Steamboat Springs It's hard not to have a love-hate relationship with tourists. On the one hand, when 13,000 tourists doubled the population of Steamboat Springs a few weeks ago, it was nice to know the local economy was hopping.
On the other hand, there were 13,000 people needing to eat, 13,000 people on streets and sidewalks and 13,000 people in line to go skiing all of which can make everyday life inconvenient.
Plus, these are 13,000 tourists in the "ski vacation dimension." It's cold there, a large snowstorm is kind of scary and people are a little stressed and exhausted from skiing and being out of shape which can make some surprisingly rude.
Drinking heavily tends to smooth the edges in the ski vacation dimension, which always makes a night out in Steamboat kind of interesting.
But I have discovered if you live here long enough, you must develop a tourist-proof persona. In a survival-of-the-fittest sort of way, you have to learn to accept tourist behavior as the norm. If you can't, you won't be in town very long.
For example, last weekend I found myself sitting at a table at a bar on the mountain with some friends. Of course, as the evening progressed, more and more tourists filled the room.
Pretty soon a sea of people surrounded us like we were a rock in a rising river. They splashed up against our backs and spilled onto our table.
At one point, some little college girl was standing on the table right next to us, striking poses for pictures.
Except for some acknowledgment of the lunacy, the conversation at our table kept moving as if nothing were off. That's because nothing was off. Never mind we were surrounded by a ski vacation version of an MTV spring break special. But that is a Steamboat bar during tourist season, and you get used to it, like everything else.
So my persona has developed.
I don't even honk or make rude finger gestures when I'm driving anymore. I have accepted the fact that someone is going to blindly walk out in front of my truck carrying their skis or stop their car in the street where there is no stop sign.
When riding with vacationers on chairlifts, I now can respond to the expected comments and questions without sarcasm, too.
"So, what is it like to live in a ski town?"
"Do you know where to get some (controlled substance)?"
"You ski all the time, don't you? Awesome!"
It is awesome.
We live in a little place where people from all over the world love to visit.
Yes, it can be taxing, especially at the grocery store at 5 p.m. with 13,000 people in town. That's why you have to roll with the punches.
This is the business we are in and there are certain advantages.
In the last year in Steamboat I talked with an Israeli who lived in a kibbutz, hung out with a couple of Swiss computer programmers, banged drums and played mandolin with some guys from Kentucky, snowboarded with a couple of Czechs for a season and had two firsthand accounts of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers from New Yorkers.
That sort of diversity in one place is only possible in a tourist town.