Ellwayville: High Life Lesson

I’ve been digging on Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats lately. I love the energy, the soul … and I love the fact that they have such strong Colorado ties. In particular, I can’t get away from the song, “Never Get Old,” including the studio version and also the live Honda Stage at the El Rey Theater version you can watch at this link.

I’m a guitar guy at heart, but any band with a horn section and solid keyboards still lights me up. That and the fact that these guys seem like they’re really doing it for the music, not just the paycheck. As for the “Never Get Old” part, I also think that’s a subject near and dear to many a Rocky Mountain person’s heart. That’s because as many young people as I have met getting old early in the city—chasing paychecks and mortgages and sweaty commutes—I’ve met even more “old people” staying young in the mountains, chasing the sun and the snow across high trails and cold chairlifts.

Mountain people seem to stay younger longer. City people get older and fatter faster because they don’t get outside enough. They spend too much time sitting at their desks making money to pay people to massage or manipulate the body parts they should be moving by themselves.

Mountain people put all their focus on getting out—especially with the kids, significant others, best friends, legendary mountain dogs and stuff. And with every hike, swim, paddle, pedal and long line cast, I think they experience a kind of connection with the world and with each other that city life just can’t match.

Here are a few other qualities mountain people have that set them apart from anyone else:

You Can Trust Them With Your Life

In mountain towns, there’s a much deeper network of friends and neighbors who are professionally and recreationally committed to the preservation of your life. They may have you on belay or blinking at the other end of their transceiver. They may be on ski patrol or volunteer for search and rescue. Maybe they battle wildfires and they are out right now fighting some spruce-crowning monster to save your home from a voracious blaze. No matter what, there are a lot of mountain people who make it their living to look out for everyone else. Quick tip—buy them drinks.

They Treat the Weather Like Serious Business

Because weather almost always is a mountain person’s business. While most folks check the forecast to see how it’ll impact their weekend plans or Labor Day cookout, mountain people have a little more in-depth relationship with the meteorological charts. That’s namely because something as inocuous as a massive low-pressure pattern can have a significant impact on how they do their work—especially in the winter, when Mother Nature drops the frozen hammer and delivers an historically big dump. Quick tip—City people refer to this as, “bad weather.” Mountain people refer to it as, “EPIC!”

They Don’t Commute

My buddy Mikey Franco of Franco Snowshapes and I were riding Copper early one season when we noticed a man on skis wearing jeans and an immaculate hand-tooled leather jacket in the lift line ahead of us. We quickly shuffled up the line to share a chair with him, and to compliment him on his embossed bald eagle with talon-borne arrows and fireworks. He said he had lived in Denver but moved to Leadville. Why? “Road rage!” he said, and didn’t say another thing the entire lift ride. Quick tip—City people wake up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to start the one- to four-hour drive for first tracks. Mountain people wake up at 7 a.m., have coffee and breakfast, and walk to the lift.

They Have the Happiest Dogs on the Planet 

The two things my friends on Facebook post more than anything else in the world—by a huge margin—are pictures of their kids in the mountains, or of their dogs in the mountains, totally blissed out on nature, high altitude adventure, and heartbreaking sunsets. It’s usually some mixture of both. And it’s always awesome, and thoughtful, and full of perspective about how powerfully outdoor living can improve our lives. Quick tip—Mountain dogs experience that “Kodak Moment” every day of their lives.

They Know Things Change Quickly, and they Deal with It

Weather can change anywhere, at any time, but only in the mountains and on the ocean does it do so with such immediate consequence. And whether in the greater economic picture it’s gold or snow, no other place can go so quickly from boom to bust. If it’s another mud season, a deluge or drought, floods or fires, mountain people know that change is the only constant, and rely on themselves and the character of their community to survive and thrive from it. Quick tip—It’s pretty awesome to live, and “age,” in a place like that.

—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? You can buy it here:  bit.ly/godofskiing

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