You know that eating a big piece of chocolate cake—even “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen,” as described by our fearless leader in Mar-a-Lago as he sent missiles into a foreign country—can be too much of a good thing. That cake sure can taste really good at the time but if that’s all you had, you would soon regret the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.
So it is with this off-season. There is a legit reason those who stayed in town this month continuously extoll the wonders of the slowest Crested Butte weeks of the year. The weather has been great, the streets are empty and the vibe is light and mellow. Alissa Johnson wrote about it in last week’s News. Any mid-timer in town this week with a Facebook page is telling all their friends how this is the time of year they are taken back to the “old days,” where Crested Butte life was simpler, slower and sweeter. But if it was all we had, you might start not liking the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen.
I experienced a slice of off-season nirvana this week as the school break sent families to the beach, desert or foreign cities making a quiet valley quieter.
As I left a very quiet office Monday afternoon, there were plenty of places to park on Elk Avenue. The patios and decks had activity but town was really quiet. There weren’t many vehicles on Highway 135 to Gunnison. Late afternoon riding at Hartman’s was pretty solitary except for a few like-minded riders heading to or from the parking lot. A mama bear and her growing cub standing alongside the road, a herd of bighorn sheep and some mule deer were pretty much the only mammals encountered on the way back to the Butte. I was loving it.
Off-season is pretty special in the north part of the valley. On good spring days—sunny and 60 and with the truly committed hanging around—there are few better places to be. Of course I was in Sedona the previous week so I understand there is something special about taking a transition break between winter and summer. There is little reason in my mind to, as many local politicos voice, “try to fill up all the shoulder seasons” in Crested Butte. Those shoulder seasons have already shrunk and while few (trust-funders excepted) could or would really want to survive 365 days of off-season, they help keep the place special—and sane.
Still, the contrast with the more, more, more clique is striking. More can be okay but not always better. More people in the Slate River Valley this July is not better. More traffic on 135 or 401 over the Fourth of July with the hope of possibly selling one more rubber tomahawk is not necessarily better. And my concern is not so much the change in amenities like the school or new trails but rather the change in attitude where more, more, more is the constant mantra. Someone sent me a quote this week from psychologist Erich Fromm: “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
Lately, I’m afraid I smell more of a desire for the bottomless pit and more of an aggressive attitude to hire a lawyer to try to fill that pit if you can’t get what you want—now. It’s about “me” more than the “community.” It’s about money more than the time. It’s about more instead of the quality. It’s exhausting.
Change is unavoidable and while some of the change certainly hurts, other changes have brought good things. Without change, the children would be bused to Gunnison for school, there would be no radio station and the restaurant and coffee shop choices would be far fewer.
So while these next few weeks will be a time to catch up and breathe, understand that too much of a good thing—whether it is too much slow off-season or too much busyness in a resort town—is not really sustainable. It would be too much beautiful chocolate cake. And to try to fill a bottomless pit with too much chocolate cake would be a disaster on either end of the spectrum. Balance.
In the meantime, being able to make a U-turn on an empty highway to get a closer look at that mama and her cub was an off-season treat better than any piece of beautiful chocolate cake.