Denver was 95 degrees by noon this past weekend and for a guy from the mountains, that is brutal. Luckily I saw it coming and threw a book into my bag in anticipation of some afternoon reading. The closest book was one sent to the News office and it turned out to be a quick and easy summer read perfect for a hot day in the city.
Written by former Crested Butte and Irwin resident Tim Reinholt, who now lives in Longmont, Pow is a quirky little novel of Crested Butte in the 1990s centered on a ski bum heist. There is a lot of weed, drugs and alcohol accompanying the skiing, snowmobiling and mountain biking. The characters are a composite of still-local favorites and it captures the outlaw, ski bum nature of the decade. That outlaw trait now is less “fugitive at the end of the road”’ and more “‘Fortune 500 a few miles from the jetport.”’ Actually, I guess there could be outlaw characteristics in that too but a different sort of outlaw from the 1990s.
That’s not to say some of the events depicted in the book couldn’t happen today. While it is still possible to run into an impromptu après ski costume party, it is harder for a gaggle of mid-20s ski bums to share a condo on Sopris near abandoned buses and snowmobiles occupying vacant lots in town.
Nevertheless it was fun to read a book mentioning places and people we encounter every day. Which brings me to the point. Crested Butte is still a gateway to special places and interesting people. This valley, and this town in particular, remain unique. That is a good thing.
As the world morphs into gentrified mediocrity, there is still opportunity in Crested Butte to experience the weird and the wonderful. It’s not just things like Vinotok or naked skiers on the last day of the season. It’s the everyday opportunities we too often take for granted in this high mountain village. A ride on the Lower Loop may sound pretty tame for most locals but every time I do it I am in awe of where that trail can lead. It is a literal ride toward Paradise (Divide). It can get you to a winding river, a backcountry waterfall, a cooling aspen grove or a meadow of vibrantly colorful wildflowers 10 minutes after leaving Elk Avenue. I’ve seen bear, deer, elk and moose on that trail. Taking a mid-afternoon ride last week on the Lower Loop it was great to see a family sharing a bit of a wilderness experience complete with a little tyke on a strider. He was out there and not completely happy but he was out there. That will matter to that kid in 20 years.
It’s the same with the people in this village. Walking around town and chatting with friends and acquaintances is a treasure not everyone experiences in this increasingly wired-in world. It’s not “liking” a friend’s political rant on Facebook or following a celebrity on Instagram. It is actually talking to a human being that shares part of the space in your world. It could be on a bench, outside the post office, at the free music, leaning against the fence at Tommy V, at the bar or just for a few seconds as two trucks pass each other and stop on Whiterock to check in while locals wait patiently for the quick conversation to end. But there is always opportunity for real conversation. That doesn’t happen everywhere. But it happened in the 1990s and it still happens today. And yeah, just like in Tim’s book, there is still plenty of weed, beer, skiing and mountain biking in Crested Butte.
We are in the dog days of summer. It is hot here but better than anywhere else in the country. The days for some reason feel lazy but still super busy with work. We are experiencing the much-needed monsoon season to take the edge off and color up the skies at sunset.
Fear not…we will hit the edge of peak summer in about two weeks after the Arts Festival. The summer busyness doesn’t end but the traffic will ease and the lines will shorten. Businesses lose a bit of the constant overwhelming mayhem but also lose their college or high school workers. It’s never easy to live here. Work is hard. Housing is hard. Money is hard. But you are here and this is still one of the last, best places.