Townies and tourists tackle rivalry

Matt Zalaznick

On the slopes, in the saloons and in the supermarkets, it’s that old, tourist-town rivalry – the townies getting territorial and the tourists, if they can find the check-out counter, spending the money that pays everybody’s heat, cable, drinking and recreational equipment bills.

“We’ve got to defend the mountains,” says local chef Chris Deighan.

Of course, the tourists don’t know that it’s every local’s dream to have the Back Bowls –or maybe just China Bowl, maybe just Ghengis Khan, maybe just the cornice at the top of Ghengis Khan –all to him- or herself. The tourists don’t know how it feels to have one’s private powder stash invaded during the Christmas and Spring Break busy seasons. The tourists don’t know which lane they’re supposed to be in when careening through the West Vail roundabouts. They don’t know which bus goes to Mid-Vail.

“I think locals are willing to share the mountain,” said Eric Knutson, a skier from Boston. “I don’t think there’s any acrimony – everyone seems very friendly. They’re friendlier out here in the West.”

When pressed to explain himself, Knutson said people from the East would “know” what he was talking about when, he said, Westerners were a little more hospitable.

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“We just push the locals down if they’re getting a little rambunctious,” said John Dorsky, a skier from Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Even when you’re lost on the catwalks and need directions to Blue Sky Basin? Or when you’re hopelessly lost in the supermarket and need directions to the Cheetos aisle?

We’re not even sure locals and out-of-towners can agree on the snow, because to truly judge conditions you have to look at the slopes from both perspectives. In other words, a Texan may go gaga over a few inches of fresh now that look like mere slop to a hardened, West Vail veteran of epic powder days. The West Vail vet may not even get out of bed.

So how to describe snow conditions this week?

“I can see that the locals feel a bit impeded on, especially in town – not so much on the mountain,” says Brett Fox, a skier from St. Louis. “The locals aren’t rude –they were here first – but it would be that way in any place there are a lot tourists coming in.”

Uh, we asked about snow conditions.

“The problem is living in a tourist town,” Fox said. “A lot of people live here for the same reason the tourists come.”

But how’s the snow?

“The locals don’t want us to take their women,” Fox said.

What? Well, if you’re a local, the snow’s not bad. It’s getting packed out but there are still some stashes, especially if you head into the trees. If you’re a visitor, the snow’s amazing – as it always is.

Matt Gaudet, a former valley resident who is now a chef in New York City, said some of the crankiness comes from the old conflict between the haves and have-nots.

The haves, by the way, are the out-towners with private jets and multi-million monster homes. The have-nots are the locals who lives in a two-bedroom apartment with seven people and work three jobs to pay for a ski pass, Gaudet said.

“A lot of locals come because they just want to be here, and they’ll do anything they can to get by,” he said. “While some of the tourists are pretty well off – they can afford to do what they want.”

Edwards caterer Mike Hanrahan said locals just have to get over it.

“They’re our bread and butter and we have to treat them that way,” Hanrahan said. “We have to respect the visitors or else we wouldn’t be here, either.”

But without the locals, who would ski WFO Trees or Seibert’s Stash or the East Vail Chutes?

“The locals know where to go,” says local chef Will Marks. “The tourists lumber around just the main spots.”

Sure, the tourists may keep the economy going, but locals also keep the tourists going.

“We went to the liquor store and they were helpful. We went to City Market and they helped us, too,” said Sam Ahuja, a skier from Gates Mills, Ohio. “We went to the local gas station and they helped us get our keys out of our locked car.”

The issue, said Deighan, is pretty simple,

“You’ve got the seasonal local, who says he hates tourists – he’s 22 and lives here for four months – and you’ve got the local who pays taxes,” Deighan said. “We’re both dependent on snow, sun and good weather to make a living.”

So what are we locals supposed to do when an out-of-towner’s lost in the supermarket?

“Tell them where to go,” Deighan said.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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