Well, Crested Butte, we have survived another winter. Some of us, anyway. In order for me to survive it, I had to run away to the warm climes of Central America to work on my surfing (better, but still sucks), my Spanish (better, but still sucks), and my tan (amazeballs). Fortunately, from a completely selfish standpoint, it was not an epic winter back home, otherwise I would have freaked the f*ck out while watching the pow cam after a day of getting pounded by the ocean and felt generally crappy about myself and my situation. Unfortunately, from a completely unselfish standpoint, it was not an epic winter back home, because I care about you all and your collective stoke. Either way, it’s a long, cold winter in the mountains, and Crested Butte can be an awfully lonely place, especially when there is not bountiful pow in which to shred away one’s worries and cares.
I’ve been paying attention to what happens back there in my favorite little mountain hamlet, thanks to the book of faces and other tools of the interwebz. I take pleasure in seeing some of you enjoying the backcountry (I’m looking at you, ol’ Andy B. Text me, damn it), laying down turns out there in God’s backyard. I pray for snow right along with you, because I know that a thin winter makes not only for cranky friends, but also a hot, dry summer of dusty trails and scary wildfires. And as much as I want raging rivers and hero dirt upon my return, I also want my friends to live their dreams to the utmost, want for naught, and effuse the joy that, by all rights, should be inherent with existing in what we all like to call paradise.
Truth is, though, life can be tough in paradise. When I left this fall, I wondered who we were going to lose this round. Every year, save for a very few, friends and acquaintances are suddenly ripped from our lives, most often by the power and fury of avalanches or other gravity-induced hazards. The stickers are becoming all too commonplace on the skis, boards, and establishments around town, all bearing the name of another member of our community, suddenly departed doing what they loved most. Asher. Knox. Novak. Bang Bang. The list goes on. Some are close friends. Some aren’t. Every one hurts, though. But as dangerous as Mother Nature can be, there’s another killer in our midst, one that doesn’t receive nearly the press or attention of its natural disaster counterparts—depression.
There’s no Crested Butte Depression Center with helpful information broadcast every morning on KBUT. There’s no getting your Deprey Level One or Two cert. There’s not even Depression Patrol skiing around the mountain with cookies and hot chocolate and fat ass joints of Sour Diesel. Because while we are quick to recognize the dangers inherent in the natural world around us, the dangers from within are all too often ignored, washed away in a class 5 river of booze and other compensatory substances that do a pretty good job of temporarily masking the pain, but nothing to address the long-term root cause. And if that cause is left to fester, untreated, well, then you get conditions that are pretty prime for a psychological avalanche.
I lost two friends this winter, Tricia and Beth. Neither one went down in an avy, doing what they loved, living the dream. On the contrary, both had decided that life wasn’t worth living any longer. Both were wonderful people. I enjoyed sharing little bits of time with them whenever our paths would cross, most often on a bike with Tricia, or on a bus or in a bar with Beth. And while I will never know what caused them to think that checking out prematurely was the best course of action, I wish I could have helped them through their darkness. So many of us do.
But the reality is that when you’re that low, you don’t really want to talk to anyone. You’ve just had enough of the pain. This world can eat a bag of d*cks some days. Look at our president. What a disgrace. Our government? Shameful. Soulless, self-serving corruption around every corner. Greed. Ignorance. Apathy.
My personal nemesis is the endless plastic trash that I see every single day down here. It makes me want to tear my fabulous surfer hair out. Locals throw Styrofoam containers and plastic bags and bottles out the bus windows like they’re banana peels. Even educated white travelers from the developed first world can’t stop buying bottled water and creating rivers of single-use plastic waste. Trash lines every road and every beach. It’s downright depressing.
Back home, while it’s still relatively squeaky clean, there are plenty of other depressing issues with which to deal. Relationships. Lack thereof. Loneliness. Addiction. Cold. Darkness. Homelessness. Hopelessness. Douchey tourists. Epic passes. Even lack of snow. Ski town suicides are becoming so commonplace that experts are starting to weigh in on the potential underlying causes, attempting to attribute some rationale to the irony of why so many people who live in “paradise” would want to end their lives early. And while we all like to say, “If you ever need a friend, call me!” after we lose another to suicide, when someone is stuck deep down in that bottomless pit, it’s not so easy to just pick up the phone and dial a pal. I’ve been there. It sucks. But thankfully, I have always found the strength to soldier on, and I’m glad I did, so that I can go get pounded by the ocean again tomorrow, and maybe, just maybe, catch one or two good waves that will make me raise my fists to the sky and yell, “F*ck yeah!”
Hold on, kids. Winter’s almost over. You survived another spring break of gun totin’, Trump lovin’ Texas tourons, what with their Walmart bibs and gaper gaps. Hopefully you saved enough money to pay for a deluxe camping trip to Fruita or Moab, and maybe even a fork service and derailleur tune. Soon we’ll all be pedaling through fields of wildflowers, or paddling down raging rivers, or casting fly lines, or just walking around in the insane beauty of the mountains in summer. I can’t wait to see you all once again, telling stories of our respective seasons past over a cold, hoppy IPA or creamy milk stout and a bowl of some Colorado chronic. ‘Cause let me tell you, while the beer is cheap and plentiful down here, the quality thereof can suck my ass. You get one flavor, crappy yellow fizz water, but at a buck a bottle, it’s tough to complain. Same caliber assessment for the brown brick of seeds and stems that each shady street sunglass salesman tries to pawn off on every cracker ass gringo in sight. Pure garbage. I have no idea what it costs because, hey, I’m from Colo-RAD, bro, and I just can’t even be bothered.
So appreciate the finer things in life that are available to you. Don’t let the wet slab spring slides get you. And don’t let the doldrums of depression take you out, either. We’re a damn ski town, and we’ve got to stick together, even from many miles apart. Keep your heads up, and raise a glass to our dearly departed friends. Honor them. Learn from them. And don’t give up. They would want it that way.