Becoming Local: The Telluride Difference

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When I ride the Gondola into town, it’s only a matter of time before I’m identified as a “local.” Usually, it happens by the second tower. Then, the inevitable two questions follow. “You live here? Do you know how lucky you are?”

I always give the expected yes and the conversation quickly moves on to what’s skiing well (Dihedral, Kant’Mak’m, La Rosa), where to go for Happy Hour (Allred’s, Tomboy Tavern, The Cosmo or Oak), and where go to for dinner (Rustico, Siam’s Talay Grille or The Chop House).

But, what I’ve never done, is answer that first question honestly and completely. If I did, it would sound something like this.

Yes, I know how lucky I am to live here.

I have shed tears on my daily commute along the Valley Floor, watching low clouds dance ghostlike across the valley, veiling and unveiling the surrounding mountains, making them look different than I’ve ever seen them, even though I live here.

Yes, I know how lucky am I am to live here.

I fell in love with my husband, right over there, on the Telluride Trail, leaning over my poles, peering over Milk Run, hanging out and talking well past the time the lift stopped, delaying the last run of the day as long as possible.

Yes, I know how lucky am I am to live here.

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My fellow mom friends are the ones you see hauling their kids around in Chariots behind their bikes with skis over their shoulders. You’ll know them because you’ll hear them chatting, right before they pass you, hiking up Palmyra Peak.

Yes, I know how lucky am I to live here.

I skied Gold Hill with both my seven-year old daughter and seventy-year old mother. And my seven-year old thought that was normal. My kids have ski PE at school and my four-year old goes to birthday parties at Gorrono (if you can’t ski there by age four, no piñata for you, sorry).

Yes, I know how lucky am I to live here.

I think a 20-minute wait is a lift line. Skiing with my husband on a powder morning is a date. Sunday is family ski day. When the mountain isn’t skiing the way I like it, I go Nordic skiing at Priest Lake or ride a winter mountain bike through snowy forests.

And on New Year’s Eve, I watch fireworks on Main Street, for free.

Yes, I know how lucky I am to live here.

I never grow bored of the Main Street shops, or yoga at Studio e. I love coffee at The Bean, breakfast at the Butcher and the Baker, and perusing the books at Between the Covers. And on the greyest of days, when I announce we’re going to have a mellow day inside, my kids rise up and demand I take them outside, to the Town Park, ice-skating and sledding.

“Yes,” I’d say. “I know how lucky I am to live here.”

Then, I’d pause and ask, “Do you know how lucky you are?”

Because the difference between coming to Telluride, and any other ski resort, is after one visit, you’re local here. You’re really no different than me.

You’ll never stop noticing the beauty of the town, but your wife will ditch you to ski with the ladies (on Black Iron Bowl), and the kids will find their own posse too. You’ll be late for reservations and appointments, because as you walk down Main Street, you’ll have to stop and chat. You’ll know people.

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Your evening conversations will center on the “lines” you skied and impending weather “events”. And, the restaurant owners will remember your name, pouring you “the regular,” when you enter. You’ll start referring to The Last Dollar Saloon as “The Buck” and La Cocina De La Luz as “Lucas’s”.

You’ll hang out on the mountain long after the lifts stop, delaying that last run, wishing the ski day would never end. And your ski instructor will start visiting you, in your hometown.

When you have to leave, you’ll drive along the Valley Floor, and you’ll notice the low clouds racing across the valley, like ghosts dancing across a ballroom, and you may shed a tear. Not because you’re leaving, you’ll be back. But, because these mountains, and all that they embody, will become a part of you.

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Jesse James McTigue

Jesse James McTigue

Jesse James McTigue moved to Telluride when she was eleven. She has left many times –to attend a ski academy and college on the East Coast, to travel in South America, and to teach middle school in Oakland, CA –but she always seems to return. She returned (again) in 2008, married with kids, and thinks this time it may be for real. When she’s not chasing her kids, she’s searching for sanity on her skis or bike and makes her living freelance writing, grant writing and tutoring.

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