After receiving a great amount of feedback from my last post (50+ Days of Skiing), and a great suggestion from my buddy Bill, I decided to write part 2.
Whenever I’ve been to a place on a trip or for vacation, I’ve always noticed one thing that stood out to me in particular. It wasn’t just the mountains. It wasn’t the cool small towns. The thing that stood out to me the most were the locals. Whenever I’d strike up a conversation with someone on a chair lift, and they’d mention that they were “from there”, I used to get so jealous. They’d go on to say how many days they’ve skied so far that season, or that this day wasn’t nearly as good as it was midweek, etc. I used to think that was so cool. To live in a place where I dove hours and hours to get to just for an afternoon of fun, and these guys lived there.
I always imagined what’d it must be like to live in those mountain towns, and be able to recreate in those mountain any day of the week. Not being able to head out for a trail run or ride without running into a friend (and their dogs), rather than just passing by as strangers. Going to the local speaker events that I always saw posters and signs for, but never stuck around to see. Walking into a ski shop, just to talk about latest gear or the next forecasted storm. And then there’s the deals you score from the bartenders at your favorite bars if you go often enough. All of these things I used to wonder about, but now they’re starting to become a reality.
By definition, living here in Park City year round makes me a local. Do I check off all the boxes of what, in my head, makes you a local? Well, no. I don’t work on the mountain, or at a bar on main street. I don’t volunteer that often to give back to this community, even though I try when I can. And do I know every person I pass by on the trails or when I walk around town (in the offseason), no not there yet either. But I’m getting there, one day at a time.
The one thing I have made loads of progress on, is getting to know the lay of the land. When visiting a new place, you tend to stick to what you’ve heard is good or what is popular. Only after spending years in a place do you really begin to appreciate exploring new areas for yourself. And this can pertain to skiing, ski touring, mountain biking, running, or even hiking. Sure, I’ve got a handful of trails that I always go back to, but discovering new areas on your own is a hard feeling to beat. Finding a place with no one else because it’s either too far for most crowds to reach, or it’s super close to a popular route so there’s never a reason to break from the known goods. Even though most those exploratory missions yield nothing, there’s always something to learn from those trips into the mountains too.
At the same time, because I already live here, I don’t need to spend every waking moment of my days doing the activities. I’ve skied over 40+ days at the resort this year and only a handful of times did I get onto the mountain before 10:30am, and rarely did I stay until last chair. On average, I probably only skied for 2hrs on those days. And the same goes for my mountain bike rides. People come from all over the world to ride and ski these mountains, from sun-up to sun-down they play. But for me, it’s my afternoon workout. And that, to be honest, is one of the best parts about living in a mountain town. I can go ski for a couple hours, then head to the climbing gym or just hangout for the rest of the day without being completely exhausted.
On the flip side of this relaxed sentiment, because I live here, I’ve become heavily invested in the weather, especially in the winter. I’m constantly tracking storms and avalanche forecast. That directly feeds into the plan for the week for when and where I plan to ski or tour. Day of the storm, head to the safer terrain on the peaks at the resort. Day after a storm, with more than 6″, head into the slackcountry low angle slopes off 9990 Gate. Good weather ahead, plan to head out for longer tours in the cottonwoods, etc. This is only a short bit of what goes through my head when planning an activity. That doesn’t even begin to dive into how temperature fluctuations around 32deg will dictate which slope angles and aspects I chose to ski for both in-bounds and out of bounds. Before living here, I used to just show up and figure it out when I got there. It was much simpler times.
Just like when I lived back in Connecticut, I used to have different partners for all my activities. You’ve got your mountain bike partners, ski partners, climbing partners, etc. But since moving here, it’s gotten much more serious. Because big adventures in the mountains are no longer reserved just for the weekends, partner logistics become much more difficult. A Tuesday afternoon could have you ski touring for 2K feet of vert, or skiing your ass off to lap as many times before last chair. With that being said, you need to plan your partners accordingly. Finding friends who work all sorts of hours is key, from the 9-5 corporate jobs, to the self-employed writers. Because when the snow is good, and you’re planning to get after it, you’ve gotta find a ski buddy as soon as possible. And beyond the partner availability, it’s tough to find people you mesh with and enjoy spending time around. Let alone trust them in the mountains. That process takes years to achieve, but luckily great people tend to live here and finding people to ski with are in no short supply. And having a girlfriend who shares your passion for nearly all these sports is pretty awesome too!
Am a I a local? Technically, yes. Am I walking up and down the streets in the summer knowing everyone who passes by? Hell no. But being a local is much more than getting free rounds of drinks from the bartender. It’s an appreciation for the place you live, and doing everything in you can to experience it all. It’s being friendly to everyone you meet, and helping the vacationeers find the right trail or way back to the lift. It’s giving back your time to keeping the mountain towns beautiful and a place worth visiting.
P.S. I’m up to 60 days of skiing this season as of 3/14/2019!