A little rain would bring perspective…and relief

Returning from an east coast week at the beach, it struck me while on our broiling and sunny deck just outside of CB on Saturday that one of the best experiences on vacation was the strong thunderstorm soaker we had mid-week. It was good to ride our beach cruisers in the warm rain. I felt like a dry plant being watered.

Maybe that’s the future of vacations from here. Instead of seeking out the desert and beach after the lifts close, we all might start looking for where the low-pressure systems are heading and book flights to experience a day of warm rain. The rainiest city in America, Mobile, Alabama, could be the new Moab or Baja.

Lord knows after riding Snodgrass this past weekend, it was obvious the already dusty trails could use some moisture. Rain might also help clear some of the haze filling our skies from wildfires burning in New Mexico and Arizona. Let’s hope the new sign of summer starting isn’t being able to not see the top of Red Lady from town.

Hey, the best news might be that the phone forecast has a cloud with raindrops along with a sun icon for this weekend. The rest of the days look pretty much sunny and in the 70s but there’s an actual 50% chance of rain here on Saturday! It’s harder to appreciate these perfect summer days if you don’t get the occasional rainy day to keep it all in perspective. Most of our summer days up here at 9,000 feet are as good as any day anywhere else in the world — but they are even better when you get a few days of mountain precipitation to remind you how good 75 and sunny really is. Plus, who could argue we don’t need to refill the rivers and reservoirs and green up the forests? Rain provides needed perspective. Let us hope the skies open up this weekend. I’d prefer to not start booking rain vacations in my future.

Speaking of perspective…the angst so many are feeling here with short staffs and a wave of tourists on the horizon is not limited to here. Help wanted signs were dotting the towns we visited back east. While there were waits to get a seat for dinner, I was told it was easing compared to a few weeks prior as the crowds seemed to be lightening up. Talking to locals, the housing problem is not just something unique to the Gunnison Valley. People with money are buying up the local houses in all the nice locations. VRBOs are starting to be regulated. Workers are losing their nearby units and having to commute from longer distances or jamming into dormitory type rooms. I think that is what we are trying to not have happen here. 

While there will never be a magic wand solution in the North Valley, there is progress happening. The town of Crested Butte has a good history of producing long-term affordable housing that keeps people living near their jobs in town. CB already has short-term rental limits and is reevaluating the regulations to see if more are needed. The town continues to plug away with a significant project taking shape at Sixth and Butte and Paradise Park. The Valley Housing Fund’s Paul Redden Workforce Housing Project will open up a spot for some lucky families this fall and some CB part-timers have committed to pony up tens of thousands of dollars for the project over on Butte Avenue. The hope is that initial contribution will be the building block of another foundational revenue and idea source for housing. 

The county is actively working toward new housing south of CB and Mt. Crested Butte could have opportunity if they ever straighten out the Homestead mess and/or engage in a productive partnership with the North Village developer. They have a good revenue source to facilitate such housing projects. The RTA is buying housing directly for its employees and there are new projects coming online in Gunnison. Not everyone is getting what they want when they want it — see the story in last week’s paper from a frustrated car camper — but there is movement up and down the valley and it seems the best kind…the type that keeps locals living near their jobs and a part of the community.

Anyway, we are on the cusp of summer tourist season. The company that tracks mountain occupancies, DestiMetrics, reported this week that all resort communities (including us) are likely to see fewer people this summer than last. Someone noted that might mean going from 115% capacity to 95% capacity but if there is a mental health boost as a result, bring it. They say to expect about a 6% decrease in tourists from May through October with August being off 16%. The Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) has reported the same expectation.

Meanwhile, the boutique air carrier JSX is filling up its new summer flights fast. There is apparently no shortage of people willing to pay more for being able to get to the airport 30 minutes ahead of time, not go through the TSA security line, load up the bike and the dog, grab a cocktail and have plenty of legroom on the two-hour, 10-minute flight between Dallas and Gunnison. That’s not too hard to understand.

So the transition from hot and muggy beach to cool mountain air was not as dramatic as I’d hoped. But the trip was good for perspective. I was reminded we are not alone in our challenges and are actually a few steps ahead of many places. Not having to wait an hour for a dinner table was nice and that might be the case here this summer. Feeling the freshness of an afternoon rain reminded me of how needed it is, especially as we enter Stage 1 fire restrictions in the county—and how much better the summer days are in Crested Butte than pretty much anywhere else. 

—Mark Reaman

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