Profile: Hali Jones

Hali Jones is in her element, blissfully surrounded by row upon row of tall shelves and long tables with piles and piles of books of every genre. She’s a self-professed nerd since her early days, but you wouldn’t have an inkling of that now, because she’s blossomed as not only a thinker but a charming hipster of a young women, led, in part, by her love of books, story and the outside-of-the-box experience that reading brings.
Hali stands behind the counter at Townie Books, tall and slender as a willow branch with smooth, short red hair, directing customers to their next reading adventure, helping kids with their next fantasy. In essence, she’s the Willie Wonka of the written word.
Although she was born in Houston, Hali’s been coming to Crested Butte since she was two years old, when her parents chose this town as a great escape for fun times and skiing. They spent every vacation and summer up here, building a home on the mountain in 1994.
“I loved it here,” Hail says with her broad smile. “We’d do Rocky Mountain Biological Lab Kids Camp and Crested Butte Recreation activities, going to Roaring Judy, hiking, and month-long summer art camps. I hated Houston,” she confesses and even though she grew up in a privileged atmosphere, Hali just couldn’t wait to return to her mountain home. “Every morning I’d wake up to the view of Snodgrass and say, ‘Good morning Snodgrass!’“
When Hali’s parents divorced in 1988, Hail’s mom decided they needed to move to Crested Butte full-time, with a happy nine-year-old Hali and her sister in tow. “Moving was the best thing that ever happened,” Hali says, since she was not thriving in Houston. “I was always the gangly, socially awkward girl with no coordination, stick-thin and tall, and boys did not like me. When I first got here I had thick Harry Potter glasses and wore a lot of purple in sixth grade, which changed to black, and dyed hair… pink, fire engine red, and blue hair and punk rock in high school, which was very weird for here at the time.”
She attended Crested Butte Community Schools from sixth through eleventh grades before switching over to the Crested Butte Academy for her senior year, which allowed her to participate in her equestrian sports five days a week and ski the other two days. Hali had started riding horses at the age of eight, a requirement of her grandmother, who bred hunter-jumper horses and insisted that all the grandchildren learn to ride.
Hali competed until she graduated in 2005, competing in Gunnison’s Cattlemen’s Days as well as attending horse shows every summer.
“My dad came out when I was nine,” Hali says proudly of her gay father. “It was actually pretty funny when he came out. My sister and I took it pretty much with aplomb. I was never worried or had shame with my dad but I was more worried, when I was young, about how people would react to me because I was picked on as a kid and I didn’t want to give them another reason to tease or ostracize me. When I turned 18 and went off to college I never kept it a secret, it was always something I was very proud of. I’m a big advocate for LGBTQ rights.”
Hali started college at the University of Puget Sound as a humanities major but basically majored in  “Hanging out with my friends, so I ended up coming back to Crested Butte to take a year off school and I worked at Clark’s and Ruben’s,” which, she says, made her realize that she should probably get a college degree, so she enrolled at Western State College (WSC).
“Although I was always smart and bookish in high school, I didn’t do well in school. I was the one the teachers always sent the note home with, saying ‘She doesn’t apply herself.’ But when I went to school at WSC, it lit a fire under my tail. I was the president of the English Honors Fraternity, which is an academic fraternity, I wrote a column for Top of the World, the WSC paper, I was part of WordHorde, the spoken word troupe, and I edited the Pathfinder Magazine for two years, which is the art and literary magazine for WSC. Basically, I was going to take every opportunity that was thrown at me from professors.”
Hali graduated in 2011 with a bachelor of arts degree in English/creative writing, and with great grades. “I found that not only did I like school and I was good at it, I took a lot of pride in it and I was just a giant nerd about everything—literature, geology, history, anything you threw at me.”
She wound up staying at WSC another year to get her Certificate in Publishing, in which she learned about book design, editing and the whole process of putting a book together. “I had this plan for freelance editing and I wanted to get to know the industry better,” she explains.
Although she wanted to stay in Gunnison with her then-fiancé, they had a pretty spectacular break-up and she wound up moving back to Houston to live with her dad. “One of the greatest things about living in Houston was hanging out with my dad and his long-term partner and their gay friends. It was my first chance as an adult to spend a lot of time with my dad so we really reconnected. I wanted to try living in Houston again now that I was grown up and I needed to get away. I went there to get a big-girl job in 2012. I went with all these plans of growing up, being a city girl and making a career for myself,” Hali says.
But before she went, Hali took a month-long trip to Jordan to explore living in another country. “I wanted to live overseas and was given an opportunity by a cousin, doing social media for the Jordan Tourism Board. Jordan is great, fantastic, but living in the U.S., you can’t beat it,” she says of her stint in the Middle East.
Hali then took a job in Houston at Whole Earth Provision Company, an outdoor sports store like REI but with a soul, she points out. “It was the closest thing to being up here [in Crested Butte] because those people were the closest thing to my Crested Butte clan, outdoorsy and wanting to get outside. They loved me—I was somebody who had actually worn down!” she laughs, noting that many of the people coming in to buy ski equipment were coming to Crested Butte.
In 2013, Hali was given the opportunity to take a winter rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, spending 28 days with people from the Gunnison Valley. By the end of the trip, the last thing she wanted to do was go back to Houston.
“You spend that long hiking and camping with the most incredible experiences, and I just wanted to come back to Crested Butte. If I went back to Houston, I’d be giving up the ability to go lose myself in wilderness. I realized, while being stuck in Houston rush-hour traffic, that if I drove in any direction for an hour I’d still be surrounded by people,” she says, so she came home that May of 2013.
She got a job at Townie Books, a part of Rumors Coffee and Tea House, and she feels she’s finally using her degree. “It’s actually hilarious. Majoring in English is actually majoring in retail,” she jokes in truth. “I’ve always been a bookworm. I’ve never not had a book in my hand. When I was a kid, my mom would only let us watch 30 minutes of PBS, so it was basically learn how to read or be bored all the time. Reading has always been my great passion.”
“With print, I actually remember the details a lot better,” continues Hali, “and not to mention my bookshelves are the pride of my house.” This is the girl who was most impressed with the scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where Beast presents Belle with a castle size library of her own.
“I’ll spend time at my house just staring at my books. Most of what’s in my storage unit are books. My dad knew when we visited as kids that if he dropped us off at the bookstore we’d be entertained for hours. One of the first things I do when I go visit someone is look at their bookshelves to see what they have, just to get an idea of who they are. If they don’t have books, I don’t trust them. I mean, who can spend their whole life without reading or picking up a book?”
Another of Hali’s passions is theatre. She’s recently been cast as Shelby in the upcoming Mountain Theatre production of Steel Magnolias. “I’ve been a part of Crested Butte Mountain Theatre since I was 11,” she says. Although she hasn’t been in many plays, she directed and wrote a ten-minute play last year and has helped out with a few productions. “But I really love the mental discipline the theatre takes and getting to play pretend as an adult is great, and who doesn’t want to play around with costumes?”
Back in Crested Butte, Hali confesses, “I’ve always loved this place but now that I’m not kid—well, always a kid, there’s the ‘What am I gonna do when I grow up?’ My mom still tells me she doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up and so I’ve taken that to heart. I’m really happy here. I’m just waiting to see if I have another passion that knocks me off my feet and sweeps me away.”
“Right now, I’m very content,” Hali continues. “I’ve had enough upheavals in my life that I know that at any moment I might decide that I need to do something else. My mom is my guru but she’s always told me that everyday is the day you can change your life. I always keep that in the back of my mind. I don’t ever want to get stuck in rut. I have the ability to wait until the universe puts something in front of me, then I know it’s time to act. There’s nothing keeping you from changing what you need to change in your life to make you happy.”

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