The Colorado Hipster Guide

Photo: Blake Gordon/

When I was the editor of the Mountain Gazette, Basalt-based writer and climber Cam Burns used to pen a monthly column for me called “Know Your Mountain Neighbor.” He lampooned every kind of Colorado cliché (always with photos of himself dressed as the character, often in drag), ending every profile with the catch-phrase, “is a licensed realtor.” My personal favorite was “The Jethrosexual,” an alpine aesthete with a murky expertise on environmental issues and the belief that just by tying a dirty sock around your neck you could cure the common cold. With full props to Cam, here are a few picks for some of the special people in your Colorado neighborhood.

The Gear Geek

Mountain living’s most ubiquitous species, and predominantly male, the Gear Geek knows everything about every piece of climbing, biking, skiing and camping gear ever made. Just ask him. His garage is stuffed to the rafters with every variation of two-wheeled or two-heeled transportation, with the obvious exception of an actual car. What looks like a cross between a mini mountaineering museum and high-end hoarder’s survival pile is logically arranged in his head all the way back to the Dana Designs pack he got in 1982. Unable to remember the age of his children, anniversary, or often even who is president, he can wax nostalgic about carabiners for hours.

The Beer Geek

The Beer Geek has made drinking beer like it’s oxygen a pastime rather than a substance abuse issue. Unlike wine spitting or whiskey sniffing, “beer tasting” actually encourages consumption, and has produced an entirely new generation of suds connoisseurs. By being able to pontificate about the finer points of IPA, Imperials and dry hopping, mountain town slackers have become near scientists ready to ply their philosophy of pilsner—or pick-up lines. Identified by un-ironic trucker hats, jam band t-shirts and bellies bigger than Buddha (“Never trust a skinny brewer”) Beer Geeks are the athletes of alcohol’s brave new world.

The Caffeinator

On the flipside, who ever imagined caffeine could get so cool? From Americano to Cappuccino to Espresso to Mocha, outdoor athletes, artistes, and realtors alike can now dial in their bean buzz on an almost corner-by-corner basis, even long after the bars have closed. “Coffee talk” has become its own language, built on the slang of Arabica and barista culture, and anyone holding a smoking cup after dark should obviously not be invited on a casual morning mountain bike ride.

The Local

The main goal of the local is to remind you how much cooler this town was before you moved here from Boston, St. Louis or Pluto. Riding the barstool beside you or booth behind you, his entry into your conversation is when you incorrectly name some street or landmark, instantly eliciting his expert pronunciation of, “Grande View” (the “y” is silent). Will respond to any statement you make with a prior date reference, and some obscure statement like, “Well, that’s when the dishwasher was new.” Thinks bike lanes are part of a Communist plot and that the legalization of marijuana is turning Elwayville into Hippieville. Has a stash of 100 Colorado ‘Native’ stickers in his dresser drawer.

The Ubiquitous Stoner

Speaking of marijuana, on a busy downtown street I recently saw a bearded gnome in a purple bear tracksuit complete with ears and a tail walk into Taco Bell. Welcome to the outrement of stoner culture. Whereas outdoor-minded potheads have been hosting safety meetings on trailsides, lift rides or sunset-strewn mountaintops, the recent push towards legalization has also brought out the “freak” in the basement variety of urban-based bong sucker. Namely, the eternal adolescent “gamer” with cartoon classifications for his buzz like “Orange Kush,” “AK 47” and “Purple Pizza Eater.” Moral of this story: Invest in Taco Bell.

The Triathlete

Remember when people liked to jog? Then they became runners, who realized they also liked to ride their bikes and hit the pool. Thus was born the trifecta of suburban middle class athleticism, the uber-aerobicising “TRI-athlete” who had the time to go long, and some extra money to spend on equipment and travel too. Stunner how this kind of thing blew up in Boulder. Even weirder how many mountain neighbors introduce themselves as such, as if actually being a triathlete were a career move for more than a couple dozen people on this planet. While not the best teammates for social sports such as soccer or softball, the triathlete has incredible taste in wine—particularly when paired with pasta.

The Vegan

I had the lentil soup and fries at lunch today. Oh wait, I’m a vegetarian now. To be honest, with all of the “locavore,” “herbivore,” “carnivore,” “omnivore” classifications, I am wondering if I shouldn’t declare myself from meal to meal: “I just had a salad for dinner, so I guess I’m a vegetarian for the next few hours. Although I do eat eggs, and sometimes fish, and I will have a burger if that’s all there is.” It’s only since “gluten free” got so chic that I can remember being so aggressively bored by people sharing their dietary issues. Maybe someday people will just order what they want to eat.

The Broncos Fan

I keep hoping someone will make a bumper sticker that says, “Go Rockies, and take the Nuggets with you.” I’d put it right next to my sticker that says, “If God isn’t a Broncos fan, then why are sunsets blue and orange?” That’s because this is football country first and foremost, then ski country, then hockey country, and after that there isn’t really room for much else. Even before John Elway put us on the proverbial sports map, gridiron heroes like Floyd Little, Haven Moses and Karl Mecklenburg were the only folks we’d had to cheer for since Buffalo Bill. If you didn’t know that yet, then just wait, some Local is sure to tell you.

Did we miss a Mountain Town Neighbor? Add your own in the comments below.

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