Charles Agar " Came for the season, stayed for a reason
Grand County, Colorado
There’s just a little more than a week of skiing and riding left before many of us take that cleansing April 19 baptismal plunge into an icy skim pond at Winter Park Resort to mark the end of the 2008-2009 on-piste ski season.
The snow gods smiled on us with more than 25 inches last week, but the end of season is a time for ski bums to take stock ” and here I mean literally take stock of what will fit into the rust-dappled compacts, station wagons and SUVs that will waddle back home to mom and dad’s house or on to the next seasonal gig.
For many, though, one ski season is the beginning of a ski town cliche: “I came for the season and I just never left.” How many times have I heard it? (Another cliche ” “Came on vacation and stayed on probation” ” is a completely different story).
Maybe you’ve already signed on to drive a whitewater-rafting shuttle or to work on a trail crew this summer. That’s great, but remember that renewing a lease and landing a warm-weather gig is only the first step toward becoming a real “local.”
Ski towns are about staying power. If you’ve been here since the drug-induced, sex-crazed 1970s height of ski culture or if watching the ’80s film “Hot Dog … The Movie” is a trip down memory lane, you’re probably kind of a big deal around here and people listen to you like you’re E.F. Hutton (chances are you’ve probably got a real estate license too).
But if you’re new, you have to qualify in conversation something like, “I’ve only been here for a little while, but …” at which point everyone ignores you.
Never mind your experience and qualifications, a bulletin board covered with old ski passes is worth more than a wall of framed graduate degrees in a ski town. The local’s pedigree dictates that the guy who’s been here since his van broke down during the Nixon administration really knows what’s up, no matter if he’s drooling on you and repeating himself at the bar.
There is something to be said for sticking around, though. It means you’ve weathered years of snow and no snow, second home booms and economic busts, and probably had a divorce or two along the way.
Ski town living isn’t easy. Rents are high and life is about working hard, playing hard and (for many) partying hard. Most people just can’t keep up and follow the siren song of higher pay, lower rent and a starter home in the flatlands somewhere (true locals say the best thing about Denver is seeing it in the rearview mirror as you drive back up the hill).
We’re a revolving door of itinerants, really, and a friend of mine said he doesn’t make real friendships with seasonal folks ” it’s just too heartbreaking for him to say goodbye to a new crop every year. Unless you have a mortgage or stick around for a while, he told me, you were just “Whattup, dude?” to him.
But what does it take to be a real local? I’ve heard reports ranging from 10 to 30 years.
So, before I hit the skim pond on closing day, I reckon this year will flash before my eyes in a blur of powder days, backcountry adventures with good friends and moonlit walks or curling up by the fire with the woman of my dreams. I guess the two of us will just have to wait 29 more years to talk about it with any authority.
” Charles Agar’s driver’s license, tax return and occasional bouts with righteous indignation say he’s local. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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