The Rockies stretch from the northern tip of British Colombia nearly 3,000 miles south until they disappear into the high desert of central New Mexico. Immense peaks, rolling wilderness, and serene snowscapes inhabit this mountain range that divides the continent in half as they rise from the plains towards the heavens. Over the course of generations, these mountains have been an imposing obstacle for some and an impossible allure for others. The many towns that now thrive in the forests and foothills of the Rocky Mountain region can trace their roots to native cultures and intrepid adventurers who settled the land centuries ago. Steamboat Springs is one such town that thrives today while tracing its origins to the romantic appeal ever associated with the American West. Nestled on the western outskirts of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Steamboat Springs sits peacefully and proudly as both an aged outpost and a modern destination. The Yampa Valley, which surrounds the town, served as traditional summer hunting grounds for the Yampatika Utes for hundreds of years before settlers arrived in the late 1800s. The geothermal hot springs, considered sacred healing sites by the Utes, were named by French trappers who heard a chugging sound resembling a steamboat. Before the arrival of trappers in the early 1800s, the Utes were the sole inhabitants, utilizing the area's abundant natural resources, including the blooming wildflowers and rolling meadows surrounding the river and springs. The man known as the “Father of Steamboat Springs," James Harvey Crawford, arrived in the area in 1874. Like many other settlers and frontiersmen of his time, Crawford was ambitious at heart and resilient at his core. He wore the dream of the West as a badge of honour and fell in love with the Yampa Valley the moment he saw it for the first time, with the endless possibilities that come with the vibrant Rocky Mountain spring following the trials of winter. Crawford built the first permanent homestead in the area, and over the next several decades, more and more families arrived, enticed by the same pull that drove others before them. Steamboat Springs became an official town in 1900, and the western boom began in full with the arrival of a railroad in 1909. With the railroad came more people, but also another element that would soon become synonymous with the West: cattle ranchers. The valley was an ideal location to support the cattle industry, with green pastures and plenty of water during the warmer months. The population of the town grew along with the many ranches that still exist today. The railroad also afforded the town an influx of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of mountain life without embarking on the intense journey by horse or wagon. Seeing an opportunity, a Norwegian immigrant named Carl Howelsen set up a ski jump on a hill in the center of town, which quickly became immensely popular to witness and participate in. Howelsen was integral to establishing skiing as a sport in the area, and the diverse terrain and ample snow made Steamboat Springs a perfect location for the pursuit. A ski craze soon followed, and tourists from all across the nation would take the train into the valley to attempt the activity, many for the first time. A number of these early skiers never left and laid the foundation for the future of the town and its worldwide winter appeal. This skiing destination was further established in 1963 when the Steamboat Ski Resort opened on Storm Mountain. Several locals, led by a rancher named John Fetcher, built and designed the first designated ski runs and created the footing for what would soon become an extremely popular sport. Storm Mountain was renamed Mt. Werner in honour of local legend and Olympic skier Buddy Werner, who lost his life in an avalanche. Skiers who visit Steamboat Springs Ski Resort today ski the same lines as those eager entrepreneurs who established the mountain as a dedicated ski area decades ago. The resort has changed ownership several times over the years, but steady expansion and development have turned it into a world-renown skiing destination. The spirit of the West is alive and as bright as ever in Steamboat Springs today. The appeal that brought early pioneers to the region many years ago still pulls in new residents and tourists by the day. The ski industry has surpassed the ranching business, but the sprawling homesteads and annual winter festival still reveal the roots of the town, and the romance of crisp mountain air and fresh powder turns instills a smile in all who arrive. While you no longer need to hop in a rail car to visit the town, its secluded setting in the heart of the Rocky Mountains is still a worthwhile journey for any skier or outdoor lover. Steamboat Springs is an alluring destination for many and far worth the effort involved in uncovering the riches of this Western treasure.