A piece in the L.A. Times last weekend reminded me of one of the many good elements about this valley—and one of the things that perhaps still separates this mountain resort from others: the money vibe.
There are people with money here but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at them. And I mean real money. Billionaire and hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank (okay, in the hedge fund) type money. But here, they don’t show it off like money apparently gets displayed in places like Aspen or Vail. These people with money come here to fit in, not show off. They don’t come here “to be seen.” They come for the mountains and all they offer—the skiing, the hiking, the fishing, the restaurants and people, the unpretentious quirky art offerings.
* The Los Angeles Times profiled the new potential controlling partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. The primary partner of that ownership group that bid more than $2.15 billion for the Dodgers also owns the old Grubstake building on Elk Avenue. According to the article, Mark Walter is very wealthy but is described consistently as being “decent,” “unassuming” and “unflashy.” The article indicates he and his family like to come to Crested Butte a lot. They apparently ski, take river trips and enjoy the valley. They like the feel of the community.
* The guys who own the new Irwin conglomerate, with its fingers in projects from the Irwin basin to the town of Crested Butte to Taylor Canyon, have said they like to come here and enjoy the community as part of the community. They work in the world money markets from London but they too like to come here to quietly blend in. They like the skiing and summer days and you may have sat next to them at a local watering hole but you wouldn’t know it from any flashy bling. As one partner stated last winter, “My family is blessed to be able to raise our kids enjoying the outdoors amongst you all… What makes Crested Butte so nice for our families is the fact we can come to town and eat right next to your families and we are treated just like any other people enjoying another great day in Crested Butte.” They like the relaxed vibe.
* Over Kebler Pass is a different kind of billionaire. One of the renowned Koch brothers—apparently the sanest of the three—enjoys the area as well. He has himself a big ‘ol ranch outside of Paonia and has bought a replicated old Western Town but the word is that he simply likes it over in the North Fork.
* There is no shortage of high-powered executives with second homes in the valley. Sports agents, computer moguls, film producers, financial managers, oil and real estate brokers all come here for a taste of the region. And it would be rare if you could pick them out of the Alpenglow crowd or Silver Queen lift line. The ones I’ve encountered consistently mention the appeal of Crested Butte’s “low-key” vibe. They can slow down and unwind here.
That’s a cornerstone people should perhaps focus on when they take on the “fight” to keep the place from changing. Concentrate on the positive essence of this place. Another building or ski lift probably matters less than keeping the unique mountain vibe of Crested Butte alive. That’s where the “fight” should be. Put up a fuss to keep the vibe that we are all here because we want to be. Whether you have a hedge fund or a shaky bar tab. Whether you ride in a private jet or in the Townie Takeover. It’s the vibe, not the bank account.
It’s saying hi and sharing a smile as we pass on the street. It’s the steering wheel wave on the highway. It’s the commonality of understanding how hard it can be to get here. The “I’ll show you the right way to do something” attitude from some newcomers and the “I’m a local and you aren’t” attitude from some who’ve lived here a couple of years both wear thin quickly in Crested Butte.
When people who can literally choose to go anywhere in the world choose to come here because of the unpretentiousness of the place, that is a solid star for Crested Butte and the region. It is who we are.
While old mining towns like Aspen and Telluride were built on gold and silver, Crested Butte was a blue-collar coal mining community. That is the root of this place. And it is another good reminder in this sweet time between on-seasons that those who will come here this summer do so because they actually like it here, not because it is on the list as one of the “must do” places to be seen.
It is good to be reminded of our roots and appreciate those who come here not to flaunt their wealth but to discover and wrap themselves in our treasures.