Vail Daily column: Mountain town wisdom |

Vail Daily column: Mountain town wisdom

Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

I was mistaken for a man of means in Park City.

I could have been Harry Frampton, Oscar Tang, Kent Logan for all the nice sales lady knew. It was kind of cool.

I don’t mean that I could pass for a rich guy. It’s more that in mountain towns, you just never know. The lady was just smart enough not to dismiss a stranger in blue jeans who seemed interested in her gallery.

You can’t sniff out wealth so easily in the more casual vibe of our communities. Sure, some visitors indeed are ostentatious, but that seems to drop quickly with those who decide to spend even a little more time in Vail or Park City.

The fancy pants crowd tends to gravitate to Aspen, for some reason. I’m just glad there’s a place for the highfalutin’ when they need to be seen. Takes pressure off us, where no one cares, which I imagine can be a big disappointment for such as, say, Justin Bieber, or what’s his name, the nutty son of Martin Sheen.

I’m more in tune with guys like Richard Dean Anderson, star of “MacGyver.” He gave my wife and I a ton of normal people chat time almost 15 years ago during the festivities for the opening of Blue Sky Basin. I recall he appreciated that we watched his new show, “Stargate,” and professed to be at least as impressed with me as editor of the local paper as we were with him as big-time actor.

Later, rube that I really am, I sheepishly apologized to some vaguely familiar dude who I knew was famous and should have known who he was but didn’t, and sorry about that.

He laughed. “It’s cool! We’re not in Aspen,” I sort of remember him saying, only I’m pretty sure I’m full of crap with this quote. Let’s call this a brief foray into literature. You know, lying to tell a greater truth.

But back to Park City, which has Deer Valley but otherwise is quite all right with this knuckle-dragging snowboarder.

Plenty of towns have nice historic districts, to be sure. I enjoy Telluride, Creede, Leadville, Durango and even Denver’s old towns a lot. Throw in Syracuse, Galena (Ill.), San Diego, every little gold rush village along the southern Sierra foothills and Park City’s Main Street has them all beat.

I love old towns and historic districts, the funkier the better. There just is something about Park City’s that stood out for me. The run of mining town buildings, narrowness of the street, the stores and restaurants and old train depot where Lincoln and Douglass debated and we ate dinner. Mystique of Sundance, vintage homes on steep streets alongside Main Street, lifts into Park City Mountain Resort, siren that moans up to a wail at 10 p.m. each night.

And, sure, being mistaken for someone who could afford those great framed photographs in the gallery we walked in.

I’m not a guy who counts my worth by my paycheck or investments (a very good thing for me). And I’m not in the least resentful of you all who made your fortunes. I just don’t have that bone, nor do I feel the deference I probably should to the wealthy, the famous or the powerful. None of that is what makes life rich for me, for whatever reason.

But I still got a kick out of the sales lady, and puzzled at how in the world she could have seen me as a mark.

It must have been something in our attitude. I didn’t go all Aspen, no. I also didn’t shrink from going in and admiring a remarkable, human-sized photograph of a grizzly bear that had already drawn in my wife.

Then I got curious with the sales lady’s spiel and where she seemed to be going. How she talked about the investment value of the picture with only so many copies, the back story of this shot, the photographer’s zeal for environmental protection, the emotional connection some have for his photos, the discount offers she slipped in that still pegged four-figure pricing.

But I was less interested in all that than this lady who seemed to take us for people who might purchase off the wall rather than the reality, by the postcard.

Still, she was very good to us. I considered that this might just be the Park City way. We had a similar experience at another gallery.

I figured she was hedging her bets, as gallery folk need to do in Vail, as well. You just never know. So treat everyone like a million bucks.

It’s a great way to go wherever you happen to be. I take this as a bit of mountain folk wisdom. Even in Aspen.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at and 970-748-2920.

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