $29,562 to $36,391 in this same time period. A 2002 study showed a single person would need to earn $13.31 per hour or $27,684 per year in order to earn a living wage in Routt County. A two-parent household with two children would need to earn $35.47 per hour or $73,767 per year in order to earn a living wage.
Routt County offers a lot of space for outdoors enthusiasts to enjoy. About 50 percent of the county’s land is publicly owned, with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest making up the majority of this area, and State Parks such as Stagecoach Reservoir, Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake making up most of the rest.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
By understanding how local governments work, residents can learn how best to get involved in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.
Like all of Colorado’s 63 counties, Routt County is an arm of the state and so is designed to help administer state law and to provide for local self-government.
It’s the county’s job to oversee public safety, zoning, building regulation, welfare, health, road and bridges, hospitals, highways, justice and more. The county is also responsible for administering and collecting the mill levy for its special districts, which then provide services such as water and sanitation, libraries and fire protection.
Routt County has a three-member board of county commissioners who are in charge of the county activities that aren’t done by other elected county officials, such as the sheriff and the clerk. The three commissioners include Republicans Dan Ellison and Nancy Stahoviak and Democrat Doug Monger.
The commissioners set Routt County’s property tax rate. They also oversee the county budget. Members of the board serve four-year terms and can run as many times as they wish, as Routt County recently eliminated term limits.
The board appoints a county manager, as well as members of other boards such as the Planning Commission, which helps regulate building and zone development. The board also appoints department heads, such as the personnel director, the road and bridge director, the environmental health director and the planning director.
Besides the county commissioners, elected county officials include the sheriff, the clerk and recorder, the coroner, the treasurer, the tax assessor-collector and the surveyor.
Each incorporated city and town in Routt County has some form of local government. Unincorporated places, such as Milner, which sits just west of Steamboat Springs, do not have local government.
In Steamboat Springs, residents elect a seven-member city council. Officials represent one of three districts in the city. One member is elected by the council to serve as the council president. The current council president is Kathy Connell. Other council members include Loui Antonucci, Paul Strong, Bud Romberg, Arianthe Stettner, Nancy Kramer and Steve Ivancie.
The City Council oversees City Manager Paul Hughes. City departments include finance, public safety, public works, transportation and parks and recreation. There is also a city attorney who gives legal guidance to the council.
Most of the city’s funding comes from sales taxes and building use fees.
Steamboat Springs is also under home rule and so is guided mostly by its home-rule charter. That means the city has more flexibility to make its own statutes than other cities that have a statutory government.
Towns such as Hayden and Oak Creek have different forms of government than cities such as Steamboat Springs have. Both Hayden and Oak Creek are governed by town boards. Each board is made up of six trustees, who serve four-year terms, and a mayor, who serves a two-year term.
Both towns have their own police, public works and planning departments. Hayden has a town manager. Oak Creek does not.
The county’s three school districts – Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt – are governed by locally elected school boards. The school boards oversee district superintendents and budgets. All three school districts are funded by a combination of state revenues determined by enrollment formula and local property taxes.
All Colorado residents should be aware of the laws that make it possible for them to be involved in government. The Open Meetings Law specifies that state and local public bodies cannot make decisions in secrecy, which means meetings in which decisions are made must be open to the public. The Open Records Act generally says that anyone can look at any public record, with some exceptions, such as law investigations or employment exams.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
The sound of a steamboat pushing itself up a river is the first thing French fur trappers thought they heard when they stumbled into this area of Northwest Colorado.
After a closer look, they discovered the sound was coming from the natural hot springs that dot the area. In honor of their initial misunderstanding, they called the town Steamboat Springs.
Now, Steamboat Springs has more than 150 mineral springs in the area, and although the loud chugging sound of the spring for which the city was named has subsided, the memory of how the city got its name has not.
Neither has the city’s history.
Yampatika Utes used this area for hunting for hundreds of years before settlers came.
In the early 1800s, the first trappers made their way to the valley. They were soon followed by ranchers and farmers, who found success growing a range of foods and raising cattle and sheep with the help of the valley’s good water supply and fertile soil.
Now, about half of the county’s land is used for agriculture, with hay, cattle and sheep all being major products.
Also in the late 1800s, coal reserves were found in the region, and small mines developed by the turn of the century. The arrival of the railroad in 1908 fed the mining industry, and mining communities popped up around the county. With the new need for supplies, ranching also grew, and the two industries helped fan each other.
The first strip mine was put in place in the middle of the 1900s. Now, there are three coalmining companies in Northwest Colorado.
Around the time that mining and agriculture were developing, the third key contributor to Routt County’s economy was also growing: Skiing. Initially, skiing was a mode of transportation for trappers, miners and ranchers who needed to get from forest to field to home in the wintertime.
But it didn’t stay that way for long. In 1913, Carl Howelsen – known as the Flying Norseman – built a ski jump downtown and flew off it to show residents the exciting recreational side of skiing. The next year, he introduced competitive skiing to the town at the Winter Carnival.
Now, Howelsen Hill Ski Area is the oldest ski area in continuous use in Colorado. It’s 30-, 50-, 70- and 90-meter jumps make it the largest natural ski jumping complex in North America. The Winter Carnival tradition has also continued in full force and now includes ski racing and jumping, as well as a range of other winter events.
The Mount Werner ski area was developed by Jim Temple in 1955 and ready for skiers in 1961. In 1963, Storm Mountain opened with a double chair lift. The next year, after legendary Olympic skier Buddy Werner, a Steamboat native, died in an avalanche, the mountain was renamed Mount Werner.
From its humble but snowy start, Steamboat has produced more winter Olympians than any other North American town, with a tally that is now at 63. The first medal was won in 1992 by Nelson Carmichael, who won bronze in moguls. Most recently, Travis Mayer won silver in freestyle skiing in the 2002 games. Now, the city is known simply as Ski Town USA.
In addition to Howelsen Hill, there are multiple historic sports that can be seen on a quick walk through downtown Steamboat Springs. The Old Town Pub was the city’s first hospital, and the Art Depot was a railroad depot that served as one of the centers for shipping cattle in the West. F.M. Light & Sons on Lincoln Avenue is Steamboat’s oldest business, and has been selling a range of products since 1905. And for those who want to experience Steamboat’s namesake, hot springs dot the landscape, particularly at the west end of town.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
For new residents who want to get to know Steamboat and its surrounding community, the thought of discovering everything the town has to offer can be overwhelming. Here’s a list of must-see places and must-do activities to get any new resident started.
Getting to know Steamboat first requires a walk through the downtown area along Lincoln Avenue. This 12-block stretch is truly the center of town. It’s where events ranging from the Fourth of July parade to the finish of the Steamboat Marathon take place.
Shops, cafes and restaurants line the street, giving residents a chance to mull over the morning news with a cup of coffee, search for a unique piece of artwork, or pick up a new sweater. Steamboat’s oldest business, F.M. Light & Sons, is also here, and is easy to identify with a life-sized plastic horse on the sidewalk in front of its doors.
The Tread of Pioneers Museum, located just off of Lincoln Avenue, is like the history of Steamboat itself – a collection of skiing, ranching and mining pioneers. Its front gallery is filled with old skis and tales of former Olympians, while the second floor holds stories of Western outlaws and some of the town’s first ranchers.
Running parallel to Lincoln Avenue is the Yampa River, which bikers, joggers and walkers can enjoy from the Yampa River Core Trail. At the heart of downtown, but on the other side of the river, residents can check out the rodeo arena, where cowboys and cowgirls compete every weekend of the summer. And anyone who strolls along the Core Trail in the summertime is sure to get a glimpse of residents and visitors kayaking or fly fishing.
Howelsen Hill, the oldest continuously operating ski area in the western United States, sits just behind the rodeo grounds. The hill offers miles of downhill and cross-country ski trails, which turn into spectacular hiking, biking and horseback riding trails in the summer. The hill’s Alpine slide, better known as the Howler, gives children and adults alike a chance to sled down the mountain in the summer.
Heading southeast from Howelsen Hill, the Yampa Core Trail eventually passes in front of the Yampa River Botanic Park, a series of gardens that offer a rainbow of colors in the summer.
At the west end of town are the natural hot springs for which Steamboat Springs was named, although the construction of railroad tracks through town robbed the springs of the chugging sound that was their namesake. As the story goes, early settlers came to town and heard what they thought was the chugging of a steamboat. A closer look showed that the sound came from one of the handful of geyser-like hot springs in town. Also in this area is the Depot, a historic building that used to be a shipping point for cattle but now is a center for the arts, as well as the Bud Werner Memorial Library.
For residents who are willing to make a short drive from town, it’s easy to access two of Steamboat’s natural wonders: Fish Creek Falls and the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Fish Creek Falls is a stunning, immense waterfall that’s easily seen after a quarter-mile walk on a paved path. More adventurous hikers can walk a little longer to a viewing point of the upper falls. Strawberry Park Hot Springs offers a relaxing escape for tired skiers and bikers. This series of naturally hot pools sits in a secluded spot at the top of Strawberry Park Road and is a favorite for tourists and residents alike.
Anyone looking to travel a little further from Steamboat can explore a variety of hiking trails around Routt County. About 50 percent of the county’s land is publicly owned, with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest making up the majority of this area, and State Parks such as Stagecoach Reservoir, Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake making up most of the rest. The area has endless trails for hikers, backpackers and hunters, and for snowmobilers and skiers, depending on the time of year.
A trip up to Steamboat Lake for boating, fishing and other water sports, followed with a stop by Hahn’s Peak Village or the Clark Store for a bite to eat is one good way to spend a day.
Finally, regardless of the season, all new residents should make a trip to Mount Werner, the ski hill that has helped earn Steamboat Springs the nickname “Ski Town USA.” During the winter, residents enjoy some of the best powder in the United States. During the summer, visitors can ride the gondola to the top, and then hike or bike back down to the base of the mountain.
Hazie’s restaurant at the top of the gondola provides top-notch food with stellar views of the valley below. And at the end of any trip, a handful of restaurants, bars and coffee shops provide a nice stop to catch one’s breath and grab a bite to eat.
STEAMBOAT PILOT & TODAY
Routt County provides a range of services for seniors, including opportunities to learn and meet new people.
The Routt County Council on Aging offers services including congregate meals, a program in which seniors can stop by nutrition centers around the county to get meals throughout the week; Meals on Wheels, a program in which workers deliver hot, low-cost, nutritional meals to seniors; transportation to and from meal sites, medical appointments and shopping; information and referrals; and a foot care clinic that includes a whirlpool footbath, toenail trims and foot massages.
The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has several programs to support seniors, including Hospice Services, which offers care for people who are terminally ill in their own homes, as well as wellness clinics and support groups for Alzheimer’s, cancer and more.
There are four independent senior living facilities in Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Hayden, as well as one assisted living facility in Hayden. The Doak Walker Care Center is a skilled nursing center that provides care and rehabilitation for elderly and convalescing adults.
For seniors who can no longer drive, getting around town is possible with several senior transit programs offered by the Kiwanis Club and Routt County Council on Aging, as well as with the city and regional bus systems.
The Kiwanis Senior Citizen Dinner, a gala dinner to honor and recognize the older generation of Routt County residents, is one of several social events that give seniors from around the county a chance to meet and visit with each other. Bingo and bridge sessions also are available throughout the week.
Senior citizens can get involved in a variety of volunteer and working positions at local libraries, events such as the Strings in the Mountains Music Series, and service organizations such as LIFT-UP and the United Way.
The diverse course offerings at Colorado Mountain College give seniors a chance to brush up on skills or learn something new. Yampatika, a non-profit organization that aims to teach people about natural and cultural resources of Colorado, has classes that target seniors such as interpretive hikes, bird watching and educational programs.
Finally, seniors are able to ski and snowboard some of Colorado’s best ski hills at discounted rates. The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation offers a free ski program for skiers who are 50 years old and older, in which senior skiers cruise down blue and groomed black runs, following local guides.