Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Anger Management: The PowCam, Met Rec, public officials and perspective

It has been a while since I’ve heard so much anger over a local issue. Snodgrass, Whatever, Brush Creek.

But the latest issue dominating conversations in the ski lines (that’s a whole other issue) and into après ski exchanges over cold beers and warm slices is . . . the PowCam.

PowCam anger

Yup. The new management team at Crested Butte Mountain Resort decided that starting last Friday, March 1, the PowCam would be cleared of snow every day at 5 a.m. instead of right when the lifts closed at 4 in the afternoon. For locals, the 4 p.m. wipe has made it obvious since 2007 how much powder had landed on the Headwall after the last skier was down on any particular day. That was a critical part of the equation when deciding whether to grab the powder skis and hit the hill or go to work. Snow shovelers used it to see what their future entailed. Ira Conn’s excellent letter on page 5 goes deeper into the philosophical aspect of the PowCam and its relationship to the community.

People are beyond anger at the shift. There honestly was not a lift line in which I didn’t hear people talking about it—and no one said it was a great move. Everyone was voicing a little lost love for the new owners. The locals felt dissed. Social media exploded.

I emailed CBMR senior communications specialist Zach Pickett, who graciously sent me the company reasoning: “Crested Butte Mountain Resort has adjusted the timing for clearing snow from the pow cam to better align with our actual snow reporting timeline of 5 a.m. to 5 a.m. Skiers and riders are encouraged to visit www.skicb.com/snow for overnight (4 p.m. to 5 a.m.), 24-hour (5 a.m. to 5 a.m.), 48-hour and 7-day snowfall totals. We are evaluating additional options for showcasing snow totals and will update guests once we have more to share.”

Corporate speak telling me to get up and begin math problems first thing in the morning? Uhhh…ok?

The company blog states, “That 5 a.m.- 5 a.m. total reporting has not changed, we have adjusted the clearing of the PowCam to match this reporting…”

So my understanding is this basically makes it easier for the CBMR people who do the job of measuring the snow totals. But it definitely makes it more complicated for the average local who wants a visceral charge of excitement when they wake up and see double digits covered in white on the PowCam instead of looking at some numbers on a computer screen.

And it screws up the original reason for the PowCam that worked beyond expectations—marketing. I guess from a marketing perspective it’s a good move for locals who don’t want more people coming here. I mean, how many times did you see a screen shot of the PowCam when the snow was piled high? Talk about free worldwide marketing. Who is going to post a shot of two inches of fresh when Telluride is showing 18 on their snow stake? It makes us look like the “before picture” in an ED ad.

Seems it would be pretty easy to have both a customer PowCam and the “official” pow cam next to one another. Or better yet — go back to the 4 p.m. clear and call it good.

Locals are customers, too, after all—and successful businesses usually listen to and respect the desires of their customers. Look at Noah Wight at CBTV. He’s reacted to the move by posting photos of the PowCam before it’s cleared as well as posting time lapses of the snow. Good business decision for TV10. I also think people are angry at the dumbness of the move.

Met Rec anger

I attended another Gunnison County Met Rec meeting a week ago. I left amazed at the amount of animosity among some board members. At times it was like watching a dysfunctional couple that had been married 40 years, after they have a few martinis. There were times the meeting included the spitting of such lovey-dovey phrases like “Don’t go there with me” or “Just stop it now.” There were more than a few subtle accusations of deliberate underhandedness between pointed fingers, eye rolls and cutting off the other person when they tried to answer a question. It was great hanging out there.

And at the same time, I left impressed that during the meat of the meeting the board got good stuff done. The entire board—not one side or the other—approved upgrades for television and agreed to continue down the path of more recreation. That’s what that whole board is supposed to be about after voters “de-Bruced” the district last fall on the promise of sustainable TV and more recreation funding opportunities. But apparently, like so many dysfunctional relationships, the issue isn’t seemingly one of substance but perhaps… I don’t know—maybe control? Or who takes better care of the kids—in this case the staff. One side wants to treat them like school kids and protect them while the other side wants to treat them like young adults and push them.

Okay. Maybe this dysfunctional family analogy is too much and is not fair… but it sure would be nice if the board could just get beyond a weird, angry November meeting that soured the martini. Start over and focus on continuing accomplishments. There is sincere ire between fellow board members that I really don’t understand. There is a lot of good opportunity with the taxpayer funded Met Rec but opportunity can be tainted quickly by dysfunction. Board members don’t have to go on road trips together, but think about how much more pleasant those meetings would be if you started over and got rid of the intentional antagonism.

Met Rec isn’t going to change the world around here but it can make it a better place and that’s why the ballot issue was approved. Show a little respect and see how much more can be accomplished.

Birnie-Schmidt anger

And then there’s the Crested Butte mayor and the Gunnison County manager. Can’t quite remember their names. Schmidt and Birnie? It’s my understanding both played offensive lineman on their college football teams. It gets nasty down in the trenches and perhaps some of that stays with a person. They got crossways a couple of years ago and honestly, neither likes the other much. That’s just the way it is sometimes. Deal with it. Which apparently didn’t happen during a dinner social last week.

Neither is really willing to take crap—and that isn’t a bad thing sometimes when leading a group. But Lord knows there is greater opportunity if the town and county people actually work together on things—not everything necessarily but some things.

Collaboration isn’t always easy. It usually means compromise. But for either side to take offense and get angry when someone disagrees with a position is not how stuff gets done. The One Valley thing doesn’t work if one side thinks it is always right and everyone needs to be on the same page all the time. It falls apart when respect is forgotten and one side begins to believe the other side lives in LaLa Land. I’ve seen positive results of the OVPP in its social service element so it should be easier than it is right now to spread that success more across the board. But that’s not happening right now and respect plays a big part.

In most every situation, respect is part of the successful human equation. That is true of the county and town officials, the representatives of a little rec board or the giant ski owner corporation and the people who live in the little town that gives it its charm.

Respect is the glue that makes it all work and when the glue disintegrates, so does just about everything else associated with it. Respect also means looking at a situation through someone else’s eyes. That can change perspective pretty quickly and can lead to lasting progress.


And I want to put all of these things in some larger perspective. Some 29 years ago in Crested Butte on March 6, 1990, the Crested Butte State Bank blew up. Three local women were killed and more than a dozen people were critically injured. It was a horrific day for a much smaller community. Like the Jokerville Mine disaster that claimed local Crested Butte lives in 1884, the 1990 bank explosion is a part of this community’s history. The depth of the tragedy certainly fades as the years pass but it is a tragic event that should not be forgotten.

And in a similar vein, the district attorney this week released a report going into the details of the tragic Thanksgiving Day shooting of a man just south of Crested Butte. It appears Patrick Langhoff, who was shot by a Colorado State Patrol officer, was ready to leave this world. My sympathy goes out to his family, and to CSP Sergeant Josh Boden, who reacted properly and ended up pulling the trigger in a scenario I can’t even imagine. There is no doubt all involved will be impacted for the rest of their lives.

—Mark Reaman

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