A new film shows the toll of  Colorado’s High Country mental health crisis — and one county’s successful response

Bode Miller is one of the producers behind “The Paradise Paradox,” rolling out across Colorado now

Minimal traffic during Winter Park’s shoulder season before ski resorts begin running their chairlifts, Oct. 30, 2023, in Grand County. Even people surrounded by the beauty of ski towns can succumb to mental health issues leading to suicide, a fact the new film “The Paradise Paradox,” executive produced by Olympic champion Bode Miller, explores.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

There’s a heartbreaking scene in a new documentary co-produced by Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller in which Grand County snowboarder Ben Lynch is driving down the highway sometime before taking his life while on a camping trip with his wife. 

It looks cold up there in the mountains, a little gray. That’s the general vibe of the first half of “The Paradise Paradox.” By now, viewers understand the name.  

A paradox exists in paradise: Too many people living in Colorado ski towns suffer with mental health problems, including a staggering number who’ve committed suicide in recent years, when it seemed like they should be having the time of their lives. 

This happens due to a confluence of forces: wealth gaps in mountain towns that grew into chasms during the COVID pandemic; lack of affordable housing; communities that rely on shredding during the day and partying at night for their happiness; and lack of adequate mental health services to help those dealing with any of these struggles cope. 

Alterra Mountain Company is a sponsor of the film, and several of the places highlighted are resorts owned by the company. Winter Park/Mary Jane is one; that may be why Lynch, who was 32 when he died by suicide, is featured. But a major part of the movie — and what bookends it — is a story about Eagle County’s unbelievable success at tackling the mental health crisis that peaked with 17 suicides in 2017.

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