Miller: 30 years in the county
It was just about this time of year 30 years ago when my family made the big move to Summit County. At 16, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about leaving all my friends in our suburban Long Island community, but at least the notion of moving to Colorado was somewhat exciting. And my friends, many of whom still live exactly where they were 30 years ago, were somewhat amazed by the whole thing.
There was nothing particularly amazing about Silverthorne in 1980, though. Back then, summers were as beautiful as they are now, but for an uprooted 16-year-old, the scenery held little sway – and there was precious little going on in the way of events, barbecue challenges or anything else. What confronted us that summer was the daunting prospect of building our house on Rainbow Drive – something my father was determined to do as much of by ourselves as possible.
People ask me what’s changed in Summit County since then. Some of those who’ve been around a while decry the commercialization of the county, the rise of the second-home owner and, well, name your gripe. Mostly I think the people, the locals both recent and long-time, are the same laid-back folks who came here to be part of a community where people care a bit more and don’t take things quite so seriously. Exceptions abound, of course, but I typically reject any generalization that suggests the county or its people are fundamentally different.
But that’s not to say I don’t recall how it was. That summer 30 years ago, we lived in a double-wide trailer behind the Sav-O-Mat (there’s a bank there now) while we worked on the house. The Mint was a dive bar, the Old Dillon Inn was the center of Silverthorne’s social scene (and the de-facto after-meeting place for the town council) and there were only two stoplights (Ski Hill Road and Keystone – and they turned the latter off in the summer). Summit Boulevard through Frisco was a two-lane road, there was no Walmart, no Target, no rec centers, no festivals or anything much bigger than the Fourth of July parade. We had Safeway and City Market at that point, but locals were used to making a monthly trip down the hill for other kinds of things you just couldn’t get up here back then (at least not without costing an arm and a leg).
Some say all new arrivals to Summit County want things to freeze pretty much as they are the day they move in. And while I can’t say all the new chain stores and restaurants that have popped up over the years lift my spirit, exactly, I also understand that Summit County is not Aspen or Telluride or even Salida or Leadville – it’s just too close to Denver to be a tony resort town or a sleepy backwater. In fact, part of Summit County’s appeal has always been its proximity to the big city, and it’d be naive to think those influences wouldn’t creep into our community.
I didn’t realize back in 1980 that Summit County would be my home for so many years. I haven’t been here the whole time, but I have returned on several occasions simply because, more than anywhere else, this is home. As the late snows start to yield to (hopefully) more sunny, warm days soon, I look forward to our summer season with the greatest anticipation. Even that grumpy teen all those years ago had to admit that the absence of humidity and 100-degree days was a good thing, and that there’s simply something about the air up here that seems more life-affirming than in other places.
As I watch the next of our children getting ready to graduate in a week, it sure doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was attending, and then graduating from Summit High. Most of my classmates left and never returned, although there are still a few of us around. The sign may say “Colorado’s Playground,” but for those who call this place home, it’s really always been about community. And that’s something no external forces can take away.
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