Wishes and gratitude upon a star

There is as much night darkness this week as we will see all year. These are the shortest days. The days start getting longer on Tuesday as winter officially begins. So, while the early twilight can be rough, take advantage of the next month or so and look at the planets and stars that blanket our valley when the sun sets. You will also be treated to a bright “cold” moon for the rest of the week that turns full on Saturday.

The stars are a unique treasure this high up and you get a lot of them. They are something to wish upon and provide a place to throw appreciation to the heavens. As we kick the ski season into higher gear with the onset of Front Rangers driving here and Texahomans flying in on the big jets that start at the end of the week (which are filling up fast BTW), let’s hope for a prosperous ski season on all counts — snow, happiness, love and a chance to replenish the bank account.

Some other wishes and thoughts of gratitude…

Wish for more storms like last week. Getting 30 inches in two days is a blessing in a ski town. It’s not always easy as you have to move it from the car and the driveway and the parking lots but there wasn’t much complaining about 30 inches given the spring weather that preceded it. So for now, be careful in the backcountry and pray to the Universe that the goods keep coming. The ultimate wish is we get enough to fill up Blue Mesa by next June. For that, we have a ways to go.

In that vein, appreciate the professionals who did indeed move literally tons of the white stuff. It wasn’t easy and many worked into the wee hours. They are our friends and neighbors. Thank you.

Wish for more restaurants to open and for those that are here, to open more often. For a town that has a long-time reputation as a foodie oasis, it feels for some reason we are heading into the edge of a winter food desert. While there are still some really good eateries around, too many restaurants we have all come to enjoy are closing because of being sold, not having enough employees, having issues with kitchen equipment or just deciding to stay sane by opening five days a week instead of seven. That hurts locals and visitors. Hood issues in some restaurants both on the mountain (the old Divvy space) and in Crested Butte (Slogar) have put the hurt on. The housing issue has sent some workers packing while the construction boom is paying people more to move plywood than to wash dishes. That has left restaurants short staffed. It could be a challenging winter for eating out in traditional places. Having an abundance of good restaurants is part of our identity and that is hard to lose.

Appreciate the myriad volunteers who make a lot of this place hum. Mountain Rescue volunteers were out this weekend on an unfortunate recovery mission on a cold Sunday. The mental health volunteers are working to help keep our friends and neighbors steady during a sometimes difficult time. Volunteers are working to counter food insecurity that is more prevalent than you’d think in the valley. Volunteers are working to raise the funds needed to keep a sharp eye on the changing backcountry conditions and keep people safe. And there are of course dozens of other people and worthy causes that make the valley run and all deserve our appreciation.

Wish for a mild COVID winter. It seems at this moment this valley is an island of relative health as hospital beds in Colorado overflow. Trust that the vaccinated, and that’s a vast majority of locals, will weather whatever storm the virus that continues to grow throws at us. I can’t envision another lockdown so we’re living with it. That’s where vaccinations come in. We are all tired of face coverings and distancing rules and all the crap that has come with the pandemic. Of course, we wish it had never happened but now let us wish that we as a community continue to have enough resilience and smarts to keep successfully battling the variants. Believe in science.

Appreciate that those working for you in the government sector are focused almost uniformly on things that will address the rapid changes coming to the valley. Realize that government is rarely fast, but it can make a difference. Figuring out how to best provide housing for the people who want to live and work here while making a real life in this mountain village is at the top of every list. Understanding that change is inevitable but addressing mitigation to soften the change and retain real community in collaborative ways is a priority of almost every government entity.

Appreciate that Crested Butte is making the national awareness rounds of late…or not. The Crested Butte ski area got a weird mention from Beth Dutton on the TV show Yellowstone this week. We’ve been recently featured in The Atlantic, and Outside Online. It seems billy barr makes an appearance somewhere in the world at least once every few weeks. CB has always shown up in big name publications and sometimes we want the spotlight and other times we don’t. It feels like most are at a point of not wanting more publicity right now. It is catch-up time.

Tied to that, wish that the wave of newcomers relocating to the valley take a deep breath and try to understand the specialness of where they are moving. It isn’t a normal place and it can be more bare-knuckled rough than you thought it would be when you got to what you thought was a postcard — but people prefer honest arguments over heading straight for the lawsuits. Accepting compromise that ultimately benefits our entire community is not a dirty phrase but putting on airs and trying to change the place you moved to, to be more like the place you left, is. I get the sense we are seeing some of the ‘wilderness billionaires’ arrive here that perhaps want to strike before the place turns totally Aspen and the local worry is that there are too many all at once to politely guide them into the local culture as we have done for so long. While the goal is not to stay the same and never change, that tsunami of ‘real world’ attitude can be a real threat to keeping this place unique. Evolving is natural but guiding that evolution is paramount.

This is the week where the days bring the least amount of sunlight. So, embrace the Christmas tree lights and luminarias on the solstice. Hang in there. The days start to get longer soon and that’s always a blessing. In the meantime, put on the heavy coat, take a night walk and enjoy the skies above. It truly is special. And while you are out there, make a holiday wish and send some gratitude to the Universe. This is still a pretty wonderful place.

Happy solstice everyone.

—Mark Reaman

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