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My yearly good deed

Andrew Gmerek

It wasn’t the dumbest conversation I’d ever overheard. But it did rank in the top 10 for sheer stupidity.

Joining the conversation, however, gave me more than just a massive headache. It was a chance to suck up some good karma, which is something I always seem to need, but is usually in short supply.

Granted the conversation wasn’t as stupid as the time a visitor asked a friend of mine where the resort stored the moguls during the summer or at what elevation deer turn into elk.

And I’m positive no one will ever beat the time a tourist entered a ski shop – trust me this is a true story – and after glancing at the Colorado Avalanche hockey schedule, expressed amazement that Summit Countians had the ability to not only control our avalanches but also post a schedule a year in advance.

At the time, I was reclining in a local eating establishment, reading the paper and just about to dig into a cheeseburger when the trio sitting at a neighboring table started their discussion.

“I want to go hiking today,” said Tourist 1.

“Sounds good,” said Tourist 2. “Maybe we should hike on Peak 8 wherever that is. I hear it’s pretty up there.”

This statement caught my attention, because it happened to be one of those normal fall/winter days when the clouds, snow and wind batter the high peaks like a child shakes a helpless hamster in a cage, and I knew any trail on Peak 8 would be uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worst.

“Well, if we’re going we better get started soon,” said Tourist 3. “Maybe we should grab some water from the store before we go?”

“Naw,” said Tourist 2. “We should be all right. We just ate, and we won’t be up there that long. I kinda want to get going so we can get back.”

I froze. Suddenly Republicans stealing the governorship of California didn’t seem all that important. These folks, I realized, were well on their way to making a top-shelf mistake.

“Do you guys have your coats?” Tourist 3 asked.

“Just the jackets we brought, but we should be fine. We’re only going to be gone for a little while,” Tourist 1 replied.

Jackets? Hiking Peak 8 when it’s snowing in windbreakers? What in Ullr’s name were these people thinking?

“Yeah, we’ll be OK,” Tourist 2 said. “I have my cell phone, and that’s the most important thing.”

I suddenly imagined the three visitors huddled against a tree, light-weight jackets pulled tight against the snow, dark and 50 mph winds while one stared at a cell phone signaling “low battery” and “no service.”

I turned toward the people sitting next to me in their summer clothes and loafers and decided I had to set them straight even if it meant joining their conversation.

“Hey folks,” I said. “Just a word of warning. It’s really snowing on Peak 8, and I don’t think you should be going into the mountains without some serious gear at this time of year.”

At first they stared at me like I had let loose with a string of Swahili, but then I could tell my words sank in.

“But we wanted to go hiking,” Tourist 1 said.

I took a little more time out of my schedule to explain that Breckenridge had plenty of moderate, scenic trails close into town. And for a short time I sounded as if I had just completed the Breckenridge Resort Chamber’s smile school.

By the time I finished my dissertation, the visitors were convinced of their folly, and I returned to my paper bathed in gallons of positive karma.

I was happy. I had saved the backcountry from more bunglers, and now I don’t have to perform another good deed until the leaves fall again next year.

Andrew Gmerek paves the way for happy tourist experiences and writes a Friday column for the

Summit Daily News. He can be reached at agmerek@hotmail.com.


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