Cowboys trotting down Main Street on horseback and jingling spurs are just a few of the signs that you are truly in the west. Steamboat Springs has not forgotten its rich western heritage. Cowboy traditions and ranching remain a way of life here in Routt County. The Summer Rodeo series brings the finest equestrian heroes to the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs where residents gather in classic western digs to hoot and holler at the sensational displays of talent. During the Winter Carnival residents are pulled down Main Street on skis behind horses mounted by local cowboys. Here in the ‘boat our cowboy boots are more than just a fashion statement. We wear our western pride on our sleeves to celebrate the generations of ranchers and cowboys that brought Steamboat to life.
Cowboy Outfitter Arrives in Steamboat 115+ Years Ago
No matter what road you decide to take into Steamboat Springs you will inevitably pass a series of signature yellow hand painted signs advertising cowboy hats and Levi jeans at F.M. Light & Sons. Located downtown on Main Street this iconic Steamboat store is actually an important part of our wild western heritage. Established in 1905 F.M. Light & Sons is Steamboat’s oldest operating establishment where you can still stock up on classic western digs.
The Light family of nine, arrived by way of the Rio Grande Railroad, then traveled by stagecoach to Steamboat Springs. Encouraged by local business owners and bankers, Frank Light and his two sons opened the clothier just seven months after arriving, selling wool suits, boots, and Stetson hats. With hard work, determination, and a knack for marketing, they obtained a loan from Milner Bank & Trust and soon expanded their inventory. Even during the Great Depression, they were inventive in traveling to ranchers by horse selling their goods all over the West.
This family's determination, innovation, and customer service have ensured the treasure still stands today and is operated by a fifth-generation owner. As owner Ty Lockhart puts it into perspective, “It’s not only a celebration about our family’s history, it’s also a celebration of Steamboat Springs and the many ranching families who made their homes here.” Take your little ones to ride “Lightning” the iconic full size horse statue in front of the store on Lincoln Avenue. Lightning was purchased by Clarence Light and has been the store’s mascot since 1949. Visit F.M. Light & Sons to get a taste for the old days of quality mercantile and western apparel.
A Rodeo Tradition Dating 120+ Years
The Steamboat Springs rodeo is another valuable Western tradition that’s still very alive and well. Vintage photographs from the Tread of Pioneers Museum suggest that Steamboat hosted its first official rodeo event in 1897. Back then, events included literary readings, bronc riding, bicycle, and horse races, chasing a greased pig, climbing a greased pole, fireworks and a grand ball with an orchestra at city hall. Today, at the Steamboat Pro Rodeo Series, you’ll find cowboys and cowgirls of all ages, bull riding, bucking broncos, calf roping, barrel racing, live music, and so much more Colorado vacation fun for the whole family.
Make Your Own Memories on Horseback
Grab a pair of cowboy boots, toss on a leather jacket, and climb aboard to make your own Colorado memories on horseback. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced equestrian there are a variety of local ranches and outfitters ready to serve up the quintessential western experience. Trot between the aspen trees and admire from horseback the stunning views of the Yampa Valley. Local options to explore during your Colorado visit include Vista Verde Ranch, Lucky 8 Ranch, Saddleback Ranch, Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch, CR Summit Ranch, and Colorado’s High Lonesome Outfitters & Guides.
Smile, waive, and say “Howdy Partner” because the western spirit in Steamboat Springs is contagious. Continue browsing the Steamboat Chamber website to explore more resources for planning your perfect western family Colorado vacation.