Tragedy and comedy…

There still isn’t a lot of detail about last week’s tragedy on the hill.
When I got off the Silver Queen late Friday afternoon, someone told me they saw ski patrol performing CPR on someone as a sled was heading down the slope toward the clinic. My thought was that every year or two some old guy has a heart attack on the hill while skiing and dies. As much as I love skiing on the mountain, I’ve thought that might not be a bad way to go.
But as it turned out, the patrol was trying to save the life of a kid. An eighth-grade kid from Olathe came over on a school trip to ski. He died on the hill. That is tragic. I cannot imagine getting that phone call as a parent. Local police are still conducting an investigation and we don’t know exactly the cause of the accident. But it is very sad to know that a teenager passed away on the slopes of the local ski runs.

Thursday night the local arts community held a meeting. It wasn’t a normal meeting that I’m used to attending. Instead of Huck calling the meeting to order with a gavel, local dancers showed off their moves. Town planner Michael Yerman did not pull out the PowerPoint but instead made an appearance as a penguin. Yup. Award-winning thespians Paul Merck and Andrew Hadley contributed to the show—I mean, meeting. Hadley looks good in a mustache (who doesn’t?) and Merck put on his best TV game show face and plied the audience with questions that relayed information about the contribution of the arts to the local economy and community in general.
There was some art, some inspiration and some information. The idea was to get the community stoked about Crested Butte being designated as a Creative District. There is a group of people who feel the valley is shifting to embrace the arts as economy. It already is a driving force for the town and the idea is to make it more substantial and visible than it already is. If we can get all meetings to include some dance, some humor and some art, I’m all for it. Would love to see Huck and Deli begin every Town Council meeting and annexation discussion with a little hip-hop instead of the normal developer tap dance (kidding!).

Chatting with county community development director Russ Forest last week about the new “One Valley Prosperity Project,” I learned he is stoked. He really wants to see the valley work toward a common vision. Now, as I told him, I am somewhat cynical about the idea, given what I’ve seen here the last couple of decades. For one thing, prosperity means very different things to different people. Settling on a “common vision” is hard enough but he is confident that some goals can be coagulated and accomplished from Gothic to Gunnison. He has the skill set and enthusiasm to move it forward so it is worth the effort, but as I mentioned to Russ, the window isn’t very big to pick at least some low-hanging fruit.

Man, I miss the snow and the cold right now. But I do appreciate the warmth of a real January thaw. I remember when the January thaw was when temps hit 20 after a week of –30. Spring skiing in January is almost comically tragic—or is it tragically comical? Aside from the entrance, Flatiron skied great Sunday afternoon. Monday afternoon was a lot more sketchy and it felt like April snow at 3 o’clock in the Hockey Rink. I just don’t want to get the January weather in April and May.
The North Face Lift will open Friday. I will again say that I like it when the resort doesn’t wait until optimal conditions to open the Extremes. That terrain is special and is the signature of the mountain. It is good for the soul just being back there. I understand safety concerns and the need for good exits to evac people when necessary. While skiing those runs after a two-foot storm is the absolute best for lift-served terrain, just getting back in there is pretty good and helps make this mountain what it is.

And we can expect some fireworks in the future over how the towns and valley will be handling the Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) issue. It is on the radar of local government officials. Some are seeing it as the tragedy that will ultimately ruin the Crested Butte community, as homeowners use VRBO instead of renting long-term to working locals. The property owners see VRBO as a chance to help pay the rising costs of living here. I don’t anticipate much comedy coming from those discussions. And the CB discussion starts Monday night with a work session.

In the meantime, what can we do? We send our condolences to the family that lost a child to the mountains. That puts some things in perspective. While skiing is one of the best things a human can do in his or her life, it is not without risk. Respect the mountains whether backcountry on the resort. Take a breath over the debate that will come with a shared vision. Enjoy the sunshine and be glad we had a few good storms early in the season. Appreciate the art in this community for what it brings to the heart and apparently the pocketbook. In other words, be grateful…

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