Dave Shively's outdoors column appears Sundays in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Contact him at 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Steamboat Springs In three years as a passholder to the local resort, I had never skied three full days in a row. But with a friend in town, the back-to-back-to-back, open-to-close experience was eye opening.
I had forgotten about the Texans.
I have never actually been to Texas, but Texans have always been where I am.
My harsh generalization of the fearless Texan tourist, or "gaper complex" if you will, formed after taking them rafting for many summers. It started with the simple questions: "Can I leave stuff here for when we finish the trip?" asked from the river's put-in. You don't have the heart to explain that rivers do not flow in a circle. By the time I heard, "how much does that mountain weigh?" the stereotype had been solidified.
I was weaned off direct Texan interaction until squeezed back in the thick of it on a Sunday gondola ride. Then I started to notice it - the hootenanny, that is - everywhere I looked, from the camo jumpsuits to the dudes drinking 11 a.m. Miller Lites atop the gondy.
"Hootenanny" just fit. I didn't know why until we rode up the Morningside lift and over the area referred to as "The Texas Terrain Park." Over one of the marquee rock features I saw a young buck, donning a neoprene face wrap and white cowboy hat, air it over the "jump" and land, inevitably, on the flat, double-ejection pad of a powdery landing.
His snowboarding compadre immediately provided the play-by-play result, observing, "Hey man, you just ate (expletive)."
But when this kid rose in triumph, pulling his hat from the snow, his booming "yee-haw" was so powerful I had no choice but to echo my own respect from the lift.
I kept thinking about this kid as we headed out of the ski area down, around, up, out and down to Fish Creek Canyon. Did that kid belong under the Morningside lift? Sure, he was venturing out to a new area, testing himself in some regard, came up a little short but lived to tell about it. I looked down at my AT bindings (the T is for touring, mind you) and then up at Hell's Wall. What was I seeking all the way out there?
It all started coming together. How am I really that different from the little yahoo?
Back on the mountain, Thursday morning, in a sea of white, as the howls of known residents reverberated through the aspens in every direction, the distinct line between tourist and local turned gray. It was the same giddy impulse, venturing out onto something new - new again by a fresh two feet of snow - just a different brand of pure hootenanny.
So when you're catching your breath on the chairlift and scoff at the skier below because your outer layer is more waterproof than, say, his Tony Romo jersey, perhaps you have more in common with this tourist "other" than you're willing to believe.