Ray Heid, 84, who has helped run Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch outside Clark since 1986 on his trusty horse, Stormy, always has a tale or two to tell. They all come alive in his new book, “The Man Behind the Duster,” recounting his escapades of growing up in Steamboat.
A few tidbits. Heid — who tries to ski his age in days every year — wears a hand-sewn knee-length elk skin coat with beaver pelt collar, his “duster,” topped with a balaclava and cowboy hat to ward off cold. His mother, Ruby, was the sister of Steamboat icon Hazie Werner. Brother Corkey qualified for the 1956 Cortina Olympics and headed the Steamboat ski patrol. Bother Del ran the resort’s lift department and started the ranch. His son Rowan “Perk,” works on the ranch, as does Perk’s wife, Becky, and grandkids, making six generations leaving their mark in Ski Town USA.
He’s skied for more than 80 years, since leather straps served as bindings, and only recently gave up his teles for AT bindings (no longer can pal Billy Kidd joke about him “not being able to afford the other ‘heel’ half of his binding.”
Most of Ray’s stories center around skiing or riding, and he says he’d “hate to ever have to choose between the two.” Like how he first donned skis at age 3 to ride the boat tow up Howelsen Hill; how he grew up skiing with his cousins the Werners; how he became a four-way skier in downhill, slalom, jumping and cross country for the University of Wyoming before making the 1960 Olympic ski jumping team; the time Warren Miller filmed him galloping through the snow, only to stumble and somersault; how his grandmother rode 70 miles in a blizzard from Wolcott to Stagecoach to tend to a sick child; or the 40,000 miles he’s ridden on his custom saddle.
“It changed my whole world writing these stories down,” he says. “There are ones I haven’t thought of in a long time, and a lot I didn’t get in. For years, telling stories around the campfire, people would say, ‘Ray, you need to write a book.’ And driving shuttle for our winter horseback rides, guests wouldn’t leave the van until I finished a story — and they’d tell the next riders ‘Ask him about…’ It took about five years but it’s exciting.” Find his book at local book stores.