Column: The realities of living in a mountain town
I grew up in the densely packed, humid East Coast with frizzy hair that looked similar to the Broncos running back, Phillip Lindsay. I moved to Colorado right after college and never looked back.
Over the years, I’ve adapted my way of thinking and learned to do things differently, like moisturize multiple times a day and wear sunscreen even when it’s raining. I’ve picked up a few more Colorado truisms along the way.
1. Weather changes fast
It’s not unusual to be wearing flip flops and a t-shirt one minute and be bundled up under a blanket of snow the next. This past October, we’ve been dumped with over three feet of our moneymaker on the slopes of Aspen/Snowmass and other mountains have already opened for the season. Now that it’s November, we’re forecasted to have 10 days of uninterrupted sunshine and warm weather, so I’ll obviously leave the house with my winter coat, hat, and gloves just in case.
2. You’ll never have enough money
The cost of living is ridiculously high in comparison to other parts of the country. My two-income household still clips coupons and can rattle off the price of chicken in all the area grocery stores. You learn to justify an empty bank account for the beauty of backyard paradise and learn to buy in bulk and ration out the after-school snacks.
3. Traveling is a big deal
Chances are you’ll know a handful of the staff employed in your small, regional airport nestled in the mountains. You wonder how pilots navigate themselves like a string of dental floss between tall, jagged peaks as you simultaneously thank heaven for packing extra underwear on an always bumpy flight.
However, if you’re traveling with a family, have a tight budget, or depend on reliable flight patterns, you make alternative plans instead. You spend an extra day driving over mountain passes, park the car miles from the airport, hustle luggage by bus and train, and eventually fly out of Denver leaving beads of sweat in your wake.
4. We have a clothing style similar to high-alpine, mountain goats
Bring your trendy, ski getup to a major metropolitan area, and you’ll look as hip as my husband wearing his Dansko clogs at the beach in the summertime. I’m always reluctant to get a mini-makeover when I head back east because my favorite fleece hoodie is ripped from my clenched fists and the huge pompom on my cute hat doesn’t present well at the theatre. Inevitably, I shake my head as I come back to Colorado postholing in my new high-heeled pumps.
5. We live in a utopic bubble
People say we’re out of touch with reality and I wholeheartedly agree. Our country, filled with shady deals, nepotism, aggressive behavior, racism, and blatant sexism, is the new norm. And although mountain living has its fair share of the same, I believe we work hard at a diversity of ideas and tolerance of thought. We have an acute awareness of the current events in our nation because they affect the people we know; they are our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and friends.
We have no choice but to bring our best selves to the table if we’re going to survive life in a small town. That means I can’t flip the bird to the older driver driving slowly in the passing lane. Chances are, they are a friend’s parent.
6. Nature is our religion
For some of us, we trust in faith by going to church, a synagogue, or a mosque to pray. But for most people that live in a mountain town, their nourishment comes from skiing, hiking, or biking on the weekends. Our religious doctrine is nature, and we’d give up almost anything for lungs full of fresh, mountain air.
7. We like to have a good time
Many of us who live in the mountains are adrenaline junkies with an adventurous spirit. We’re addicts of all kinds and some of us crave the highs that eventually come at a cost. There’s a cautionary tale found at every turn with depression and suicide affecting ski towns in alarmingly high numbers. If you’re not talking about mental health with your friends, at work, or with your loved ones around the dinner table, then you should be. This affects all of us, especially people that live in an idyllic, ski town.
8. The kids keep us grounded
Lastly, whether it be standing on the sidelines watching a soccer game or sitting through a school play, our children keep this place real. We need all kids to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground so they can grow up to be better, healthier versions of ourselves. We want our utopic bubble to eventually become the norm.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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