A reason to rethink acceptance at the end of the road…

Dear Mark:

I write in reaction to your editorial entitled “Luck, love … and the Trade Parade,” printed in the February 10, 2023 issue. In particular, the following paragraph drew my attention:  

“I accept the changing community and truly enjoy the locals, second homeowners, lone eagles and tourists. All contribute to a deep community in the mountains. It’s not easy to live or even visit here. There’s an unspoken bond between those of us who choose this place. Being accepted here is earned and not something that can be bought … I love that.”  

What do you mean by “being accepted here?” What constitutes acceptance and by whom?  

Please distinguish between, and give some examples of, actions that earn acceptance or those that attempt to buy it. And more fundamentally, why is “acceptance” worth mentioning? 

Perhaps your answers to these questions will diminish my initial concern that your reference to “being accepted” sounds a bit clubby, which can be defined as: “open only to qualified or approved persons.” 

I am thankful for Crested Butte and feel enriched by its people and many wonderful activities.       

Thanks for taking note of my observations.  

Scott Trotter

Resident of Little Rock, Arkansas and second homeowner in Skyland      

Editor’s response:

Thanks for reading and subscribing. I really appreciate it. Let me throw out a few concepts that probably won’t diminish your concern – and I’ll use the “universal you” as opposed to addressing you specifically.

The basic answer to your questions is, “Heck if I know how to define acceptance here. You just know.” But I will let you in on the secret that there is indeed a tribe (better word in my opinion than club) that exists here, and I would say that deep acceptance into that tribe (community) is certainly earned.

Don’t tell anyone but there is a secret panel that meets twice a year at an undisclosed 81224 location based on the full moon closest to Vinotok and how that corresponds to Flauschink has-beens tipping a sled and keg at the Gronk during the AJ after-afterparty. The panel determines who qualifies. Generally, being accepted as a deep part of the community and not just as a drop-in means earning communal respect as someone who appreciates Crested Butte for the common values it represents. Not all who live here full-time, visitors or second homeowners, do that…and for the most part, those that don’t, don’t last long in this quirky, often bare knuckled, hard to-get-to place in the mountains.

Your letter has made me think about it. Everyone coming here is initially welcomed (that’s our business after all) but not everyone gains deep acceptance as part of the tribe. Perhaps it’s the level of acceptance that defines the tribe, so my wording in that editorial was probably not exactly spot on. Pondering the question, I’ve concluded that it seems anyone and everyone that comes here is immediately accepted for whatever they say they are. You can be whatever you want here in Crested Butte. I said I was a photographer and journalist and that’s allowed me to work at and sometimes own newspapers here over the decades. 

I’d say the one overriding rule here is to not be a dic…uh, jerk. Don’t throw off the entitled attitude and don’t expect anything to be handed to you. You will get plenty of help and people will teach you things about this place if you are open to learning. That takes some time.

A love of the outdoors, the arts, unusual people, small town community, sports, books and wilderness along with the persistence to keep coming back to the end of the road despite how hard it is to get here, is probably some first steps in going deeper. Those that push too hard for Crested Butte to change to make things easier by bringing to this valley the very things they left in the “real world” never get in too deep.

Being active in protecting the wild —and I’m talking about both the millions of acres of wilderness in the backyard and the hundreds of weirdly wild people in the front yard — matters. Being open and accepting yourself goes a long way to being accepted.

Examples of tangible action that might help you get in deeper with this community could be to pick up a Pulaski and help scratch in a new mountain bike trail – and if that is outside the realm of your physical ability, make a donation to CBMBA. It could mean volunteering or sharing professional experience with something like KBUT, the food pantry, Adaptive, the school of dance or one of the many grassroots environmental or stewardship organizations. 

While there are many wonderful activities available here, acceptance might be deeper if you (again, the universal you) roll up your sleeves and help organize those activities. Everything from Move the Butte to Vinotok to the Peak Hike to the Al Johnson, Alpenglow and the Arts Fest takes a ton of organizing and work. I would guess you know more than a few second homeowners who volunteer on various boards or volunteer with various events. That is the impetus for many to make the shift to actually move here. That makes acceptance deeper.

While certainly worthy as more non-profits need more assistance, acceptance will not necessarily be attained by bragging about attending a $500/plate charity dinner and buying a $10,000 vacation at the silent auction. Doing what you can matters and is appreciated. It’s the bragging about it that is somewhat antithetical to this place and an example of someone thinking that makes them part of the community. In the same vein we’ve all experienced tourists who get pushback for say, not following the lift line protocol or running a stop sign at 25 mph. Some throw out the ‘ol “I spend a lot of money in this town, and you couldn’t be here without me.” We could. Both are quick examples of a wrong and entitled attitude that if you spend the money, you are automatically part of the community. 

Respect for the place and the people is most important. It’s a small town and people know if you treat the waiter or the bus driver with the same respect as someone in your golf foursome. If you appreciate new experiences more than new things, you might be accepted deeper. If you’re willing to mingle and experience golf, softball, pickleball, hockey, dance, a drink with a local or whatever with people outside of your comfort zone, you might find deeper community.

I could go on, but you probably get the idea. Not everyone fits in here, so honestly, there is a “clubby,” or “tribal” element involved. It starts with choosing to like what is here, getting involved and not being a…jerk. Many locals, second homeowners and tourists I’ve met quickly “get” this place and want to be part of the deeper community and not just skim on top of what they see as a weird but still undiscovered mountain town that offers investment opportunities. They are appreciated.

Finally, understand that no matter how long you come here or live here, or how much you own here, you (again, the universal you) will probably always get some grief and push-back. It’s part of the charm? I still get a ton of grief and I’ve been here three decades. Mark Walter who owns a ton of commercial property on Elk Avenue but is not rushing to share his plans with the general community (my # is 349-0500 ext. 109 if he changes his mind and wants to communicate to the community) gets grief as well. The point is that getting grief is all part of it, and if you can’t take it, you won’t be accepted deeply. Laughing at yourself helps too as does liking snow and not getting upset if you show up for lunch and see the staff went skiing instead of being open.

Basically, there’s no one way to be accepted deeply in this weird little place at the literal end of the road because everyone starts as being accepted. That’s one of the weirdly fantastic things about the place. And if you do what you can with a good heart and an intent to respect this community that is out of the mainstream, you might suddenly find yourself in a deep, sometimes crazy tribe. 

I hope this helps answer your question. Thanks again (especially for making me think and allowing me to fill up my editorial space this week). It is good to hear that Crested Butte, its people and wonderful activities make you feel enriched. I totally agree.

—Mark Reaman

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