John Peyer; Colorado’s first winter sports carnival founder
December 28, 2011
John Peyer, who became an employee of the Hot Sulphur Springs Townsite Company, was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on March 26, 1880.He immigrated to the United States in 1903, first locating in Ionia, Jewell County, Kan., before going to work for Hot Sulphur.The Hot Sulphur Springs Townsite Company’s headquarters were established in Denver in 1910. The plans called for a massive subdivision development known as Hot Sulphur Springs Park to be completed with bungalows as second homes, and a huge Community Club House.The Given brothers were the upper management team. John was sales manager, T.T. was superintendent of agencies, and George of New York City, was general manager of McCall Company, the world’s largest publisher of ladies’ dress patterns. Volney T. Hoggatt, an influential lawyer, was an owner of the Townsite Company.John Peyer arrived in Hot Sulphur Springs about June 1, 1911, driving a luxury seven-passenger, 45 horsepower Martini automobile, imported from France. The car was used for taking visitors from the Moffat Railroad train depot to promote land sales in Hot Sulphur Springs Park, with “Camp” names.Mr. Peyer occupied his bungalow in Camp Argentine. The primary road on Bungalow Hill was as smooth as any city boulevard, the Middle Park Times newspaper stated. The summer months were busy with picnics for those interested in buying land.John was driving tourists and locals to points of interest throughout Grand County: fishing trips to Williams Fork, Windy Gap, Grand and Monarch Lakes and to baseball games in Fraser.Business slowed in the fall months. Mr. Peyer advertised in the paper:FREE LOGS given to those who will buildAUTO TRIPS To Grand LakeBUNGALOWS in Hot Sulphur Springs Park.Wednesday: Leave Hot Sulphur at 8 a.m.Leave Grand Lake at 4 p.m.In October the Moffat Railroad announced the freight operations would be moving from Hot Sulphur to Fraser.The Middle Park Times published an editorial concerned about the future of Hot Sulphur Springs. John Peyer answered with a letter focusing on winter sports:”… Switzerland mountain valleys are less appropriate than here, yet attract winter tourists around the world. Where else is a better ski ground than Mount Bross? Or an easy ice field on the baseball field near the Grand River. For very little cost a fine bobsleigh run could be made on Bungalow Hill through the pines as good as they have in Switzerland or Canada. Large crowds will fill hotels to capacity. American people take to sports quicker than others. The Moffat Road will advertise for us, if we guarantee a good ice field and bobsleigh run. All we need to do is work together and not expect someone to come along and feed us fried chicken.” Yours ready for work. John Peyer. October 13, 1911.One week later this advertisement appeared:NOTICE: Those interested in winter sports willMeet at the Chamberlain-Gray drugstore nextMonday evening. At which time steps will be takenTo do something along that line. John Peyer.
Elected as the Carnival Committee Chairman of the Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Sports Club was John Peyer. Carnival Day was Dec. 30, 1911.John placed first in the Fancy Skating Contest, and along with Mrs. Fuller took first place in the Couples Fancy Skating Contest.At 9 p.m., the peak moment of the Field Sports Grand Ball, John Peyer introduced two Sons of Norway. Their names were Carl Howelsen and Angell Schmidt. Their arrival coincided with a previous day Denver Post article, “Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Sports Club hopes to make winter sports popular in Colorado as they are in Switzerland and Norway.”Howelsen and Schmidt boarded the 8 a.m. Train No. 1 at Moffat Station-Denver, and detrained at Corona Station atop Rollins Pass. They put on their skis, 35 pound backpacks and rifles. They skied downhill to Fraser, stopped and talked to a Swedish rancher, and on to Hot Sulphur. They had skied 44 miles in 9 hours.As an extra special bonus day, the townspeople were invited to witness a ski jump exhibition at 12:30 p.m. On Dec. 31, near John Peyer’s house, a ski jump was made of boxes and logs. Mr. Schmidt’s longest jump was 59 feet; Mr. Howelsen’s was 79 feet. The Norsemen also demonstrated cross country and downhill skiing.The Carnival Committee asked Carl and Angell to return to Hot Sulphur Springs in six weeks for the First Annual Winter Sports Carnival, when ski jumping, cross country and downhill skiing would be added to the existing sled and skating events. Howelsen and Schmidt were charter members of the Norge Ski Club of Chicago.To Carl Howelsen’s credit were 14 prizes from the center of Norwegian skiing, Holmenkollen. He won the 1902 and 1903 50 kilometers (30 miles) cross country ski races, and His Majesty’s King Oscar cup for combined races. Also, he was “The Flying Norseman” in the Barnum and Bailey’s circus.Mr. Peyer sent out attractive invitations announcing Feb. 10, 11 & 12, 1912, would be the First Annual Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Sports Carnival. Ski events of cross country, downhill, and jumping were now on the official program. This was going to be the First Ski Carnival held west of the Mississippi River.John Peyer’s dreams became reality. Colorado’s recreational and competitive skiing was born in Hot Sulphur Springs.Entries were received from most states, and Canadian provinces. Gunnar Dahle, a local entrant, surprised Howelsen by beating him in cross country, and placing ahead of Schmidt in jumping. Dahle had come to Middle Park at age 19 with his Norwegian parents having previously won prizes in his native land.The Moffat Railroad ran special trains to the newfound paradise. One visitor was Miss Pansy Perry, who was a silent moving picture actress. “The Bandit King”, a western filmed at Golden, was her most notable role. Her character rescued the cowboy. She was escorted on a ski tour by Mrs. Fuller, and Messrs. Howelsen, Schmidt, and Peyer. They cross country skied 12 miles.The First Annual Carnival was declared a success. The natural conditions at Hot Sulphur Springs surpassed all winter sports expectations, over European nations where these sports originated. The next carnival would be in moving pictures, to be shown across America as winter sports were in Europe.
In preparation for the Second Annual Winter Carnival, John Peyer again sent out invitations. Three ski jumpers from Red Wing, Minn., were secured. Harris Anderson, Olaf Benson and Charles Eck were members of the National Ski Association, professional circuit.The Middle Park Times had ads for the upcoming 2nd Annual Winter Sports Carnival on Jan. 31, Feb. 1 & 2, 1913:Skis for sale $2.50 and up. See John Peyer.Mr. John Peyer has received a consignment of skis from a ski factory in Ashland, Wisconsin and is selling them for Mr. C. Howelsen, our professional ski jumper.If you don’t believe that Hot Sulphur Springs is the best place in the world for ski jumping, just ask John Peyer. He knows.Outdoor Life magazine January 1913 cover portrait featured Miss Flora Brinker with snowshoes. Flora was from the Williams Fork, the portrait was a photo reproduction taken at the previous Winter Carnival. Her brother, Harold Brinker, was a race car driver on the American team that won the “Around the World Race”, finishing at Paris, France in 1907.The Denver Post, on Jan. 19, published a half page with photos and headlined “Skijoring, with Horses Hitched to Men on Skis to be seen at Sulphur Springs Winter Carnival.” “Novel Sport will be Witnessed in U.S. for First Time.” The article explained skijoring. The Rocky Mountain News heading on Jan. 31 was, “Ski Jumpers Are Ready For Great Midwinter Sport Carnival.” “Cracks of East and West will meet in Program of Daring Feats.” Five photos appeared with two ski jumpers, persons on a sled, and a toboggan. In the center photo was John Peyer and a lady demonstrating skijoring. The article mentions, “Never before in America, so far as we can learn, has skijoring been attempted.”Carl Howelsen won the jumping contest with 119 feet and 3 inches. Gunnar Dahle placed second. The National Ski Association jumpers were disqualified for falling. Leonard Wold of Scholl won the cross country race, and the skijoring event with a time of 1 minute and 17.5 seconds, equal to a time made at a Switzerland Ski Carnival.Seven bungalows and a U.S. Forest Service horse barn were built in Hot Sulphur Springs Park. The Hot Sulphur Springs Townsite Company and the Hot Sulphur Springs Investment Company merged into the Hot Sulphur Springs Company. John Peyer opened a real estate office listing houses, ranches, and lots in the Byers Estate, Pine Air Subdivision. He also listed the famous natural mineral springs, owned since 1864 by the late William N. Byers, founder and editor of the Rocky Mountain News. Planned were new bathing facilities and a hotel at the springs. The Byers heirs did not extend the option, which expired on July 1, 1913.Two weeks later, John Peyer became the Automobile Park Superintendent for the Lincoln Highway Association, “Main Street across America Campaign.” Colorado Gov. Ammons was escorting the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers Association in conjunction with a three day visit at Hot Sulphur Springs.Afterwards, John began repairing cars and relaxing at L.J. Wade’s Paducah Lodge at Leal. Mr. Wade was a former Grand County commissioner.
Changes for the gentlemen who started the Pre and Annual Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Sports Carnivals would happen. John Peyer became a traveling salesman for the Hupp Motor Car Company of Detroit, Mich.Angell Schmidt returned to Chicago. Carl Howelsen went to Steamboat Springs where he began Winter Sports Carnivals and more, from 1914 to 1921, before returning to Norway permanently.Around 1920, John Peyer settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. He married and fathered two children. He had an interest in automobile manufacturing as a machinist.John returned to Hot Sulphur Springs, to spend the 1922 summer at his home on Bungalow Hill. The Peyer family moved to DeSoto City, Highlands County, Fla.John became a proprietor of a hotel, until DeSoto city was torn down. The family moved to nearby Sebring, where John opened a machine shop business. At the outbreak of World War II, Florida citizens petitioned U.S. Senator Claude Pepper to establish the Sebring Defense School at Hendricks Airfield for a B-17 Bomber Facility. John helped organize the school and became an instructor.John Peyer passed away at his Sebring home on Nov. 5, 1941, at 61. He was survived by his wife Elsa, daughter Helen and son Herbert. His obituary said he was considered to be one of the ablest machinists and manufacturer’s machinists in the nation.
Carrying on the legacy left by John Peyer, Carl Howelsen and Angell Schmidt, was Horace Button. Horace was 10 years old and watching the ski jump competition at the 1911 First Annual Hot Sulphur Springs Winter Sports Carnival.A railway man noticed that Horace was spellbound. The man asked Horace what he wanted to be when he grew up, to which Horace replied, “I want to be a ski jumper like Carl Howelsen.” The seed had been sown and Howelsen taught Horace the skills of skiing.Horace Button became an All-American skier, winning awards over nationally recognized ski competitors. The basic knowledge he learned from Howelsen was passed on, which in turn sent Jim Harsh of Grand Lake to the 1932 United States Olympic Nordic Combined Team.The Olympics were held at Lake Placid, N.Y. Horace Button continued to advise ski techniques to students of East and West Grand School Districts, helping them compete at the university or Olympic level. Among his protgs were Dale Thompson, Wes Palmer, Zane Palmer, Landis Arnold, Todd Wilson, Kerry Lynch, and Tim Flanagan. Horace coached 12 National Champions.Horace also was an accomplished artist. His specialty was cartoon ski scenes. Tim Flanagan honored Mr. Button for his work with local youth and created the Horace Button Ski Foundation.Barney McLean of Hot Sulphur Springs also benefited from Mr. Button, who was waiting at the ski hill every afternoon, when school hours were over. Barney won nine National Championships, was a three-time Olympian, and captain of the 1948 U.S. Olympic Men’s Alpine Ski team in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Horace Button, Jim Harsh, Barney McLean, and Carl Howelsen are members of The Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. Barney McLean and Carl Howelsen are also in The National Ski Hall of Fame.
Hot Sulphur Springs and Grand County will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Colorado’s first winter carnival with a series of events from Dec. 30 to Feb. 12, 2012. The Grand Winter Sports Carnival, as it is known, kicks off Friday with a re-enactment of the cross country ski trip from Rollins Pass to Hot Sulphur Springs. See the Friday, Dec. 23, Sky-Hi News for details.