Another ski season has come and gone, and to the unsuspecting tourist, everything was business as usual. Stellar, in fact.
“Record-breaking” on all fronts to anyone who wasn’t around in the ’70s. As the storms kept rolling in, so did the tourists and their dollars. Ski racks and parking lots jam-packed three-deep. On the freshly groomed surface, mountain operations were perfect.
However, ask year-round locals their thoughts, and they’ll ask you, “How much time do you have?” They averted their eyes to the increased pass prices, widow-makers left hanging over trails, and the log rounds left on the sides of trails before the snow safely covered them. Not to mention the insane parking situation that had some throwing up their hands and turning back to town.
Or the others who scattered during Texas spring break and said, “You can have it.” These are all the winter circumstances we have accepted. A deal with the devil to get our turns in.
But what we will not accept, or ignore, is the treatment of the individuals who built Purgatory. The old-timers. The legends. The ones who risked their lives every day to create our paradise in the San Juans.
They are the ones who operated on respect. Respect for each other, the mountain, what they were building for the town and the beautiful sport of skiing. They were the ones who worked for pennies on the dollar. The ones who traded skills for ski passes and who started a logging company to keep building the ski area when the corporation ran out of money. They gave firewood to the whole town throughout the year.
They raised their family on the mountain, and the mountain became their family in return. They were, and still are, the soul of this town and that mountain. They never asked for much, and still don’t. The least you can do is give them what they already earned – their lifetime passes after working 20 to 25 years.
Don’t tell the town that the records don’t exist in your computer system anymore and make them go hunt down all their old passes to prove their work history. How embarrassing to see them skiing every day, know exactly who they are, ski on the trails named after them, then tell them to their faces that they don’t exist anymore.
How humiliating it is for people to have to print out #GIVEDALEALIFETIME stickers and stick them to the snow stake for someone to take notice.
The legends and old-timers have been around before most of us got here and will still be here when many leave. They are the single greatest resource that mountain has. They are the shepherds of new generations and the gatekeepers to the past.
The very least we can do for them is show an ounce of respect and gratitude, and give them their lifetime passes.
Nicole Wagner is a resident ski bum in La Plata County.