July is here… take that extra breath

The month of high mountain sacrifice has started. The switch was flipped this week and suddenly the North Valley is dealing with lots of people, sketchy internet, overcrowded trailheads, too many cars going way too fast, long waits to turn left and lines of cars stretching from the Four-way. The Clark’s parking lot has reverted to its mid-summer cluster and some of the empty flower boxes are encouraging games of chicken on Whiterock. 

July and part of August is the sacrifice period we deal with in exchange for September, October, May and June. There is no doubt that the locals here will be super busy, sometimes super frustrated and oftentimes ready to yell super loud. July is when the crust comes out in the most mellow of residents. I am guilty of all of that but will again try to advise that we be super aware when navigating the streets and take that extra breath when you are ready to scream. But if you need to remind someone to slow down—do it!

Having said all that, this past week shows why people want to come here. While heat domes sizzle most of the rest of the country, our heat dome is torturous to us when temperatures hit the high 70s. With the recent rains, the green scene is off the charts this year. The lush palette of emerald is indeed a jewel at 9,000 feet. Add to that the vibrant colors of the wildflowers, the movie-scene rainbows, the breathtaking sunsets (and sunrises), the lakes and the peaks and it is all other worldly. People here now are getting a taste of high mountain paradise. Why wouldn’t you want to visit? It is tourist time for our amenity-based economy and who can blame them for wanting a taste of mountain magic?

Since it’s the Fourth, I guess I have to touch on at least one political topic…hey, we finally beat Medicare! Despite the progressive spin, Joe’s debate performance proves to me his best time is behind him. The issue isn’t a one-time bad night on the debate stage. It’s about what it showed for the future—which is what presidential elections are about. Like when the far right tries to say January 6 was a peaceful protest, I watched with my own eyes as it was anything but. When the far left says Joe answered the questions and was better than Donald, I saw with my own eyes that he was anything but. Prevaricator Donald didn’t win that debate, but old Joe lost it. Despite Trump’s spewing of lies and refusal to answer some important questions, Joe not only looked lost, he lost. 

Look, it will come as no surprise to people that I’d vote for a rock over Donald and his cadre of villainous advisers. And that binary choice is a stated strategy of the Biden campaign. What a country! But the important tens of thousands who claim they have been undecided won’t be filled with confidence or enthusiasm by that slack-mouthed appearance. 

I like Joe and I appreciate his first couple years as president where he accomplished some important bipartisan action that will help solidify the middle class of this country…but I also know as I watch my immediate family grow older (myself included), that you don’t age backwards. Joe might have some good hours in a day, and it’s got to be hard to give up the perks and power of that job, but he should have stuck with his pledge to be a transitional president and let the new generation step up and take up the good things he started. Ahhh, ego is apparently not a right wing or left wing issue and decisions based in ego can be dangerous. Anyway, I certainly hope he takes a step down to allow a younger, more future-looking, dynamic politician take on Donald because otherwise I think he’s toast, whether or not he could out-drive Donald on the golf course (doubt it and WTF anyway!). But we finally beat Medicare! 

And at least we now have one person in this country that is above the law thanks to the Supremes. All hail the king! Happy Fourth everyone! Would Joe even remember if he ordered Seal Team 6 to…never mind. Sigh.

Gunnison County did not get the major federal grant it was hoping for to help pay for the Brush Creek roundabout that will be part of the $146 million Whetstone “affordable” housing project. Bummer. I know they are looking for other granting opportunities. I hope that behind the scenes, the powers that be are making the effort to reach out and solicit the advice and assistance of some of the wealthier businesspeople in the community. The high rolling, deep pocketed businesspeople that are helping to transform Elk Avenue and upgrade a lot of the buildings in the town’s business core would probably see the logic of helping out a project that could put a roof over many of their future employees’ heads. While I would bet that I will never get a call from billionaire Mark Walter to discuss and share his vision of CB, I think based on his charitable history and from what I’ve been told, his sincere affection for this place, that he might consider ponying up a good chunk of cash to help make a good community project a reality. Plus, it makes business sense. Heck, name a building in Whetstone after him and give his people first dibs on some units so that the overall project can be more feasible. Just an idea as the financials continue to be a bit confounding with the affordability of this workforce housing project. 

I have to give a shoutout to the rogue Chainless that made its way down Kebler last Friday. It showed that the people of this town can still be weird and fun. The costumes, the vibe, the history, were pretty wonderful. 

The impromptu street party outside Kochevar’s was everything good about this place. A barrier was put up at Second and Elk to stop the cars and whether the marshals did it themselves or simply looked the other way, it demonstrated the small-town respect for mountain town culture. The smiles from several generations of people on the street really did prove again that Crested Butte contains something magic, and it was fun to witness the tangible embodiment of the “funkiness” everyone touts as important to keep in this place…

Speaking of…emerging from part of a bar conversation were some of the things that separate CB from other mountain resort communities. Topping the list were its physical scale, the working ranches protecting the corridor, being at the end of the road where it’s not always easy to get to and being centered around a small ski area that doesn’t naturally cater to mellow family-friendly skiers. I’d add the ability to not only have, but pursue, hard, issues-based conversations with the goal to reach productive compromise. That was celebrated Sunday by those who worked to achieve a temporary reprieve from mining on Red Lady. 

As I see more reliance on consultants to shape the Valley’s future and they point out examples of places they see as successful, I would make the case they should be where they are and see the success of Crested Butte. On issues like housing and climate, I could easily argue Crested Butte should be the example of success that others can look at for success. It’s not perfect and the challenges are coming faster but CB has set good directions by looking inside first before turning to outside advisers who, while having good intentions, would push for “best practices” measures that worked elsewhere. Gentrification and conformity to the mean are not Crested Butte’s friends. 

So again, we are suddenly in the heart of the busy season. The Chamber’s occupancy report estimates more than 5,500 people a night will be renting rooms for much of this week. July may taper down from that, but it will stay busy for a while. We are in it. It won’t always be easy. Try to take that breath. Understand you may have to climb another 500 feet or go another half mile farther than normal to escape a crowd in the backcountry, but it’s worth it. While July and August are fantastic and that is the draw for people who come and spend the dollars that allow most of us to stay here year round, we’ll truly reap the benefits in September, October, May and June. 

Happy July everyone. 

—Mark Reaman

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