Is the ‘new normal’ to be here for the mud?

Just who are the almost 700 visitors the Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce is predicting will be staying here on Monday, April 18? Did they not get the memo that the ski area closed a few weeks ago? Did they not see that there are closer hotels to Hartman’s than the Elevation? Are they the type that is resort savvy in terms of finding great room rates? Do they hate lines? Are they wearing facemasks? Do they love mud?

If the visitor forecast is accurate, tourists might trump locals on Elk Avenue next week since the school spring break begins and that results in probably the quietest week of the year in the North Valley. It can be a great week if the weather is good. But it’s always a tad sketchy unless you like 40- and 50-degree temperatures and not a lot of open shops and restaurants. It doesn’t look like the Brick patio will be serving beers in the sunshine this spring, which was always an off-season highlight, but who knows? Hmmmm…who knows?

According to the Chamber of Commerce numbers, last weekend saw about 825 visitors staying overnight in CB or Mt. CB Friday and Saturday. In the coming week that number will fluctuate between 675 and 750 people per night through April 24. Good on ‘em I guess. I totally understand locals enjoying the place this time of year but to be a tourist in mud season is bold. I questioned the Chamber’s numbers and they too said it seemed high, but it is what it is…

Chamber executive director Scott Clarkson said there is a company that monitors all sorts of booking sites including things like VRBO, so the data is more “robust and is showing bookings that were not represented in prior years. Perhaps this is another ‘new normal’ where actual short-term (rental) stays are now factored in.” 

But who are they and why are they here? The mystery remains.

I am not shy about harping to my friend Norton that the county’s marketing arm does not in my opinion need to promote our off-seasons. To me these are cherished times of re-booting, refreshing and re-evaluating. It is the time for locals to breathe and you can’t do that if there is no downtime from servicing guests. Spring off-season used to go from the end of the ski season to almost the Fourth of July. That’s no longer the case as we can now expect noticeable numbers popping here in May and definitely in June. 

I don’t blame or credit TAPP for the nightly 700 mid-April visitors…that’s just a little weird. I get it if it was NYC or an off-season beach trip but unless your hobby is viewing high mountain mud and blowing dust in the alleys of small towns, I don’t quite get this one. Neither does Norton. “As I have said: We’re good, but not that good,” he admitted. 

For local service workers, it is part of Crested Butte tradition to escape some of the CB spring for warmth and sunshine after the lifts stop spinning. Our family has a beach lined up in the future. I’d be lying if I said that when gone, there was no little satisfaction that comes when checking the Crested Butte weather after a desert bike ride, a walk on the beach or a margarita by the pool and see that it is snowing at the Four-way. That too is one of the quirky joys of CB off-season. 

But I’ve figured out that quiet Crested Butte (with some sun) is a virtual beach vacation as well. It can soothe the soul and remind you of the pace appropriate for a sweet small town. There is a chance to sit and chat on the benches, get the hiking and biking legs in shape, share a beer with friends you haven’t seen in a while. It is slow down time.

And while I extoll the virtues of being here in April and May, October and November, make no mistake that too many off-season days that look and feel like this last Tuesday and Wednesday is not easy for anyone. The spring wind, cold and snow can be a serious challenge to anyone’s mental health, so we need to look out for one another. That’s what we do. The challenge of living here anytime of the year, but especially in April, is to accept and embrace the sometimes difficult…together.

Anyway, it really is about to be the slowest week of the year in Crested Butte. If you are heading somewhere while the school is closed, safe travels. If you are one of the 700 intrepid visitors snagging a cheap room, enjoy a time with not a ton of options but pretty much no waiting. If you are a local staying here, embrace the space and feel of what Crested Butte used to feel like in the summers in the ‘80s. 

The phone forecast is actually calling for decent temperatures and some sunshine starting this weekend—good stuff…especially if you live here. 

Enjoy the small town slow down. Summer season will be here soon enough.

—Mark Reaman

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