Written in October 2010, after the first snow of autumn.
As I gaze with anticipation out my living room window, I try to account for the inches that have melted away during the past three days of snow. With eight so far in our parking lot, I fight the urge to assume this is foreshadowing an epic winter. It’s only October 26, which means there’s about a month or more of unpredictable weather. That’s right, I said un‐pre‐dict‐able. Defined: “not to be seen or foretold”. The upper‐Gunnison Valley is the only place I’ve lived where you can’t depend on NOAA or LOLA to be accurate. Sure, our surrounding peaks will no‐doubt get hammered by the majority of systems that roll through the southern Rockies. But will our asses be covered? Or perhaps I should use the local‐deemed term “Crusty Butts” when referring to those whom anticipate roaming free on the jagged and intimidating, yet all‐too‐often dry, 12,000’ peak of Crested Butte.
A Butte is a solitary rock, or mountain, that juts out of an otherwise vacant landscape. Our Butte is bold and beautiful, and towers over our historic little town like a giant with arms crossed. Put simply, the rock calls the shots. Our community depends on our mountain’s ability to bring snow, which in turn attracts travelers with open lenses and open wallets each season. Our residents await the day that the shale and dirt take cover under the infamous white blanket, only to be replaced with hootin’ powder hounds and rabid escapees from Lonestar State Penitentiary. But just how many hounds will run free on our playground, sniffing out the goods where the average Joe wouldn’t think to look? How many dead presidents and corn-huskers will we be lucky enough to accommodate this season? We’ll never know until the lodging sales skyrocket. There won’t be a sign until you get rear‐ended by an Oklahoma license plate. Until we either do, or do not, get absolutely annihilated that first week of December, a week that the large weather systems have tended to favor.
As locals we know that we always have options. That is why we choose to live here. Options unless, well, unless you’re out due to an injured ACL or another leg injury, which it seems almost 20% of us are at any given point between December and May. The backcountry surrounding our resort gets 3-4 times the snow than our beloved Crested Butte each year, if not more. We know that we have limitless boundaries, and we can travel as far as our feet, or snowmobiles, are willing to take us. We also know that once we get out there, we’re pretty much alone with our surroundings. We scan 360 degrees from viewpoints atop high mountain peaks, and we sigh with appreciation for the solitude and serenity that we’re so privileged to have access to. After all, that’s why we choose to live here. Right?
Wrong. That’s only one reason. As locals of such a unique community and pursuers of seemingly surreal lifestyles, we cannot forget what makes us so attractive to the outside world. Our community. After all, it’s what stuck us here in the first place. Sure, most of us came with dreams of steep powder turns and an escape from the flashy and fly corporate culture that has taken over at the other ski destinations. But once we arrived, it was the culture and the small town vibe that kept us around. It was watching a local cop harass a teenager with an “I knew his mother when she was pregnant with him so this is acceptable behavior” approach. Or knowing that you can ride your cruiser‐bike to the post-office faster than you can drive there in a 15-mph zone. Even on a snow day. Or knowing that if you forget your wallet, the cute girl at the local coffee shop (who you can swear you saw dressed as a beer can last night on Main Street) will simply jot your name on the IOU list.
It’s the little things that keep us around. Sure, the big things help. Big lines, big dumps, big vistas, big high‐fives and big smiles. But immobilize yourself with an injury and spend mid‐winter on crutches, and I’ll bet everything in my pockets (at least 1/2 oz of lint) it won’t be enough to get you packing your bags. Why? Because when you hobble your way into the bank on your crutches, which thanks to local knowledge came fully equipped with spikes for traction on ice, the teller had more empathy for you than your own mother did (then again the teller probably didn’t just cough up half of your medical bill). The guy in line next to you sees the same physical therapist you do, and the first things he says is “Dude, how’s the swelling in that knee? Still chillin’ on the couch? Here, check out this new video I just bought. SICK big‐mountain riding and pillow lines galore! Should help you pass the time.” Your jaw drops as he leaves your side and approaches the teller. “Really?” you ask yourself. “Did that just happen? I barely know that guy!”
That’s what we’re all about up here at 9,000’ above sea level. Sharing and spreading the love. Seek. Destroy. Share. The enticingly hardcore scene got us here and filtered the rest out, and the local‐camaraderie kept us around. So when you get rear‐ended this winter, be thankful that the snow Gods are calling out to others. Be thankful that the driver is supporting your lifestyle by hiring your landscaping crew for $12,000 per summer in order to keep their HOA off their back. And if you must, find comfort in knowing that they’ll most likely stay on the “blue” runs and won’t interfere with your pow lines. Don’ t forget how attractive groomed “corduroy” is to family members that only get out twice per year. Sure, they’re the ones keeping us in lift lines, but they’re also keeping us with jobs. They’re the ones covering your asses. You should know that you can always disappear into the backcountry, but that when you return you’ll be forced to share your powder report with the locals at the burrito shop. And yes, there may be an outsider listening in. And no, you shouldn’t lower your voice in order to protect your secret stash from a non‐local. If you can recall, you were in their shoes once also. And if you were lucky enough to be born here, then your parents wore those shoes once. And shoot, if the shoe fits…well, that’s why we choose to live here. Right?