Joel Reichenberger: Telling Steamboat’s stories
Steamboat Springs — Living in Steamboat Springs comes with all sorts of challenges.
Some are obvious, like the financial difficulties. There are so, so many sweet toys out there, so many ways to blow a paycheck. And you need it all, right, from gloves to goggles, rocker boards to powder planks.
The cold, I seem to rediscover every November, is a challenge. I’ve yet to start factoring ice-scraping time into my morning commute.
Talking about Steamboat, though, is a challenge in its own right, and whether my travels take me merely to Denver or all the way back to my childhood home in Kansas, telling Steamboat’s stories is something I’m still learning to do correctly.
Mostly I go with the ridiculous.
Everyone always wants to know if it’s snowed and if people are skiing. I go straight to stories of hiking the mountain for pre-season turns.
In Kansas, this usually requires a bit of explanation.
“You see, people use ski bindings that have this hinge …”
Or, “They call them skins, and yeah, they just hike straight up the mountain, through the snow.”
I almost always get to include this: “Yeah, I don’t get it either.”
I tell of Bruce’s Trail, one of the region’s first groomed cross-country ski trails to open every winter. And I tell of the kickers the hard-core Colorado Mountain College students build up on Rabbit Ears Pass.
I usually have to explain what a kicker is.
Stories about Olympians go over well, of course.
It also helps to know your audience.
Speaking to a conservative group of friends, stories about the hilariously stunning rise of the medical marijuana business in town go over well.
In Denver, they elicit little more than blank stares.
Just as Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a must for all visitors, it’s a must for most storytellers, as well.
“Yeah, totally naked … I can only guess what they were doing in that particularly dark corner.”
In my rural hometown, hunting can be a common ground.
I talk of the massive elk herds that roam near Steamboat Springs and in Northwest Colorado, the influx of hunters looking for a trophy and the absolute yawn that greets a truck and trailer driving through downtown, past casual margarita sippers and sandwich munchers, with the disembodied head of an elk strapped down tight behind a pair of all-terrain vehicles.
Bears, too, make quality conversation, especially their untimely deaths in downtown dumpsters, unending battles with trash cans or soirees atop downtown diners.
There are surely ridiculous stories to tell about every town in the United States. When you don’t speak the local lingo, it all can seem a little nuts. Learning to best tell those stories is a skill I’m honing.
Thankfully, Steamboat’s colorful ways make it a much more enjoyable endeavor than scraping a windshield.
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It is going to be a hot week in Steamboat Springs.