One piece of super good news is that it looks like Crested Butte could have a running movie theater in town again. The Friends of the Majestic has raised more than half of its fundraising goal and the group is confident enough to sign a lease that sometime this fall should result in that empty theater once again being full of people who like to watch movies. That has been a big hole in the entire valley and kudos to the hard-charging people who are pulling it off.
Another note of good news is that the North Valley visitor numbers, while constantly in flux, are indicating we might have pulled back just enough to see more of a balance. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, perhaps the previous couple of summers served up porridge that was a bit too hot and this year we are tasting porridge that is just right.
While uptown CB and the Mt. CB base area are busy these days for the most part, the chaos of the previous two summer seasons seems missing. It feels lighter on Elk Avenue and even the backcountry camping scene seems steady but manageable. That was not the case in 2020 and 2021 and that added to our pandemic stress of simply trying to live a good life here at 9,000 feet. Throw in a tiny pull-back on the number of students expected to show up next month for the start of the Crested Butte Community School as the CBCS feels the stress of an overcrowded facility and maybe put another checkmark in the good news box.
Look, growth isn’t automatically good or bad. More isn’t always better but finding additions that serve us well (a movie theater) can be good.
While many people only see progress when everything is growing and booming, the pullback in tourism numbers might indicate a return to balance. Balance is good.
We are a different type of small town after all, and that is something to embrace and honor. It is not something to simply toss aside for another couple bucks being dropped from another financial advisor from Dallas or Boulder who is visiting the valley looking for the elusive and mysterious Gronk she read about on Yelp.
Despite the explosion of both tourists and students the past couple years, perhaps the Universe is sending the signal to all of us here to be where you are — to be who you are. Considered one of the smallest destination resorts in the West, is there a need to try and hang with the big boys like Aspen or Steamboat or our once little sister, Telluride? Can we find joy in continuing to be a steady, interesting, small town at the end of the road? For me, it is the “end of the road” element that keeps us unique. This isn’t a place for everyone.
A similar indicator trend might be happening with local real estate prices as the explosion of house prices seems to have peaked last spring and we are seeing more and more “price improvements” on the market. That’s not to say that there will not be more $4 million houses under contract this summer but the days of putting the old mining shack with foundation issues on the market for $2.1M and waiting for the bidders to line up might be taking a breather. Some local realtors are telling me they expect a pullback in prices for a bit. While property in Crested Butte proper likely won’t be coming down much, the rest of the valley might see a reset.
The increased crowd reality that accompanied the pandemic is shifting from this valley being the place where people came to be outdoors and away from the virus and many of those who tried it here are going back to Rockies games or Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts. But don’t be surprised if a steady long-term migration of visitors or new residents continues as people realize it is more comfortable here at 79 degrees in July than at 106 in the asphalt cul-de-sacs of Tulsa.
Crested Butte and this valley will be an attractive place no matter what given the future climate realities. I believe it is made more attractive with our tourism amenities that we enjoy all year long. But do not be blind to the fact that while more in balance than say a year ago, there is still work to be done to keep from falling over. There is still a workforce housing problem, and the local school rightfully continues to worry about growth that will stretch the facilities that are already stretched. Climate issues, even here, will continue as will the social equity challenges our small town confronted and must still not ignore.
We are probably more than halfway through a busy summer season. The natural exhale is on the horizon and that always provides an opportunity to take stock of where we are. Let’s remember that we don’t always have to keep growing to be successful…but we do have to always be aware.
The good news is that we are people who chose to come to the end of the road. As difficult as that reality may be, we are not afraid to take stock and adjust to circumstances as things change. Taste the porridge and let’s continue to figure out how to make it juuuuuuust right.