As we start the holiday season that corresponds with the ski season I saw an article online titled “Please stop asking these questions at holiday gatherings.” That’s a pretty good article to read these days, as division between family, friends and foes continues to foment.
The article went right to it and advised that it is perhaps better to not ask, “Did you lose/gain weight?” I ask myself that every morning and usually regret it. Now, if I get on a dawn patrol skinning routine I can ask myself that question at the end of the ski season with a little more confidence, but it takes a while.
“You’re voting for who?” Oh boy. That’s a conversation starter. My brother and I had that conversation once that resulted in a mom sticking her head out the nearby window and politely asking us to not curse so loudly when her little kids were running around. Fair.
“Are you sure you want another serving?” That sort of goes to the first question and you know, I think I am sure I want that third piece of pie because I’ll get around to skinning up the mountain and work it off sometime in the future. I might even put ice cream on that serving.
“When are you going to have kids?” What can go wrong with that question after a few glasses of wine?
Other questions to avoid that might spill over into the ski season include things like “Should I carry a rope when riding the Silver Queen this year?” That was under-the-radar advice from some in the know the last several ski seasons. But actually the new ownership did some major internal mechanical overhauls on the lifts this past summer and what we have come to accept as a regular expectation of spending a few minutes (or more) stopped somewhere on the Queen should be very rare this winter. Still, it’s not a good question to bring up.
“Why isn’t Phoenix Bowl or the Headwall open?” That one always brought great joy to the ski patrol and mountain operations guys when asked. The easy answer is, “Because this mountain is unlike most other ski hills where the rocks are plentiful and avalanche danger not small.” Avalanches and rocks can kill you. Several patrollers over the years have found themselves in slides while maintaining the steeps and safety still remains the priority over possible face shots before the snow has settled.
“Where’s the bus?” This question is usually asked by tourists coming out of the Talk of the Town at 12:15 in the morning figuring they can hop on the free shuttle to get back to their room in the Elevation. The answer is that it is in the bus barn. The Mountain Express stops running buses up the hill at 11:40 p.m. from the Old Town Hall, which some have been opining recently is a pretty poor showing for a resort town. More than one stranded visitor has done the brutal hike back up the highway to Mt. Crested Butte. There is the Town Taxi that will get you home pretty cheaply but there’s usually only one and you may get a tour of the valley and places like Meridian Lake or Crested Butte South first.
“Why did Monarch get 15 inches of snow, Telluride 17 inches, Fort Collins 30 inches and Crested Butte got three?” That’s a question that usually brings a sigh and resignation from locals. They usually cite that Crested Butte can oftentimes be located in the “donut hole.” It can work the other way as well, when for instance in January of 2018 we got like six feet a day for two weeks and all of last season when we did pretty well in terms of consistent snow. So be happy with what we get. As an old ski school director used to say: “It doesn’t matter when it starts snowing in the season, it matters when it stops…”
“Where do people who work here live?” That is a big question at the moment and while there are some who actually live in every corner of the area, there aren’t enough places for everyone who wants to live and work here. We are working on that.
“What are all those people doing across from the Wooden Nickel?” Either gathering to socialize with friends they haven’t seen in a while or standing in line to get a package of fruitcake sent from their mom in New Hampshire. Most likely the latter.
“Why doesn’t the post office deliver the fruitcakes?” Ted’s been asking that question for decades. Don’t ask.
“How can people ride their bikes when the streets are covered in snow and ice?” Very carefully. But they find it more efficient and more climate-friendly than driving the Suburban two blocks to the post office to get their fruitcake.
“What’s the big blue building in the park?” That is a high-end arts facility that will frankly blow you away if you attend a concert in the new theatre. Just don’t ask about where to park when you go to the concert. Take the bus—or ride a bike.
“Why are the sidewalks so slippery?” It snows at 9,000 feet. You are high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
“Speaking of, if Joe Biden and Kellyanne Conway both feel marijuana is a gateway drug, why does Colorado allow it? And (whispering) where can I find the dispensaries?” Okay, Boomer. In this town there is a line as long as the one at the post office at that particular gateway. The pot shops are all located on Belleview Avenue in between the places where the electricians and auto mechanics set up shop. So look for the plumber or lumber yard and you’ll know you are close to finding your Rocky Mountain high.
“Is that a school at the entrance to town?” Yes. It represents that this is a community first and a resort second. It is actually one of the highest ranked public schools in the state and the school population grows every year.
“What else do people do here besides ski?” Not everyone here skis, believe it or not. There is art, a small town social network, great Nordic and biking opportunities, music and theater. Oh, and we work. And fight. And love. And care for one another when times are tough. While the town is certainly cute at first glance it takes a while to discover the deep richness of the community that looks so fairytale perfect and the mountain that is so challenging.
As a newspaper guy I always say there are no stupid questions. Some are just better asked than others. It’s the answers that are sometimes unbelievable. But that is part of the charm of this place—that is filled with fruitcakes. Just don’t ask me if I am gaining weight.
Happy holidays and happy ski season everyone.