How to live in a mountain town

I’ve lived in close proximity to mountains my whole life. Everyone I know who grew up near a big body of water says they feel a little lost in a place without it; that’s how I feel about big hills. I don’t even know how to give directions in cities where I can’t just be like, “Head west—toward the mountains” or “Hold on, I’m running late because there’s a moose in my front yard.”

This is one of the many reasons I’m really good at living in a mountain town. It takes some very specific skills, like driving defensively and religiously checking the weather forecast.

  • Before you move, make sure you have the essentials: a beat-up Subaru (preferably with a topper covered in stickers from your favorite coffee shops and ski areas), a scruffy dog, and a puffy jacket patched liberally with duct tape should be enough to get you started.
  • Brush up on your service skills. You’re gonna need a second job to afford that extra bedroom to store your gear.
  • Pick a local bar (okay, microbrewery) and gather there often. Once you’ve waded through the crowd and are waiting to order your beer, use the time to complain loudly about tourists.
  • Learn to share. Your car is a road-salt-lollipop for errant moose; your discarded coffee grounds and banana peels are the first course on the bear smorgasboard; your outdoor felines are goats à la the dreaded T-rex scene in Jurassic Park. Hey, the charismatic megafauna were here first.
  • Let your freak flag fly. Skijoring down the bike path on your commute to work? Carrying your inflated packraft to the creek in the middle of town? Hauling your groceries home in a Burley bike trailer? Mark of a true mountain town: no one will bat an eye. Okay, maybe tourists—they’ll eat that shit up.

Above all, I’ve found, it’s important to maintain a sense of humor. Mountain living is weird. Hell, people are weird.

Most dirtbags aren’t in any hurry to hang our hearts in just one mountain town, which makes it a little easier to focus on whatever it was that brought us here in the first place—and savor those run-ins with the local wildlife, humans and all.

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