Is it Telly or Tele? Whichever it is, he’s missing. The image of Kojak that has long been a fixture at the North Face Lift was not there when the T-bar started spinning last week. The lift ops say to not worry — Telly will be back with a fresh look and new plexiglass. He is simply going through some frame repairs. After all, he has taken the brunt of probably tens of thousands of ski pole taps as people prepare to pop on the lift to the fabled Extreme Limits. 

About a year ago some friends and I tried to track down the origins of the legend of the image. We could find no definitive reason that a material image of Telly Savalas sporting a lollipop was placed at the NFL and became part of the line. One theory is that it is a tribute to telemarking — Telly skiing. I am sure someone knows the real story and they might (or might not) share it with us. I do know he is missed and the warning signs (Back of the Line Rule applies!) at the NFL are getting tapped and cracked as a result.

That started me thinking about what else might be missing at the moment. Elk Avenue and Base Area restaurants and pubs of course probably top most people’s list. There are some attempts on the hill to bring in the après ski vibe, but the old Brown Lab and Avalanche have yet to be replaced. Jose’s, A Bar Above and Iron Horse all fill a niche, but the local draw of the Brown Lab and Avy just don’t seem to be hitting the mark at the moment. That could change as we move into the second half of the ski season and let’s hope it does…

Downtown, a pack of empty buildings still looms over Elk Avenue. Despite the fact a QR code linked to a job application site for the winter is still posted on the construction fence outside the old Brick Oven, that building remains a construction zone. So does the old Forest Queen that is sitting on part on the town sidewalk, the old Montanya’s spot where workers have been seen at all hours upgrading the space, the old Princess Wine Bar and the old liquor store next to it. Not all but many of the open restaurants downtown still have limited hours and while that is probably good for employee mental health, it impacts what in most ski towns is a vibrant buzz of activity for locals and tourists. I am just grateful that the open eateries remain really good and the ones that are closed are confident they will be open this summer or before the next ski season.

In the bigger overall picture, the ability to have a normal middle-class or seasonal job and still be able to afford a free market house in the North Valley has been missing since about 2010. That’s according to the economic numbers. So Crested Butte was one of the last Colorado resort communities to have the free market push out the working class from free market home ownership. I’m not sure that will ever come back given the attraction of a high mountain ski valley with a lot of amenities that seems as good a place as any to escape most of the impacts of climate change. 

So, the community through our elected representatives is working hard to establish housing for the working people that comes with deed-restricted ties. Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and Gunnison County all have workforce housing initiatives in the pipeline and it is costing them each millions of dollars to enact. Deed-restricted housing, whether for sale or for rent, is not for everyone but it is a way to allow people without millions of dollars in their bank account to be a member of the North Valley community. It will take a lot of tax dollars and government subsidies to implement the big projects, but they will help provide a roof over the heads of the people that eventually will be working in the currently missing restaurants.

It sounds like KBUT is working to fill a missing piece of the winter puzzle by reviving the annual Mardi Gras parade that had gone missing. The community radio station is stepping up to encourage a return to celebrate the hours before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Gone are the days when Fat Tuesday was huge in Crested Butte thanks in part to the then-mayor who had a propensity to do things like jump through a ring of fire on skis, and a community of South American celebrants who worked for Club Med and embraced the party. But while those two factors are missing (unless Ian and Nicholas are ready to hold hands and telemark through the fire hoop) KBUT’s effort to bring back a parade led by a dragon is a good thing for the middle of winter.

Speaking of missing, has anyone seen the hair missing at the crown of my head? Oh right, the age thing. Like free market home ownership for a Crested Butte bartender, that probably isn’t coming back. Oh well, change is constant. The good thing is that the lift ops at the NFL promise Telly will be back, local government is focused on housing for workers and there will be an Elk Avenue parade of green, gold and purple this February 13. 

—Mark Reaman

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