Rabbit Ears Motel has been a fixture along U.S. 40 in Steamboat Springs for over 70 years. The local landmark is more than just a motel, it's an iconic and historic sign of the times.

The lodging establishment was originally built with 10 rooms in 1952 and was named after the nearby Rabbit Ears Peak. The structure expanded to 20 rooms in 1955. During the '50s, a stay at Rabbit Ears would be somewhere between $6 to $8 a night.

Along with several changes in ownership, more architectural expansions took place over the years. Today, the motel offers 65 guest rooms.

The style of the flashy sign in front of the motel was common for many roadside businesses during that era. Like other signs along Lincoln Avenue, it was meant to catch the attention of those passing by, and that it did. Initially, the rabbit’s eyes and ears were animated and both features moved from side to side. At night, an outline of pink neon light framed the rabbit's face and the words “Rabbit Ears” and “Motel” were illuminated in red and green neon lights.

In 1977, the Colorado Department of Transportation had plans to widen U.S. Highway 40 through Steamboat. The project meant removing the trademark pink sign with a smiling rabbit in front of the motel - an idea that did not bode well with Steamboat locals.

Kelsey Nistel, TSM/Canva
Kelsey Nistel, TSM/Canva
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Around the same time, Steamboat's city council started regulating signs in town, putting restrictions on their size and height. With the new regulations, blinking lights and animations were also outlawed on signs in Steamboat.

Although two groups wanted the sign gone, residents fought hard to keep it around. After compromising with the city, the motel turned off the rabbit's eyes and ears and removed the chaser lights altogether. The motel's cartoon-like sign was also moved closer to the building so that it no longer hung over the sidewalk.

Moving the sign meant it no longer interfered with the construction project either.

Today, the famous Rabbit Ears Motel sign remains a historical marker and a staple of Steamboat Springs.

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Gallery Credit: Kelsey Nistel

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