Today marks 1 year since I stumbled across this county. I keep expecting that fact to sink in with me a bit, but the truth is it's not. There's been no huge "whoa". Hell, I'm not even in a reflective enough mood to properly open the second edition of the madness that accompanies working in HRT. But I feel I should. Maybe some bored stoner kid will read this at some point and think "you mean that asshole did this? why am i still stuck in hell?" The truth is, you aren't stuck anywhere. All the roots you've laid can be chopped up, you just have to be willing to sacrifice your legs in the process. It worked out well for the tin man, right?
I was a bored stoner kid in Knoxville, TN. I was living with 2 strippers, and dating one of them. I had a shit keyboard monkey job providing IT support to mostly evil doctors getting their MBA's. I had been in this shit job for 4 and a half years. It wasn't a career, nor was it even that great for my resume, but it was easy, and it gave me a comfortable enough standard of living to where I did what I wanted when I wanted. I should say that since I was 14 I wanted to work in hospitality management. When I was 15 I started snowboarding - casually. Senior year of highschool I organized a field trip for my Travel & Tourism class to a local resort: Sugar Mountain in NC. I got us the hook up. We had a full tour of the entire resort, including into the buildings that housed the snow making machinery, a 45 minute Q & A with the GM of the resort, and then super cheap lift passes & rentals. From that trip on I had the itch to work in the ski resort industry, even if only for a season.
Throughout my 5 years in Knoxville I went on an annual week long trip to Snowshoe, WV. It was the first time I'd ever encountered a secluded ski resort that was entirely self-sufficient relying solely on tourism money. I fell in love with the idea of a small tourism based town where my only sporting passion was what made everything function. I was arguably naive (still am), and the fact that the closest hospital to the resort was in a town 50 minutes away with clear roads. We found this out when an old friend, who was doing awesome on skis considering it was her first week, crossed up her skis on a green at night, tumbled and rolled, and slashed her face 2 inches from her eye on a large jagged piece of ice. Mountain ski patrol couldn't stitch her up, and so it was an hour drive for her and another friend to the closest ER, while the rest of us drank in the hot tub while it snowed. Memories like that seem trivial, but they all contributed to the constantly growing desire I had to live in a place like that.
The 09/10 winter in the south sucked for riding. Hell, the only good riding I had that year was one run down a black at snowshoe on a trip up there for my bday with aforementioned stripper gf, where the rest of the time I spent teaching & coaching. Two weeks later one of the surprisingly awesome docs that was an alum of the MBA I worked for housed me and a coworker in his 3 bedroom cabin at Timberline, WV. He was head of ski patrol, in addition to being one of the best chemo docs in WV. He gave us the royal treatment the entire time. The best part of that trip wasn't even the riding. It was the way my coworker and I were treated. Since the doc was head of ski patrol everyone knew him, and we were treated exactly like locals. The bar conversations I had at the base of the mountain with the people who were living the life I wanted gave me a perspective I'd never received. They assured me I could do it, I just needed to be prepared for poverty as a result.
In March of 2010, I asked said stripper gf to sign a lease with me when mine expired. We were practically living together at this point anyways. She declined repeatedly, and made it abundantly clear she didn't want to be at that level of commitment with me. Fine. I spent the next few months watching a lot of the friends I'd made moving away, or moving back home because their resumes were shit and no where would hire them solely on the degree. I also looked at the job I hated, and how genuinely unhappy I was to still be living in TN. I was 23 years old. Why was I still in this town? Why was I still in this state? Why was I still in this region?
I told her in June that I was moving in September. My lease ended June 30th. I had tapped a friend to live in a spare bedroom at his place for free for my last two months while I saved money, she insisted that I move in with her and her friend, who was also a stripper. I told her I would, but it would be for July & August while I worked and saved, and then left. She said ok, and seemed to understand I was going. Or at least pretended to. I should probably also mentioned when our courtship first started she asked me what my catch was, and I told her flat out that i wasn't in the south forever, and I was moving to work ski resorts. She had had ample warning and time to prepare.
In June my best friend tells me he's thinking about moving to CO to pursue a career & degree in journalism/literature, with a focus on film. I proceed to have a few serious conversations with him about it, and tell him when I was going.
I told my boss in July that I was going to work through our mid august hell week (residence period, when MBA students were on site and I worked 16 - 20 hour days), and then I would be putting in my two weeks. He looked at me, smiled, and told me he was starting to wonder when I was finally leaving. I left that job with some amazing references, and also had a MBA communications professor type up my resume for me.
I start doing some research and come up with several different locations to move to. High Rockies, CO (I was just calling it CO resorts at the time), Burlington, Vermont , Bend, Oregon became my top three. I decided Burlington was a college town, and I wanted out of the scene, so it was nixed. Bend seemed like too far, and so I settled on CO. In August I landed an interview for mid september at Winter Park Resort. They are owned by Intrawest. The same company that owns Snowshoe. The same company that owns Whistler. The same company that filed for bankruptcy & required a bail out while hosting the Olympics. I was wary of this interview, which I should add was part of a job fair & is peak hiring time, but I was even more wary for the lack of security working for this company could get me. I pushed it out of my mind, and decided I would go to CO the week before the interview, get a feel for it, do the interview, and see how it went.
I spent most of August giving away or selling everything I had. I got up to around 2200 saved, and decided to do a farewell trip with the chick I'd been dating for 10 months to DC/ VA beach. I really wanted to see the ocean before I left it for cold mountains. She spent a lot of the trip asking me not to go, pleading with me not to, and fuming at me for doing so. Trip ended, I drove her back, and drove to my parents. It was now Sept 9th. I spent the next 3 days packing and saying goodbye to long time friends. My mother threw me a going away lunch for extended family. At this lunch my paternal grandmother looked me in the face and said "I don't know why you're doing this. You're going to get out there and you're going to fail and you're going to beg for your mommy and daddy to help get you home". Since then I've only spoken to my curmudgeon bitch grandmother for 35 seconds on xmas.
I packed only things I felt I would need, or want bad enough. Laptop, sleeping bag, comforter, Wii & 360 (no TV), DVD's that I hadn't sold loaded into a 120 page case, One carry on sized suitcase loaded small keepsakes/treasures/items I was emotionally attached to, two plastic tubs of care packages given to me by my parents & aunt, a large suitcase of clothes, a green army duffle bag from an army surplus loaded with rolled up clothes, a tent (just in case), few dress shirts/slacks for interviews, snowboard & board bag, all winter gear, and a big plastic bag full of cords and miscellaneous tech items I might need (keyboard, chargers, etc). My bank account at this point was around 1700. I felt positive that would be enough.
I say goodbye to my parents, which was surprisingly harder than I thought it would be. I left, and drove to Knox with my loaded car for my last two nights. I ate foods I knew I would miss. The morning of the 14th comes. I wake up at 9 AM, and ask the woman i'd been cohabiting with for months if she'd like to help me with the last three loads. She refused. It got to be 11, which was when I wanted to leave, and she starts crying & begging me to stay. I say my goodbye, and surprisingly it was a much harder goodbye than I was prepared for. I've been called emotionally cold & distant by more than one ex, but the last view of her that I had was in my rear view mirror as she dropped to the grass bawling with her head in her hands. I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry too, but I refused to turn back for even 10 minutes, because it would give her false hope. I called her 20 minutes into my drive, and she was still crying.
I drive two and a half hours to Murfreesboro to visit the little sister for lunch before I continued my Exodus. Was a nice visit. I then made my way up to St Louis & stayed with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. Crashed on his couch early, woke up at 6, and started driving again.
Missouri was pretty, despite the rain. Kansas was fucking awful. The only nice part about Kansas was the giant fuck all wind farm that you can see for 45 minutes, because it's Kansas. I entered GMT, and it really hit me that I was doing it. I had started popping Niacin to get my piss clean for potential jobs, and about 10 minutes after entering GMT I had a hot flash. Fuck everything about that shit. My mother went through menopause hella early, and I would give her hell about her hot flashes, and now I feel like the biggest dick ever. Shit was awful. Drank 4 bottles of water that I bought at this scary little gas station where everyone was wearing cowboy hats, and drank them all. 25 minutes later I was fine. Fuck Kansas.
I get into CO, and head down to CO Springs to crash on the floor of the best friend I'd mentioned earlier. I wake up the next morning, and head to I-70 west, just west of Denver. The foothills of west Denver are where you first start to climb into the rockies. At this point I was truly giddy for the first time. I drove until I passed a sign for Winter Park, and decided I was going to find the first semi-decent looking place that had a hotel I could get a weekly rate at and post up, since I'd be driving back to the interview on Saturday. I go through the eisenhower tunnel, seeing the lifts and runs of Loveland ski area that go over the tunnel, and I got giddy again, as I was about to live in the dream.
8 miles after the tunnel I see an interstate sign advertising a super 8 and various restaurants. Bingo. I went to the super 8, since I knew I could get a decent rate, and it turns out I was in Dillon, CO. I went to the grocery store, a CityMarket, and that's when the culture shock started to settle in. I went back to my hotel room with my newly acquired sandwich stuffs & went on Craigslist to look for housing options in or near Winterpark, or in the area. I then discovered that Breckenridge was in the same county I was staying in. I opened a classified for housing offered in Breckenridge. 1 bedroom/bathroom in 3 bedroom townhome in Breck, Sept 15th - Oct 15th for $450. I emailed immediately. Was a dude and a chick, slightly older than me, same story as me, and they needed to fill a bedroom until their third roommate arrived. I agree to meet them at a lakeside tiki bar in town the next day. We meet, I follow them back to their place with some stuff already in my car, and tell them I'm sold on it. We work out that I'm moving in the next day, since it was already past check out time at my hotel. I actually unload a few items into the room at this point. I head back to town, and have dinner at a brewery.
I head back to the hotel and start thinking. From what I'd seen of the county, I was overjoyed with it. The next morning was my interview with Intrawest, but I didn't really want to move to Winter Park at this point (to date I still haven't even seen Winter Park). I didn't realize the decision I'd made until I was driving the next morning. I did not go to my interview. I drove straight to Breck and got moved in. It was Oktoberfest in Breck, and as soon as I'd unloaded my stuff I walked down to town.
I had a hangover at 5 PM. It was that day I discovered elevation drinking.
The choice not to go to that interview pretty much shaped my entire life here. All the pieces fell into place over the following two months. I found another, even more awesome place to live on Craigslist. I landed a job I love after 8 interviews and 2 long-drug out offers from other places (and 3 more offers after said job).
I've experienced things this past year I'd never even tried to fathom. Eating dinner alone on Christmas before going into work. Eating dinner on my birthday alone. Being on the literal first chair lift of the year 2011. Having a job in my career field that I love. Lying in my bed watching the gondola go up and down the mountain. And snowboarding on demand.
I fucking love it here.
Move the fuck out of your shithole town and love your life.