On Custies and Local Stoke

Some thoughts on being a slightly-less-jaded local*:

IMG_7371(a stoked local taking cell phone photos)

cus•ties: What guides call clients when they aren’t around. It can be used derisively, but part of that is sheer jealousy. While many think it would be cool to be a guide, most experienced guides would rather be a custie because being able to turn your brain off and ski luxury laps is way more fun than guiding. So don’t get all bummed out when you finally save up enough money to go heli skiing and you overhear the guides talking about dumb stuff that custies do. You may be a beater, but you’re a beater that’s winning. Tell them to ski-cut your line and give you some candy, and look lively about it.”

—Powder Mag’s Jaded Local**

It’s pretty easy to become jaded in a touristy ski town, or any tourist town for that matter. Sure, you get to ski significantly more days than the average flatlander or city-dweller and can get your bindings mounted/skis tuned for a 6-pack of beer (thanks, Jo). But those days in between the barely-occasional, almost-epic pow slashes are largely spent playing pinball with first-time skiers, clad in this year’s latest Rossignol demos, going 40+mph down a blue groomer with negative abilities to stop. You see more Texans in Cadillac SUVs (probably without 4WD) than you do license plates from the state you’re actually in. It’s likely that you will be yelled at or cussed out by a 40-something with inflated pockets on Christmas Eve because the smaller of five TVs in his private rental home isn’t working, or because his two-and-a-half-shot, nonfat, sugar-free caramel latte took one minute too long to make.

One of my co-workers reminds me on a relatively regular basis how much negativity there is up here during the busy season. And to an extent, it’s true. I’ve been mocked as a “lowly barista that no rich tourist should have to talk to directly,” and I’ve been told that I “like to run over handicapped people and throw them out on the street” because I couldn’t let a family into their condo before the normal check in time. People have threatened to sue me personally—in which case the most they would get would be a couple pair of skis, a Gore-Tex jacket, some harnesses, and a used climbing rope, because all of that is worth more than what I have in my savings account. If you wanted to live with a negative attitude in a little tourist town, it sure wouldn’t be hard.

Show me a local who doesn’t complain about the influx of brainless vacationers and I’ll show you a way to levitate to the top of the skin track without exerting any effort (no heli necessary).


Show me a place where people spend several grand on a three-day vacation just to get a taste of thin air, a living room view of the Rockies, and a powder turn or two, and I’ll show you a pretty rad place to call home.

Amidst the visitors I see ruining their own vacation, upset by the most petty of things, I see a dozen more simply in awe: toddlers from Florida watching snow fall for the first time, 60-year-old men who have been doing their “guys trip” here for the past 20 years, people from Kansas or Oklahoma who couldn’t have otherwise imagined an interstate that weaves through thirteen-thousand-foot peaks. I watch them as they smile and whip out their selfie sticks on Main Street, and pose in giddy laughter with the Ten Mile Range jetting out from behind them, sticking their tongues out to catch the fat snowflakes. They’re just happy to be here.

I may not ever buy a selfie stick—and by may not ever, I mean will never—but positivity (ski bum translation: stoke) should be our natural disposition rather than jaded and cynical. Sure, the ski industry and all of it’s manufactured tourist towns will always have their flaws; there will always be that rude guy in the coffee shop. But there’s also the guy who owns that coffee shop, a guy who happens to be one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. And the people that tune your skis for a 6-pack do it simply because they’re good people (and because on most days a 6-pack of beer and some sunshine is better than a few bills in your wallet).

Those custies that we make fun of are the people that keep these towns running so we can down a cold one at then end of a deep day on the mountain. They’re the ones, who, if we look close enough, remind us of the simple joys that come with living where we do—like tasting the white goodness that falls from the sky or stopping to recognize how cool mountains are, especially when they’re covered in that stuff called snow. I’d rather the locals in any given town be known for being stoked, not jaded. Even though being jaded is easy and what locals do, being stoked is way more fun.

So to all you people who make life up here a pinball machine: thanks. Thanks for reminding me to smile as I walk down Main Street, and to stare in awe from time to time as the sun sinks itself below those peaks that I call home. High-five to you, custies; and please, have a beer.

*Can you really call yourself a local when you’ve only spent a couple seasons in a town? For the sake of this blog post, I will consider myself a part-time local with minimal (but still some) credibility.

**The Jaded Local is admittedly one of my favorite columns to read of any magazine ever.