I wonder what people think, the first time they drive into the valley. When they first come around the bend at Red Mountain and the Paradise Divide opens up in front; Wheststone to the left and the mother rock on the right, lone and proud. Even Teocalli peaks its head out for a few moments farther down the road. Do people realize they have reached paradise?
The first time I drove into the valley of Crested Butte in June 2004, it was dark out and raining. I was ten, and the only thing I do remember was sliding out of the rental car for a late night dinner at Harry’s Fine Dining…. Welcome to Crested Butte! Eat at Harry’s! By October of that year I was the new 5th grader at the Crested Butte Community School. Shout out to local old timer Nettie Kapushion, my first teacher, and also Dakota Roark for cheating off my spelling test on my first day. That was when the school was half the size that it is now and the classes were two times as small.
Those were the days when people still called the Red Lady Lift the ‘Keystone Lift.’ When Pitas in Paradise was where The Sunflower is now and when there was still a T-Bar on Buckley. Things sure have changed over the past ten years. I’ve watched the Gothic Building go down and the Brick Oven building go up. I’ve seen people come and go, but most of all, I’ve seen how Crested Butte has prospered.
Keystone Lift and base area
Our first big national TV coverage was when Good Morning America came to CB to film a holiday special. It was a big deal. People packed onto Elk for the ‘lighting of the Christmas Tree’, feeling giddy and trying to get the attention of the camera man. Try as we might, I would say that since then it has been Jingles El GatoPerro who has stolen the limelight on television.
The 2007 – 2008 epic powder year took the ski world by storm, literally, with 418 inches of snowfall. It was the best winter of my life and I’m not the only one to say that. Our rankings went up in every ski magazine. In 2010, I became interested in politics, when the town council broke a tied election with a duel of “Ninja-Bear-Cowboy,” classic. The rest of the word called us crazy, the Huffington Post called it “embracing our Western Heritage.”
Winter 2007 - 2008
When the USA Pro Challenge came to Crested Butte for the first time in 2011, people saw us from around the world. They got a kick out of our costumes and street paint and the cowboys on their horses, racing the bikers through the valley. Who would have guessed that last year we would be crowned the winners of Powder Magazines Ski Town Throwdown, as the number one ski town in North America? That is something we should all be proud of.
Crested Butte will continue to grow. We will continue to receive attention from the world. There is always a fear of change; that is to be expected, but change is something we should celebrate. No matter what happens, the mountains will never lose their shape. The stars will always be within reach of the peak. Where else can you ride the lift with Waldo or take a free bus painted with aliens? Paradise can be shared with everyone. The hippies and the ski bums. The hard core athletes, even the part time home owners. The rambunctious Western students, the old timers. And the new timers.
I graduated from CBCS in 2012, with a class of 28. Now, as a college student with a knack for traveling, I’m not home as much as I used to be, in fact I’ll be leaving this week. I’ll miss Crested Butte, but sometimes the best part about being away is coming back again. Every time I come back, I find that something has changed. I’m not worried, because I know that every time I return, when I pass Red Mountain and drive into the valley with the Paradise Divide opening like magic in front of me, I’m home. This is paradise and it’s not going anywhere.
Blogger: Skylar Kraatz