We’re proud to be the only locally owned bank in the Yampa Valley. With oversight provided by a 15 member Board of Directors in Steamboat working in tandem with a 12 member Advisory Board in Craig, Yampa Valley Bank operates with a community-first standpoint right down to its foundations. We have a unique and unmatched passion for the area and its residents thanks to 72 investors with ties directly to the Yampa Valley. Our team members at all levels, from board members to tellers, serve over 40 local non-profits and we happily provide financial support to a number of organizations within both Routt and Moffat County.
Yampa Valley Bank is grateful for the opportunity to power our communities by enabling our customers to succeed. Genuine Hometown Banking is more than just a tagline. It’s truly who we are.
The Flanigans are like a lot of families who live in the Yampa Valley. Gardner and Millie met while working on ski patrol and have been married for 21 years. Together with their two kids, Bode and Merritt, they can be found day-to-day in Steamboat Springs doing the same things many families do – going to work and school, grocery shopping, taking part in Winter Sports Club, enjoying all that Steamboat has to offer. By August 14, 2016 they had lived in their family home for 9 years. Perhaps it’s because they are so relatable that when tragedy struck on that fateful day, its effect was felt not just by the Flanigans but as a wave of empathy that rippled through the community.
It was the last night of a trip out of state on a visit to see family. Gardner and Millie were in bed when Millie’s phone rang. Gardner could tell that the voice on the other end was delivering a serious message but when he saw 15 missed calls on his own phone, he knew something was very wrong, and that it involved him too. The news came as a complete shock – a fire had started in their home and had burned it entirely to the ground.
“I think you hear something like ‘there's nothing left of your house’ but your mind plays tricks like, ‘Well there's got to be something left’. There was nothing left,” Gardner remembers. The Flanigan’s dog, Lola, was trapped in the house as it burned. She, along with everything but what they had packed for their trip, was lost forever.
Millie and Gardner shared what had happened with their kids and began what would be a heart wrenching journey back to where their house once was. As they traveled, messages of support came flooding in. Though the loss of their beloved pet and all their material possessions was a heavy and sudden blow, ultimately it was the generosity of their community that was most the most astonishing revelation to the Flanigans. By the time they arrived back in Steamboat, friends with open arms and a box of clothes were already waiting for them.
“The most surprising part was how quickly the support came in,” remarks Gardner. “Someone started a GoFundMe site before we even got home. It was almost instantaneous.”
Days turned into weeks, but the support continued. “One of the things that really touched me the most was there were these kids who would have lemonade stands and be out there with a big sign that said, ‘For the Flanigans’,” says Millie. “Then they would come up and give us a big bag of coins. It was amazing.”
Even with all that, a harsh reality was sinking in for the Flanagan family. “We were underinsured,” admits Gardner. The reality of building a new home in Steamboat Springs seemed overwhelming, especially when combined with the prospect of replacing all that had been lost in the fire.
Millie remembers, “We were worried that we might not be able to build a home. We really had a moment where the numbers didn't add up and we weren't in a position to come up with the extra money that we needed on our own.” That’s when they thought of PJ Wharton, President and CEO of Yampa Valley Bank. Though the Flanigans hadn’t been customers of the bank in the past, PJ felt a bond with them through their shared community. “He had reached out to us right after the fire and said, ‘How can we help?’ “
When it comes to matters of finance, it’s tempting to be cynical, to think of relationships only in terms of what each party stands to gain or lose. But for PJ and Yampa Valley Bank, the desire to help neighbors in a time of need was what guided their actions. “The challenge is, we're responsible as bankers to do financial ratios, income analysis, and asset analysis, but in a case like this it is about the people and doing the right thing,” PJ says.
Together, PJ and the Flanigans found the path to move forward. “We walked in. We sat down in front of PJ and said, ‘Here's where we are. We need to figure out how we can build this house. We want to get the kids back home.’” Millie recalls the surprising ease of that first meeting. “He said, ‘Great! Let's do it.’ He did not say, ‘Well, we'll try.’ He just said ‘We're in.’ That's unusual. That doesn't happen in every bank. That moment changed everything for us because we realized our biggest fear, which was not being able to rebuild, was suddenly going to be okay.”
“We really, frankly, counseled them through the process,” says PJ, remembering what it was like to work together. “We said ‘here are the decisions you need to make, but end result is that we’ll get you there.’ “
For PJ, this moment was emblematic of his passion for community banking. “What I'm most proud of is to work for a community bank, Yampa Valley Bank, that has a board, that has investors that would all say, ‘You know what? It's time to do the right thing.’ I'm really proud that we could do that.”
A bank with such a deep connection with the community it serves can be a rare thing. Gardner says it was an easy decision to choose to work with Yampa Valley Bank. “I think there's a genuine concern and motivation for them to help grow this community and that it's more than transactional. Every bank probably greets you as you come in, but not every bank cares about Steamboat Springs so much and the people who live here.”
When asked if she would trade the loss of her home for the experience of support and rebuilding she’s had, Millie is sure she wouldn’t. “No. It’s surprised me but I wouldn’t. Our kids have said that too.” She remembers what her son, Bode, told her during their first Christmas celebration in their new home. “‘It's been amazing.’ He said, ‘I've learned so much about what it means to take care of people. We've been so taken care of.’ “
In the end, what started as a tragedy became a force that forged deeper connections throughout the community and taught valuable lessons. “I think what we learned through this fire is what really matters is not your things, it's relationships. It's people, and it's love.” Says Millie. “We didn’t build this house, the community built this house. Yampa Valley Bank, in particular, represents that community.”
This is the story of a man with an affinity for pyrotechnics, a small local bank, and the power of community.
If you were to ask any local to describe what makes them call Steamboat Springs home, you’d likely run into a lot of common threads: A beautiful setting, a love of the snow and outdoors, people with a sense of fun and adventure, and above all else, an unparalleled sense of community.
Distilling all of those elements into an event would surely produce a spectacle of unsurpassed beauty and emotion, something amazing, unique and awe-inspiring. Well, that event exists. It’s called Winter Carnival, and Yampa Valley Bank could not be more honored to sponsor this 105 year old tradition.
To understand how a small, locally owned bank came to be the driving force behind an incredible display of human ability and pyrotechnic mastery, one has to begin to understand Tim Borden, past Chairman and Director Emeritus of Yampa Valley Bank.
Tim is the mind behind the formation of Yampa Valley Bank. Not only did he have the vision for creating a successful locally owned financial institution, but also the foresight to establish the guiding principles of that institution which reflect the values of the community it serves.
If there’s one thing, though, that could rival Tim’s passion for local banking, it’s his love of fireworks.
“I've been into fireworks my whole life, since I was in second grade,” says Tim.
That childhood passion now has the benefit of Tim’s significant resources. Tim’s personal fireworks shows began overshadowing the city’s Fourth of July shows, which gained the attention of citizens and city officials alike. Tim was at a city council meeting when a member of the public got up and said, "Gosh, how come there's a private show in town that's bigger than the city show?"
Thus, a partnership was born. The city began an arrangement whereby Tim would use his equipment to set off the city’s fireworks. Tim was in hog heaven. “I thought I was like Huck Finn or something. I took off with that; had a very small show the first couple of years, and then I've been expanding it ever since.”
Tim thought, why limit himself to Fourth of July when there’s just as much enthusiasm in the community for fireworks during the winter months? Getting involved with Winter Carnival made too much sense to pass up.
Tim saw that his passion project and the bank’s mission to give back to the community were in perfect alignment.
“The philosophy we’ve always had at this bank is that we need to participate in the community,” says Tim. “I think when you go out and see the Winter Carnival what you're going to find is a lot of people from Yampa Valley Bank will be working every facet of the weekend's performance. We feel strongly about Winter Carnival so we support it; not just with money but with manpower.”
Yampa Valley Bank President, PJ Wharton shares a similar sentiment when it comes to Steamboat’s most iconic event.
“Winter Carnival is the single greatest event in the world. It's pretty simple, really. On top of that, it’s a genuine hometown tradition of Steamboat Springs just like Yampa Valley Bank is a genuine hometown bank.”
Hearing Tim describe the event, you get a sense for the passion he has. “Everybody is into this thing and no one knows for sure what's going to happen. You'll see fireworks everywhere. You'll see kids skiing. You'll see people participating in this show from five years old to, in my case, almost 70. One of our officers, John Piret, does the shovel race where you’re dragged behind a horse at full speed down snow-covered Lincoln Avenue. You're going to see a guy, his name is Pink Floyd, he takes a flaming sled through a fiery hoop and jumps 50 feet down the hill. A bunch of kids do almost the same thing. The lighted man is an iconic figure to Steamboat, and his family has been doing it for 65 years. He'll be coming down with a lighted suit as he electrically shoots fireworks off the top of his helmet and backpack.”
PJ adds that for many locals, there’s also a very personal element to this show. “You’re standing outside at the base of Howelsen Hill in the freezing cold, in the dark, with your friends and neighbors and you have tears in your eyes because you're watching these beautiful kids ski down one after another in various levels of danger; either a battery operated torch, a real torch or even bombs and incendiary devices. It's ridiculous. Is it safe? Not terribly, but it's a whole lot of fun!”
“For all of us at Yampa Valley Bank and in the Steamboat community, Winter Carnival brings the greatest sense of pride we could possibly have. It's about our kids, it's about our youth, it's about our community. It's about the most historic ski mountain in the state of Colorado and it all comes together in one magical night. Yampa Valley Bank is proud to stand behind that.”
Beyond the spectacle itself, there’s a real mission behind Steamboat’s most iconic event. The whole ceremony really coalesces around the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
Tim says, “The whole community gets into this. It's all volunteers, and our bank puts this whole show on at no cost to the city as a contribution to the Winter Sports Club, which we're very much behind.”
“The Winter Sports Club probably has the greatest participation of any other club in Steamboat Springs. So we feel as though we're helping a broad base of the community by being a part of this show.”
PJ adds, “75 percent of the kids in our schools have been a part of Winter Sports Club at one point or another in their lives, and we have the most Olympians from any ski town in America come from Steamboat Springs, and that's all because of the Winter Sports Club. The club is all about creating champions in terms of life, as opposed to just athletes. They teach great, great, life lessons."
Tim Borden could likely pass along some significant life lessons himself. A long term commitment to his passions has produced substantial and tangible benefits to this community. In addition to both founding and guiding Yampa Valley Bank through its inception to its present day success, Tim has worked diligently and methodically to improve the size and quality of his fireworks displays. It’s truly been a labor of love.
As time went on, Tim realized his need to pull in some experts to take the show to the next level. He connected with some of the world’s foremost experts on fireworks, including Jim Woodman of Connecticut. Together, they honed Tim’s passion into something truly incredible.
Tim pitched it like this: “How about this, Jim? You work for me, and we'll set a world record." The show has gotten bigger and bigger each year, and Tim’s team is on the path to the record books.
“A lot of labor goes into a fireworks show. Jim and Eric have been working on this one shell for hundreds of hours,” Tim gestures at the massive 48” diameter shell sitting behind him in his fireworks warehouse. “That’s just one shell. You work for months and months for about a minute and a half of pleasure watching this thing go off, but it's all worth it.”
We happen to agree. And so does the Steamboat community. With the amazing support of this town, the show has been snowballing in size each year.
“This show is bigger this year than it was last year, and next year it's going to be bigger yet,” Tim remarks with pride. “We think the shell from 2017 may well be the heaviest shell that's ever been fired in the world. We know that it's the largest shell in the Western Hemisphere.”
The shell that was launched in 2017 was the biggest to date for Tim’s team, and a real benchmark towards an official world record.
Tim describes the shell, reciting the stats as you might describe your newborn baby. “What we had was a four foot in diameter shell that weighed approximately 127O pounds. The mortar is 20 feet long and weighs nine tons and it's buried in the ground. We had to do some major excavation. One of our board members and one of our bank owners assisted us in the excavation of putting this mortar in. It was a real team effort.” Tim had to receive clearance from the FAA to send his creation 2000 feet into the air, an altitude that could interfere with local airport flight paths.
What will 2018’s show hold for us? We’ll just have to wait and see.
PJ sums it up nicely, “Winter Carnival really is about who we are. It’s about keeping it local, keeping it special, keeping it intimate. It's about people who are passionate about snow, being in the outdoors, taking chances, maybe jumping off stuff at night, and again, family and friends. It's pretty amazing. It's pretty darn Steamboat."
We’ll see you out there!