Good News in a CB off-season

I hear comments all the time these days about people appreciating the off-season. The transition from our winter tourism season to our summer frenzy is a time to breathe, to recharge, to (for some) find a new job and hopefully a new place to live.

Off-season here is a time to ski in the morning and perhaps ride your mountain bike in the afternoon. It is a time when we can focus on local events like the Community School graduation. Off-season is when you can take the time to catch up with friends and acquaintances, whether on the trail, at the top of the peak or on an Elk Avenue bench.

I remember once going to Breckenridge a few weeks after the ski season finished and the streets were busy – at least busy for what we expect in CB. There were shoppers, the patio bars were full and a woman dressed in pioneer garb was giving a tour of the town to a flock of Japanese tourists. That was in May!

While I don’t blame our county’s marketing arm – the TAPP – for everything crowded in our valley, I will again ask TAPP and other marketing entities to consciously respect the resort community gem of an off-season. I mean it’s not TAPP’s fault that TAPP is charged to get people here and they do a really good job of that based on the astonishing increase in lodging taxes that continue to set new records every month. But in my opinion, there is no need to spend money or effort to get people here in May or October. I have noticed even recently that there are people walking the streets with shopping bags. We have been discovered. I used to write the same thing about preserving the off-season months of June and September, but that ship has sailed.

So in my mind, it is good news that we still have a discernable off-season where we can take a breath, remember why we moved here, and enjoy the fruits that this place offers the locals. Let’s not work to take that jewel away.

Hey, how ’bout those Titans?! Congratulations to the Titan boys’ soccer team who pounded their way into the state 2A championship game in Colorado Springs Saturday and came back to Crested Butte with another trophy. It is the second state championship for the team in three years and big kudos go out to coach Than Acuff, his assistants and all the kids who fought in a tough game to stand on the top of the podium. I’ve always contended I don’t care how any sports team in CB does as long as they beat Telluride. This team did both and we are proud of them. It’s another off-season benefit that we can relish in their victory.

And in that vein, I want to throw a shout-out to the Titan boys’ hockey team. They too took CB to the state championship game earlier this year. They were a team of chemistry and talent and while they came up one overtime goal short, they represented our valley with distinction.

Sports aren’t the be-all, end-all of high school but can teach valuable lessons for the kids and frankly for the community. It is also a way to take our mind off work, classes or worries and focus on the field or ice. Thanks for the attitude bump, Titans!

I went to bed Sunday night to the sound of rain on our metal roof. It was not only a sound to lull me to sleep; it was a needed sound to give some hope in this high desert place experiencing a drought. As explained in last week’s paper by local water watchdog Sonja Chavez, our basin is experiencing a very dry couple of years. Our reservoirs are not expected to fill this summer and our soils will remain dry. That means it will be crispy this summer if we don’t see some good rains. I know we all love what seem like perfect days in these mountains – the clear blue skies and temperatures in the 60s – but that is like a really addictive sugar buzz. It’s great when it is there but too much will screw up your health and make you sick. You need the healthy broccoli of a good downpour to balance out the sugar. It used to be that you could count on summer monsoons that brought gorgeous mornings, clouds at noon, rain by 1 o’clock and sun by 5. We need that.

Monday morning the sound of rain on my roof stopped and I figured the rain was done. But when I did get up, I saw the rain had actually turned to snow. That made me smile. I love Crested Butte weather any time, but it is more interesting in the off-season and it was good to see the moisture was still coming.

Getting on the bike this week made me think we would have to change the common off-season nickname to ‘dust season’ instead of ‘mud season’ after I took a ride at Hartman’s and then on the Upper Loop. It felt like mid-August on those trails. Luckily Monday afternoon saw some good mud forming.

Let’s remember, rain is not just a good thing but also a necessary thing and it felt great to see it Monday. Keep bringing it!

I wrote most of this piece Monday, which is a good thing because I might have written a harsh rant on the dysfunction of a Crested Butte council that on Monday spent seven-and-a-half hours in a meeting that ended at 1:30 a.m. Much of it was spent asking the same questions multiple times and interrupting people and not being clear about positions or just putting real decisions off until May 17. I mean, not being able to figure out if a mask mandate is still needed on Elk Avenue unless you talk to Joni? Come on. She has indicated the decision is up to you. It isn’t hard to lift that restriction given where the county and town are with the virus and the mud season. It is not elbow-to-elbow on Elk. Remember the follow-the-science mantra?

But this council couldn’t do it—and that was the easiest of the myriad issues they waffled on, belabored or simply made because they were exhausted. There was BLM stuff, First and Elk parking lot stuff, Elk Avenue event stuff, should they meet in person stuff. Frankly, and I really like most of the councilmembers personally, some demonstrated a mean streak and lack of clarity at times. There was a lack of respect for staff and one another, and they punted on the ability to make independent leadership decisions while enabling behavior that was simply rude. I have sat as a councilman on that board and know how difficult it can be at times. Maybe it was just a bad night (and it was a really awful night). But I am smelling a pattern and it is not a good one. Writing this Tuesday morning in a tired haze of frustration, I guess the good news is there is an election this November.

And finally, we got word that we reached the milestone marker of getting 10,000 locals in the county vaccinated with their first shot last weekend during the Gunnison and CB walk-in vaccination clinics. That will ultimately lead to easing the public health restrictions put in place to battle the coronavirus pandemic. Lord knows I am ready to take off the mask when I go to the Post Office or walk up Elk Avenue. We are ready to mingle in big groups, inside and out. We are ready to have some relief from the work we have done to keep Gunnison County in the forefront of pushing back the virus. The easing of restrictions will happen after the 10K people are fully vaccinated which comes about two weeks after the second shot. We are close.

Look, the people in this community have stepped up big time and done what it takes to keep our positive numbers down and our hospitalizations near zero once we got a grip on the plague. Now we are at the 10K mark that public health officials say will bring us closer to the point we need to be to limit transmission and as of the end of May we should be able to take a tangible step back to normal – whatever that will mean from now on. That is really good news as we move to what everyone expects will be a super busy summer tourist season.

I love off-seasons. We will be overly busy soon enough and people are working to set us up for a good summer. Can you imagine dealing with the throngs of people without having this time to find our souls again? No wonder some of the other “more successful” (ha!) mountain communities aren’t seen as being as friendly as us. Anyway, there are plenty of good news items happening here right now in this off-season – and off-season itself is one of them. Enjoy this time…

—Mark Reaman

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