ULTIMATE RANT | Go Ahead. Bite The Hand That Feeds You.

By Allison Perry | Telluride

Ever since I was a gal of 29, living in a ski town for the first time, I have been collecting fond gaper-bashing memories and stowing them away into a mental jar, much like other little girls stash fragments of seashells and sea-glass after a trip to the beach.

Gaper bashing, synonymous with tourist bashing, is just as much a staple of the tourist-based economy of every ski town in the universe, and the bashing is itself just as necessary for the economy of these towns to flourish as is the existence of said tourists.

How else are overworked, abused and exhausted seasonal employees on the mountain, in the retail and rental shops, in the hotels and at the restaurants supposed to cope?

Brian Butler addressed this very important and academic topic on Sweet Rants this week, stating, “It’s a lot more fun to bash Texans, than to watch locals bash each other.” Assuming he doesn’t mean physically (violence is only the answer sometimes) I thought this was a given.

And not just Texans.

I’m talking about every tourist, second homeowner, visitor – hell, even native Coloradan – who power-wedges down Sundance with a Go-Pro strapped to his helmet, decked out in the most expensive and high-end gear, riding a pair of Salomon X-Wings, who then swaggers into the bar after tomahawking down Bushwhacker and texts all his friends that he “destroyed a black run at Telluride.”

When I look like an absolute ass on Holy Cow at the end of the day, like last week when I literally crashed into a bump and was dangling off it like spider-woman, or when I catch an edge in Sully’s and double eject, I fully expect to get heckled from the lift, or by my co-skiers. Part of skiing is making fun of other skiers. And being able to make fun of yourself.

And no one makes it quite as easy to be made fun of as the people who have everything we all wish we had, such as, oh say, money and perhaps a house that has more than two doors, yet still haven’t mastered elementary skiing techniques like pizza/french fry.

The mountain is the great equalizer, and any envy we feel toward these tourists who can afford to take a vacation, especially on which their “lodging” wasn’t made by Marmot, or second homeowners who can afford a first home and a second home, is assuaged once we see how stunningly terrible they often are on the hill.

Yes, it might be a little harsh, especially when you say “bash” instead of “poke fun.” Some nicer folks pointed out that as people, Texans can be kind of awesome.

One of my good friends here is from Texas and she’s pretty damn awesome. She’s also a badass on the hill and in the backcountry.

Tom Curtis remarks, “I’ve been in construction around here for a while, and some of the best people to work for have been Texans. BBQ on Fridays, offering lemonade, buying drinks at the bar, etc. The problem is, there’s just so many of them, and, their snow driving techniques.”

Sam Adams adds, “Texans actually are a lot sweeter than many many locals. They’re better for bar talk. They are more generous with tips. They have that awe of the natural beauty here. And they’re genuinely nice. But my gosh do they fucking suck at skiing.”

The thing is, though, no one is saying that gaper tactics on the hill make you a horrible person.

If I went down to Texas to bull ride I’m sure I’d get laughed out of the ring quickly, and, if I managed to escape with my life, could find tons of hilarious, polite and smart Texans to share a round of drinks with at the bar afterward. I would also be making fun of myself as well.

If I went to Nebraska and tried to, I don’t know, husk corn, do Nebraska things, I’d suck ass at it. And I would be perfectly fine getting made fun of for it.

Making fun of people on the ski hill is not a commentary on their personalities. It’s part of a culture of mountain town living, where the locals, who have rich people shoved down their throats day and night, get to feel somehow that they still win.

And, aside from that, if you mark Type 1 as your skier type while renting, and then choose to ski the Chair 9 lift line, or decide to ignore all the signage leading up to the Black Iron Bowl and are forced to ask atop Dihedral Face (as you balance your skis the wrong way on your shoulder) where the nearest Blue Run is, you deserve to be made fun of.

If, like a certain lady last week, you happen to be traversing the Goat Path when you clearly should not be anywhere near any run containing the word “Chute” and you say to me, perched precariously one foot above my head and sliding towards me, “They shouldn’t have this open,” I might make fun of you a little bit.

Did you fail to see all the “Cliff” and “EX Terrain” signs demarcating every inch of the entrance to Gold Hill 1 and the Goat Path?

Did you think all those double black diamonds, chunky snow, the avalanche crown in the chute clearly visible from the lift, were all just things the resort employees put up to decorate the mountain and give it a “rugged feel?”

The proper comment would have been “I shouldn’t be in here. FML.”

April Bindock gets it. “I’ve been coming to Telluride for 35 years,” she comments. “I wish I could ski like Gus Kenworthy, but, alas, I don’t have a mountain in my backyard. I do understand your feelings though. I’ve been horrified at other Texans I’ve seen in Colorado, but to be honest, I’ve been horrified by the ones I see in Austin too. As long as the joke is legit, I laugh along with you.”

Equal opportunity humiliation is what ski town locals are all about. And as I said, ski bums make fun of tourists a lot. But if you eat shit below the chair under one of them, they’re gonna call you out too, even if you’ve been here for 35 years. It’s all in good fun.

Thomas Armstrong doesn’t think so, however.

“Texans actually support this town in a huge way. I would bet 25 percent of second homes in the area at minimum are owned by them and pay for us to live here. I agree they don’t ski like we do but what resort do they have to practice on like we have.”

Do you think Texans remove their cowboy hats when someone bends down to kiss their collective ass?

Maybe I should be kissing some second homeowner ass too, Texan or other, as I wasn’t aware they were paying my rent and somehow making my life here possible.

As Herb Manning asks, “Is this light-hearted humorous thread going to devolve into a serious ‘thou shalt not ever speak bad about any tourist?’ We live in a tourist economy, we get it! It’s called humor. Butt kissing is not funny.”

Amen, Herb. Amen.

I, for one, am so sick of hearing grumblings that the people that live here should not bite the hand that feeds them, and that we should be eternally grateful for the wealthy class because us poor people live to serve them, or some such bullshit.

The proletariat here understands that we live in an economy based on tourism and second homeowners. We understand that without loads of money coming in and out, the town would be in trouble. But this mentality that the riffraff who actually work here, and struggle to make ends meet because they truly appreciate the natural beauty of this place, should constantly be kissing the asses of the well-to-do that make the world go round and round is bullshit.

Money isn’t everything. And those of us who don’t make much of it but still find a way to stay in Telluride, and towns like it, certainly know that. Some of us actually did or still do have the opportunity to pick a different lifestyle that would yield more money, but we choose not to, in order to stay here with different priorities.

I’m not advocating adopting a mean attitude towards tourists or treating them poorly, nor am I saying that all Texans are bad skiers, deserve to be made fun of, whatever. But don’t you dare tell me or any of my friends that we should get down on our knees and thank the wealthy people for demanding our services, or act like the goddamn sun revolves around their shiny, overprices coifs, because they spend money here.

Most of the people I know here who work the low paying jobs have great educations, are well-traveled and are intelligent and amazing human beings. Are the rich people “better” than them simply because they made different choices?

Furthermore, a tourist-based economy requires two things: people to spend money, but also people who are willing to make almost zero money to keep businesses going. And you can put all the rich people you want on any given snow-covered hill, but without underpaid employees who have more or less devoted their lives to skiing, there’s going to be no one for them to hand their money to or make sure the chairs keep on spinning.

So how about a little “thanking our stars” and gratitude for the people who stay here year after year,  accepting meager wages and subpar housing options, because becoming a great skier is more important to them than owning two homes or driving a Mercedes. In my opinion it’s those people who keep the wheels of this economy turning.

Can you imagine if they all decided being rich was a more noble lifestyle and either left town or demanded salaries and benefits? What are your rich tourists going to do then? Man the registers? Bump the chairs? Get behind the bar?

I think not.

I think making fun of gaperism is absolutely fine and dandy, and I’m all for it. Just make sure you buy the poor schmuck a shot at the bar while you’re congratulating him for falling down La Rosa and having to call Ski Patrol to find his ski at the top because he was too tired to hike back up to get it himself.

About the Author

Allison Perry

Allison Perry was born and raised in New York City and earned a BA in Political Science from The University Of Wisconsin - Madison and a JD at Case Western Reserve University School Of Law before moving to Alaska with the hopes of becoming the next Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. Although she went so far as to pass the Bar Exam in Sarah Palin's playground, she became disillusioned with law and decided to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist and a photographer. She moved to Colorado in 2010 and after a few years ski-bumming and retailing, she was finally able to transform her freelance writing into a full time career at The Watch. Allison believes local journalism is an essential part of living in a small town, and strives to write objectively, in plain English, with a critical eye and a dash of sarcasm here and there. She is stoked to be a part of the San Juan Independent.