Brian Smith, Director of Alumni connected with Charley Williams '84, P'25

Mountain Connection, March 21, 2022

What are you up to? After graduating from CU Boulder with a BA in Art Education I spent a year in North Carolina, then succumbed to the Curse of the Valley and returned to Steamboat.  For the next 8 years I worked for the Mountain on Ski Patrol, for Powder Cats as a back country ski guide, and as a white-water raft guide starting my own company Steamboat Rafting.   In 1998 I left guiding and together with my mom reinvented the management and investment business she and my dad started, Colorado West Real Estate.  At the present time, I have a fifteen-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, who is a student at the Steamboat Mountain School.  My mom and I continue to operate the real estate company with the help from another alum Annie Kakala Honebine (’88).  My brother, Daniel (’87), and I are currently racing Mazdas in the Hoosier Super Tour Race Series as well as in the local Rocky Mountain Regional NASA Series. I continue to enjoy my artwork.


What was my favorite memory? Was it sitting on Rocky Beach in Spain with a few students?  Somehow, we ended up taking turns saying things we liked or made us happy? Or was it in China watching Chip dance around his pile of fireworks as they all caught fire at once?  Before we knew it all of our stashes went up as a result. Could it have been beating out the locals in England to a game of darts? Maybe it was being asked by many people, in many countries, to read into a tape recorder to help them learn English.   I can’t leave out the Galapagos islands, getting lost in Quito and again in Nepal, and, of course, there were the winter Olympics held at school. This list goes on and on , so the only single answer I can give is that my favorite memory was “The Experience”.


Lasting impact:  When I was a student, I often heard the term “the Whiteman Experience”.  Until I had a daughter, I thought it meant the students were given an opportunity to see the world from their own perspective. To see a third world country with your own eyes, rather than books and video, is truly life changing.  The school also provided an education that just isn’t possible in a public school.  Now as a father of a student, I realize there is so much more to my experience than I ever realized. I believe my “Whiteman Experience” was a much more internal process.  Yes, the school provides many unique experiences, but the real magic came from the entire staff and the examples they set:   learning empathy, learning how to learn, learning to problem solve, learning to believe in yourself and to stand up for yourself and what you believe in.  These are the things I now understand were my “experience”.

Photo: Charley ’84, pictured with his daughter, Cheyenne ’25 holding the Wooden Book in front of the campus main building named for his father. The Wooden Book has the name of every student that has gone to SMS since 1958 and the cover is a wood carving by Daniel Williams.