To understand Steamboat’s future, first explore its history.

Even if you are new to Steamboat, it’s easy to see how much the town is growing, and all the good that comes with it: a thriving economy, strong real estate market, and improved public services and amenities. But in order to really understand where Steamboat is headed, you need know where it came from.

That’s only one of the reasons Candice Bannister has been with the Tread of Pioneers Museum for 18 years. “I started as the curator for our tiny, underfunded museum, and we have grown three-fold since then,” says the now Executive Director. “We’ve expanded beyond my wildest dreams.” She notes a million-dollar expansion and a long-term professional staff who helps her put on a year-round calendar of new exhibits, events and programs, most of which are free. “Every day is new, different, and amazing. I feel like I’m the lucky one to help preserve and educate people about the history of Steamboat Springs and the Yampa Valley,” she says.

We caught up with Bannister to talk about why history is important, how you can participate and learn, and what events are happening this summer.

How you can learn more about Steamboat’s history.
For starters, a visit to the Tread of Pioneers Museum is a must. The recently expanded museum is open year-round and has ongoing events, exhibits, and tours with a collection that is constantly expanding.

So much of what the museum does for the community is behind the scenes. “You wouldn’t believe the things that come through the door on a regular basis,” Bannister says. “People are always finding artifacts and memorabilia and donating them to the museum.” In addition to over 8,000 historical photos, the museum has over 500 oral histories recorded, transcribed, and digitized. “We just inherited 130 years of photographs from The Steamboat Pilot including newspaper clippings, journalist’s notes, and their entire photographic collection,” Bannister says. “We’ve been cleaning it, digitizing it, and making it available to the public.” It is these types of artifacts that inspire exhibits and tell the stories of Steamboat’s past.

“One of the big messages we’re trying to get out to locals is that it is free to visit the Museum and we’re here every day. We encourage people to come in as much as possible, to get engaged in history, and to get your children involved,” Bannister says. “That’s why we do so many events for families and kids.”

A hit list of can’t miss summer events.
There is a free Downtown Historical Walking Tour offered every Thursday at 9:00 a.m. all summer. During this 90-minute guided tour, you’ll see the town’s historic buildings (starting with the Tread of Pioneers Museum at 800 Oak Street) and learn about the development of downtown Steamboat through the stories of its early settlers.

The Museum offers many ongoing exhibits and programs like the Mad Creek Geology and History Hike. Get outdoors and learn about the geologic and local history of this beautiful area during the three-mile trek.

Take the whole family on a journey back to the 1840s at The Steamboat Art Museum on Thursday, August 8 for Steamboat Art Museum’s summer exhibit, Looking West: An Exhibition Highlighting Works by AMERICAN WOMEN ARTISTS, where SAM and the Tread of Pioneer Museum will be hosting “Family Fun at the Museum” including stories, games, art projects for kids and an exhibit scavenger hunt. Did we mention it’s free?

Why Steamboat’s history is important.
Historic tourism is important for Steamboat’s economy; In 2015, heritage tourist spending in Colorado was $7.2 billion, while all other tourist spending was $6.9 billion. Since 1981, historic preservation projects in Colorado have created over 27,000 jobs and generated a total of nearly $3.9 billion in direct and indirect economic impacts. Designation of local historic districts stabilizes and strengthens towns and neighborhoods, increasing property values. It’s key to community identity and (if that’s not enough) it’s also sustainable; saving buildings requires far less energy and resources than new construction.

In a true effort to fuse the future with the past is “This Place Matters: The Economic, Cultural and Environmental Power of Heritage and Place.” The social media-based exhibit features Steamboat residents posing in front of places that are special to them. The exhibit, on display through December 2019 includes significant buildings lost to demolition and conveys the importance, connection and allure of our community’s historic assets that are currently at risk due to lack of code protections.

For more information visit the Tread of Pioneers Museum website.