Marolt: May in a place in time unknown
For all I know, it is the baseball- bat state. I don’t know much about Kentucky. My daughter had some homework spread out on the table, and along the paper trail was a piece written by someone at the University of Kentucky, and for a minute, before the coffee kicked in, I tried really hard to name a single city in Kentucky. Louisville! Home of The Slugger. I knew it would come to me.
The process of figuring that out made me kind of want to go there. If I ever unfold the accordion-folded list of places I want to go that I keep in 12-point font in the back of my mind, “Kentucky” will most likely appear down around my ankles, but the fact that it is on the list means something. I want to go there because I know nothing about it.
It’s like the offseason here — another place in time that few know anything about. I like it. You like it. A few hundred people habitually dressed in layers between the equinox and the solstice, marveling at the slight greening of tree-branch tips for the annual miracle that it is, not gassing up the car and testing the limits of the all-purpose roof rack for May in Moab can’t be wrong. For as much as we love the quiet months around here, it is remarkable that more visitors don’t.
An unplanned thing happened Friday night on our way to Denver for an eighth-grade girls lacrosse game. Fifty miles out, the road signs along Interstate 70 flashed, “Vail Pass — Chains Required.” At five miles out, they changed to “Vail Pass — Closed.” We found ourselves tucked into a really nice hotel in Vail with nothing to do but unwind. Facing the mountain, above the deserted pool deck, along the river on the verge of discovering its springtime roar, there was no scene to concern ourselves with. It was accidental luxury for about a hundred bucks a night, and I was sorry to have to leave early the next morning before I’d had my fill.
There is nothing documentable to do in mountain resorts during mud season. In the resort world, where towns compete to see who can keep their visitors the busiest, a clean agenda promising to stay that way might be the biggest luxury of all.
During peak times, even if you don’t want to participate in the local farmers market, peruse the local artists show in the park, check out the local parade, watch the locals play their weekly checkers tournament on the steps of the old general store that is now a boutique, etc., if they offer it, you have to go or risk the gnawing guilt that comes with missing out on what you’re paying dearly for.
Springtime in the mountains will have nothing to do with any of that. It neither promises nor delivers anything a reasonable person would shop for — only brilliant sunshine in clear blue skies one minute and swirling snow the next. It’s summer without golf, fall without bright foliage and winter without moguls. It’s nothing anyone would pay for, because we all want to get something for our money, and only the truly gifted exaggerator could tell envy-invoking stories about the smell of last summer’s grass fermenting in the soggy park.
For businesspeople with bold plans and a new 81611 ZIP code on the card, the light bulbs go on during Fourth of July weekend, Christmas and spring-break fact-finding visits. That’s when the blueprints to make a mint are drawn up and fresh leases signed. Every new shop owner is a genius up until New Year’s Day. What many learn shortly thereafter is that the people dejectedly moving out of the space when they excitedly moved in weren’t as dumb as they looked. They just experienced October and November. It is then the new shop keeps notice of April and May in the headlights, limping through the crosswalk across what they mistook for the onramp to Easy Street.
Aspen in May is not something that looks good in gloss. Gray is not visually stimulating. Offseason is something you feel, inside not out, and how is anyone going to sell that? The joy of offseason is only discoverable through experience.
It’s not like marketing the offseason into profitability makes any sense, anyway. If you could figure out a way to successfully mass-market mud and gray skies, you would push the product you are touting into extinction. Then you would have to think up new events to keep people coming, but, of course, the weather would ruin all of them, putting you back at square one. It might be better to just leave things alone.
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