Open Bar: In praise of the homegrown; better than being like everyone else (column)
A snowy winter Saturday night and the valley crackles with restless energy. Little car icons zoom across smartphone screens as Uber and Lyft drivers scramble to transport their charges from condos to restaurants to bars and then back again. The transportation revolution has come to Vail and the world continues its inexorable march toward a singularity. Sitting dormant on this frosty evening is the Turtle Bus, displaced by the new interlopers, a homegrown operation giving way to the tyranny of the global, or at least extra-local.
The Turtle Bus began as a genius, homegrown solution to a nagging transportation problem. In a community in which residents and visitors alike have a predilection for partying, it was mystifying that there was not a way to funnel these revelers safely home without having to pay truly absurd cab fares. Enter the platonic ideal of a mash-up: an old-school bus helmed by a responsible, sober driver that also happened to house a well-stocked bar. Safety and debauchery in equal measure: It may well have been an unofficial motto for the valley.
Conceived by folks with an intimate knowledge of our specific geography and culture, it is no small wonder that the Turtle Bus so perfectly serviced the needs and captured the imaginations of the local population. While the Turtle Bus does still maintain its charter operations (book a ride whenever you can), it does not always run regular routes.
Visitors, who obviously comprise a sizable force, are now so accustomed to hailing an Uber that it is useless to attempt to unwind the habit. Just like that, the valley takes one disconcerting step closer to being just like everywhere else.
This phenomenon is not limited to the transportation sector. Airbnb, VRBO and its ilk have similarly dented the fortunes of local rental agencies and hoteliers. Accountants, doctors, lawyers, brokers of finance and real estate and other professionals from the Front Range and beyond ply their trades up here, drawn both by the burgeoning economy and the chance to be part of something special. In the process, they inherently dismantle or distort what makes the place unique.
Pure capitalists would applaud this outcome as the direct result of market forces. But we do not live in an economics textbook. We reside in a locale that, despite its cosmopolitan proclivities, has its own mores and desires. Business and relationships are different here than elsewhere and it takes someone who understands that landscape to most acutely advise people and companies.
In addition to the specific knowledge base, there is something reassuring about working with people whom you may see at the market, at your kids’ school, in line at the lift. These chance encounters reinforce the vibe of being cared for by someone who cares about you and the community in which you live. At the worst, there is an inherent incentive to do a good job, for fear of the ostracism that can accompany greed or incompetence in a small town.
This is no nativist screed; I was not born here, nor were the vast majority of you. You can come from elsewhere and still be homegrown if you are able to intuit the spirit of your new turf.
I, for one, look forward to seeing you on a Turtle Bus ride in the near future. We can catch up on business or that killer ski day as we cheers to our good fortune in calling the valley home.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Alpenglow Law LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.alpenglowlaw.com.
Heroes look like these guys: Bill “Sarge” Brown, Bob Parker, Pete Seibert, Sandy Treat, Dick Over, Hugh Evans and so many others from the 10th Mountain Division who helped win World War II and, while building the peace, also built the ski industry in the United States.