Navigating the atmospheric river

By Mark Reaman

Three years ago this week we were in lockdown mode. My editorial then cited one of the incident leaders, CJ Malcolm, reminding people of the need for grace. This year we’re riding a turbulent atmospheric river. Allowing for grace is as pertinent now as it was then.

It’s not always easy being in the middle of the atmospheric river. It’s not all tranquil floating beneath blue skies and unicorns. While we’re basically made for it (the skiing has been incredible this season), those in California are struggling, and the atmospheric river can even bring struggle here – both communally and individually. While easy to get upset when things start to explode, perhaps it is worthy to try and take a breath and exhibit some grace.

Two feet of Sierra Cement after a season of light pow brought a big wave crashing into our local river. The streets of town were pounded when the weekend storm started at 5 a.m. last Friday just as the night crew was wrapping up work. The temps spiked into the 40s making for deep, slushy conditions and no matter how big your wheels or how low your 4-wheel drive, it was too easy to get stuck — and I’m speaking from experience. It happens here in the high country. Mt. CB doesn’t have on-street parking so they are able to stay on top of the street situation 24/7 if needed, and I heard many compliments thrown their way in that regard. Kudos. Downtown is a different bird, and more than a few people were flipping the bird when they couldn’t find a way to safely navigate the streets. It is time to take a breath and exhibit some grace.

The public buses were stretched up and down the valley and according to social media posts, more than a few people couldn’t find a seat. Buses thrown off schedule given the drastic winter conditions along with the persistent employee shortage didn’t help. While 99% of the time the free buses get people where they need to be efficiently and with a smile, there are times when they take a punch. Mother Nature and the workforce challenges threw them a punch last weekend. It was harsh. Definitely time for a breath and an opportunity to exhibit some grace. The atmospheric river can sometimes be choppy.

The ski area struggled Saturday morning as the heavy snow made for dangerous conditions everywhere on the mountain. That delayed the opening of the lifts during what was projected to be one of the busiest spring break days of the season. Lift lines were off the charts. While top CBMR brass were apparently ready to scan your Epic Pass, they didn’t grab a ladder and a bullhorn and communicate to the clients what was going on. Those at home couldn’t see the base area mayhem since the webcams were pointing at the mountain peak instead of the lifts, so it wasn’t obvious whether to go up and ski the heavy snow or avoid the crowds. But of course, it didn’t take long for social media to post the evidence of massive lines and empty chairs on the lift well after 9 o’clock. 

The reality is that this ski mountain is different from most other ski resorts. It is steep and not that expansive, so it takes some time to get it ready, both in the Extremes and on the groomers. The Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol takes the needed time to get it open as safely and quickly as possible for everyone. Thanks to them! Is it not better to spend that extra time early instead of reacting to bad situations later? Few would argue that the immediate communication could have been smoother, but maybe take a breath, exhibit some grace, and ski some pow.

Perhaps we all should start from a place of understanding. Hey, we screwed up some of the dates on the paper pages last week (my embarrassing bad as editor) so I understand how anyone can trip even when trying to do their best—and I’m speaking from experience.

Most importantly of all, consistent low pressure and the absence of our normal regular sunshine takes a toll. Those who feel the ups and downs more than others feel more downs than ups in times like this. We all need our vitamin D after all. So, reach out to those you feel might be having a hard time in this cloudy atmospheric river. Check in. Give your neighbors an opportunity to eddy out. Provide some light. 

While feeling on edge, throw in the typical spring break fails, the lines of cars from Riverbend to the cemetery, the constant potential to fall on the ice (and I’m speaking from experience), a rise in the spread of the late winter crud, an embarrassing dearth of restaurants open in both towns, the reality that CBMR is closing earlier than other places that have less snow than we do (with more probably coming in April), the PO package dilemma, the workforce housing dilemma — and the atmospheric river can be turbulent. 

It’s legitimate and reasonable to get upset when things explode. We all go there at times but while it’s certainly understandable, it rarely fixes things. We pride ourselves on being able to live in and visit a place at the end of the road that’s often hard to live in and visit. Not everything is always smooth all the time. Last weekend was one of those times. More might be coming.

The river will continue to flow.

Take a breath. 

Take a deep breath.

Find a moment to exhibit some grace.

—Mark Reaman

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