John Steele was born in Minnesota but moved with his family to Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1918, where he took up skiing. In March 1924, he jumped 123 feet at Dillon, Colorado, described at the time as an age group world record for boy amateurs. Steele later attended Denver University, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, and represented the Pioneer Ski Club, which he helped found. He served during World War II and later worked as a nurseryman. He helped organize the first intercollegiate ski championships, held at Genesee Mountain, the forerunner of the NCAA Ski Championships. In 1930, Steele was the United States Class B ski jumping champion. He was a member of the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.