are we extreme yet?
Crested Butte Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
"Are people still using that word?" questioned Tommy when I called him at Heckler magazine. I needed a credentials letter faxed out to Crested Butte for the US Snowboarding Extremes, one of the longest running contests to employ the term. I confessed that indeed people were, and it didn't seem to be going away anytime soon. It was one of the curses of the 90's generation, which was perpetually desperate to claim they invented something new, anything, rather than admit to recycling punk rock, goth, vert skating, and half a million other things that have now become a part of corporate culture in America.
Hell, I even became such a whore that the word was on my business card. I hadn't even planned to be within a thousand miles of this event, but my friend Erik finally broke down my resistance by offering to sponsor my trip. Media is a very powerful thing, and in this case it would get us free slopeside lodging and lift tickets, plus breakfast and lunch for the duration of the contest. Erik would save so much money from my involvement that he could afford to pay all my other expenses. I'd been couch surfing Tahoe all winter while writing and shooting photos, and beyond having used up most of the goodwill of everyone I knew, just having a nice bed for a week seemed reason enough to drive all the way to Colorado.
The trip flew by in a bizarre speed blur, and Erik was shocked to wake up in Grand Junction after having handed off to me in Salt Lake City.
A glutton for punishment, he came back the next year with a girlfriend and lived up at the resort. It was these memories of regular sex and a walk to the lifts that was fresher in his mind, so he'd remained somewhat wistful about Crested Butte over the years. Between his desire to come back to his old stomping grounds and my desire to sleep comfortably, we both tried to block from our mind the insanity of leaving a 200" snow base to come to a jagged outcropping blessed with a little more than 50".
We were a day early, and because our room request had only been received a few days before, the lady in Marketing had nothing ready for us that night. In addition, it would cost us her press rate of $35 a night rather than being free. When Erik feebly mentioned he'd been led to believe the lodging would be gratis, she said that the fax from Heckler had only said to help us however she could and that was all the help she could give us. Big period. Seeing that the rooms were normally $180 we figured that was just fine, especially after she busted her butt on the phone making sure that she could get us into one right away.
The room turned out to be a strange handicapped unit in the Sheraton with one bed, a living area with a roll out, and two televisions.
After a day of riding icy bumps and groomers, we figured out that pretty much everything was extreme at Crested Butte. It seemed they couldn't boast enough about how burly they were. The bus stop was at the No Limits Center, the steepest terrain was called the Outer Limits, and the word "extreme" was featured in about every third word in resort material. Something like:
“The extreme terrain of Crested Butte will appeal to the extremely rich Texans with extremely inflated ideas of the importance of their extremely big and extremely boring state who come with extremely big wallets to enjoy our extreme skiing and extreme cuisine and nightlife.
Coming from Tahoe the most overused word of the season was "sick", and I soon discovered at Crested Butte that their most overused word for the season was "bony". A look of bitterness came into the eyes of locals when Erik blithely mentioned what an incredible winter we were having. In choked voices they said "yeah, we've heard" with a note of warning that they didn't want to hear any more.
Without a doubt, Crested Butte does have some of the most technical steeps of any resort in the US, but without sufficient coverage many of them become impossibly hairy. Access to the best terrain is the most interesting part. To keep barneys out of the places where they might get hurt (and to avoid spending any more money), the resort has steadfastly maintained T-bar and POMA lifts to all the upper and outer terrain.
As far as the competition, it was more or less the same story as other extremes contests I've been to. They tell you not to huck, people huck anyway, flail more often than not, and get rewarded hugely for their efforts. Technical steeps riding is far more suited to skiing, and that's part of the reason why extreme contests attract most of the world's best skiers but few of snowboarding's elite. Difficult technical descents in icy steeps on a snowboard rarely look very good, and judges don't comprehend their difficulty. Judges understand hucking, because that's what snowboarders do best. Erik couldn't help but going off on a rant when asked by a television interviewer what extreme meant to him.
"I'm so sick of that word. I just wish they could call these things freeriding contests. Extreme is like in France where if you screw up, you die."
"That's an extreme attitude," said the cameraman, when Erik had finished.
I missed my best opportunity for extreme sex on the way home from dinner one night on the public bus. A cute yet somewhat vapid local girl was sitting beside me talking with her friends, and she got on my wrong side to start with by telling me I looked like the star of the movie "Powder". Toward the end of the trip she elbowed me. I was slow to turn around because I thought there were better ways to get my attention.
"Hey, I elbowed you," she complained.
"So you did," I replied.
"Well, you didn't respond."
"I turned around, didn't I?"
"Not fast enough. I demand attention right away or nothing."
I turned back around, indicating nothing would do. Even girls' pick-up techniques were extreme in Crested Butte.
The event wound up pretty quietly, with the awards night relatively subdued. The skiers had filled the Sheraton heated pool and hot tub and partied 'til the bitter end, but this snowboarding crowd just didn't have it in them. Erik went around with one of his prizes, a hideous new Miller Genuine Draft snowboard, asking if he could pay anyone to take it off his hands. Some genius at Miller had come up with the idea of labeling the topsheet on tip and tail with the inexplicable slogan "IT'S TIME TO KICK YOUR FRIEND'S ASS....AGAIN".
On the way out the next day, the fresh coating of snow made everything a lot more beautiful than it had been before. We saw a few bald eagles near the fish hatchery, and gaped at the awesome backcountry. With three more feet of snow waiting for us in Tahoe, though, we were in no hurry to hang around. We drove extremely fast toward home.