Reflect as we enter a new year

For most people in America, this week is a holiday. It is a time to continue holiday revelry and connect with friends and family until after the new year begins next Monday. Here in Crested Butte, it is one of the busiest work weeks of the winter. We all work really hard right now while trying to maintain connections with friends and family. It isn’t always easy, but it will pay off as we stockpile currency for the slower times. Still, moving toward a new year provides a benchmark to reflect, even if some of the reflection is what you should have said to the kid at table six when she asked for a fourth specialty side order along with separate checks for the party of 18.
In the busyness of a busy week, try to take a breath between shifts and remember why you chose to be here. Yeah, I know we were the hole in the donut during this last storm and that was rough, but it is still good for the soul to get out in the backcountry (be careful), on the Nordic tracks (it’s fast!) or on the Silver Queen (just jump into Monument!). Last year we were swimming in an “atmospheric river” while this year the desert sands swirl around us.

A longtime local back for the holidays expressed their optimism that Crested Butte is moving forward given the work being done on the old Brick and Forest Queen buildings. Over in Aspen, there are people buying buildings and letting them sit empty to just take the appreciation of a future sale. At least our “uberwealthies” want to provide business activity in their business properties along our prime business street, and fortunately they have the means to actually fix up properties like the Forest Queen that could easily have just crumbled into Coal Creek. That is something good to reflect upon.

A quick weekend trip to Park City a few weeks ago again reminded me how different it is here. It’s different there too but oh, so much bigger. The thought of Crested Butte even remotely trying to compete on the purely ski tourism metrics is beyond insane. The intermediate terrain on the CBMR hill is not what will ever get people to come here over going there. Our valley offers a ton of wonderful amenities, but an abundance of intermediate skiing is not one of them.
We are the small-town, friendly, artistic, challenging resort – and community. People drawn to live or visit here are of unique character. We’re a little more weird, a little more crusty, a little more open to it all. We seem to prefer the small and intimate over unlimited choice. We prefer deep over wide. That’s not to say we couldn’t use an upgrade here or there — heck, a simple base area lodge/cafeteria would be appreciated by everyone along with more fun, après ski energy at the base area — but we are what we are.

One of the most obvious physical differences here compared to most other mountain resort communities is the space. There is room to breathe and appreciate the splendor of nature. Let’s reflect that a huge part of that is due to the active ranching community in our valley. Giant swaths of land are home to cattle instead of condos. Driving up valley is a visual throwback to western Colorado valleys instead of Beverly Hills with mountain views. There are a few pockets of high mountain mansions but nothing like other places. The fact that the Allens, the Spanns, Trampes, Lacys, Veltris and other ranching families all have a love for the land and for the ranching business is extremely unique for a valley that also holds a ski area. That is a special blessing.
I have always tried to voice support for the local ranching community even over the recreation community — and Lord knows I am more comfortable riding a bike than herding cows — but I will fight for the ranchers to be able to continue in their business over the encroaching recreationists (like me). Without those working ranches here, the valley between Gunnison and Crested Butte could be filled with condos and McMansions and strip malls. Think about that, and even if you don’t eat beef, reflect on the value of having active ranches on our valley floor.

As we move into 2024, reflect on how special it still is here. It’s not what it was but it is what it is. Let’s not get tangled up in implementing a thousand new rules like they have in Breckenridge so that we don’t become the next Breckenridge. Appreciate that most of the time the people in this place try to work together for the best common solutions. It doesn’t always happen, and it doesn’t always work, but the effort is there 90% of the time. As a community, let’s focus on things that help and enhance the lives of the people living here. Make things easier for people living here in the valley, not harder. Take care of the locals and success will follow by attracting like-minded spirits that will visit to experience something unique not found in many places. Focus on keeping the population hubs places where the working people can live and enjoy a life (not just sleep between jobs) and that will separate us from most other mountain communities. Keeping our village vibrant and fun and filled with people active in their community will spread the good joy.

It is a busy week in the valley. It is a time to make bank so that those working here can survive the middle of January, most of April and all of May. It is a hectic time. But we are blessed. Reflect about what makes this place different and keep the spirit as we enter a new year.
Happy 2024 everyone.

—Mark Reaman

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