Biff America: Right place, right time, right people
Considering the most ill-advised things I have done in my life, there seems to be three common denominators: I was young, thought I was bulletproof and had enjoyed a few cocktails. Also, there were extenuating circumstance of being mostly single, working nights and being surrounded by friends as clueless as me.
I was waiting tables at a local place called The Miners Camp, which resembled Sodom and Gomorrah with a salad bar. For a waiter or bartender, it was one of the best places to work in that era (1970s to ’80s). Though I’d leave town to work at summer resorts after the lifts shut down, I’d return when needed as to not lose that primo gig. With the widespread absurdity of the place, it was no surprise that the staff was mostly male and of a similar age and carelessness.
It was not uncommon for some of us to work our shifts, grab a bottle and look for something stupid to do. Now to be clear, we did not feel it was stupid at the time; the confidence of youth is a numbing elixir.
I remember getting off work and, if the roads were dry, skateboarding down our mountain passes at midnight using the headlights of a following van to light the way. If the roads were snowpacked, we would do the same on sleds or toboggans.
Those not sliding would sit on the roof of the moving vehicle waiting their turn.
I’m sure someone must have brought up the fact that, since the road was open to traffic and it was nighttime, perhaps it was dangerous riding on top of a moving vehicle or sliding in front.
But the county and my body were younger and more fun back then. And though I am stuck with my current body, not so with where I call home. I could go anywhere, but I would not want to live anywhere else.
“Breckenridge! What happened?” is a bumper sticker seen around town, which laments the changes that have befallen our mountain community. I suppose it could also be asked of Frisco, Salida, Aspen, Cape Cod and Jackson. Most cool places in America have grown to a degree that many locals find disheartening.
The bumper sticker question reminds me of the husband who was told by his wife that she was expecting their fourth child. “How could that happen?” he asks.
Nature (and cool places) abhors a vacuum. Some growth was inevitable due to density and property rights, and some required public support.
I could point to several pivotal points during the recent decades: the annexation of Shock Hill, “I-lift” and Imperial Express, Peaks 6 and 7. All that, in addition to the Epic Pass and Denver’s growth, has made our town more attractive to visitors and development.
There was a small but vocal group who either opposed or asked to downsize those and other developments over the years. We were told commerce needed to take precedent. And in most cases, the community either supported the growth or was apathetic. To those old-timers who ask, “What happened?” I would answer, “You were here when it did.”
Now, many years later, the results are that we have a world-class resort, amazing recreation, tennis and Nordic centers, golf courses, thousands of acres of open space and trails, and opportunities that I could only dream of while skateboarding down Hoosier Pass. So with the growth came amenities we use and enjoy.
It is also true that many — myself included — have made some money off the expansions we supported or opposed. So what happened? Well, a lot of stuff — some of it good, some of it bad, all of it dramatic. But I still can’t think of any place better.
Those of us who decided to stay have choices. We can lament the days of yore with an eye on relocating. Or we can be grateful for being at the right place at the right time with the right people, while accepting that it will never be as it was. But it is still really good.
Yes, you have to be more strategic where and when to venture out to play or run errands. Yes, City Market can be as soothing as a root canal. It is not as it was, but you can still make it work. Grieve the changes, but celebrate what remains.
You can ask, “What happened?” But most of us know.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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