10 Ways You Know You're Becoming a Mountain Man

This article was also published on page 14 of the Valley Voice.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO— Mountain folks are a clannish bunch. As a former outsider to this lifestyle, I've become accustomed to the way of life practiced here in the Yampa Valley, in the small settlement of Steamboat Springs, nestled amongst the hills of the Rocky Mountains. Here are a few ways that you might know you're becoming one of them, recounted during the summer months.

 Posing in front of the Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

Posing in front of the Grand Tetons, Wyoming.

1) You feel the compulsion to own at least one piece of expensive Patagonia swag.

At first it’s for the look, but then you start realizing why everyone buys expensive outdoor gear…because it’s better made, and “performs” better. Hiking in a cotton t-shirt sucks because your sweat doesn’t dry. A dry-wick shirt might cost a bit more money, but it’s worth it. Your swag is justified. You quickly buy another piece of Patagonia gear.

2) You drive a Subaru, a Toyota 4Runner, or a pickup truck. 

Anything without four-wheel drive is a beater that shouldn’t be taken out of the valley…but if you do have four-wheel drive, you take it everywhere you possibly can. And you probably sleep in it at least one night a week. Because who pitches tents anymore, really?

3) You haven’t worn khakis, a collared shirt, or presentable shoes in months. 

If you see someone walking down the street in a suit and tie, they literally look like an alien to you, no matter how put together they actually are. The concept of wearing clothes to look good as opposed to wearing clothes because they are weather- and activity-appropriate seems to be a curious misplacement of capital. Casual is the name of the game; you wear whatever you want, wherever you want. And it’s weird if you don’t.

4) Shaving, on a daily basis, is for weirdos. 

If you’re a guy, you almost certainly have a beard. Perhaps you trim your neckline once a week, but it doesn’t matter. No one cares. These are the mountains, and if someone made you trim a beard or shave for work, they're going to have a hard time finding anyone to employ. Grizzled is the new clean-shaven.

5) It’s normal to show up to work frazzled, exhausted, and slightly disoriented because you just came from some outdoorsy excursion that everyone thinks is totally normal to do when you have a shift that starts at 4PM.

You either climbed a mountain, hiked a glacier, drove back from Wyoming, or kayaked to work. No one bats an eye, all they do is pepper you with various detailed questions so they can do the same thing next week.

 View of Gilpin Lake from the Zirkel Circle hike, outside of Steamboat Springs.

View of Gilpin Lake from the Zirkel Circle hike, outside of Steamboat Springs.

6) That being said, it’s totally OK to go for a few days without showering, as long as you keep the BO to a minimum.

Mountain air is cleansing. Who needs to wash all that freshy goodness off after sweating out all your toxins on an 11-mile hike?

7) “The only things higher than the mountains are the locals”. 

Marijuana is legal in Colorado, and it’s simply not a big deal. Sure, it might be federally illegal, but the pot shop is like the liquor store: it's just there. Sure, you have people that abuse the privilege of being able to buy legal alcohol and legal marijuana, but the majority of folks are responsible about the use of both. Either way, legal pot is not a big deal, and it makes you wonder why it is such a big deal elsewhere.

8) You’ve never really cared for winter, but now you find yourself daydreaming about it. 

In the real world, winter is a time where you can’t do anything—the snow is pretty when it falls, but it quickly turns to black, dirty slush. It gets in the way of everything you try to do…from going to work in clean clothes, to enjoying a nice sunny day, snow and ice are impediments. But here you suddenly find yourself fantasizing about a twenty-degree powder day, with low-lying storm clouds hugging the mountains and a gentle wind blowing crystallized snowflakes in your face, laying a gentle coating on top of a fresh eight inches every hour…yes, you now like winter, because it's actually awesome.

9) You go places every week that people travel for hundreds of miles just to see because it’s Thursday…you’re surrounded by an endless array of outdoor adventure, from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to hiking, mountain climbing, stand up paddle boarding, rafting, biking, and kayaking in the summer.

You have a long bucket list, and an endless array of adventures that you want to squeeze in before the weather turns cold again. You tend to take it for granted that you live in one of the most accessibly beautiful places in the world, and it's hard to picture yourself ever living in a city again.

10) Your cadence slows considerably, and your approach to life relaxes. 

You realize that wasting your life away doing things that you don’t like is a pointless exercise, and you should try to enjoy yourself more. This will lead to happiness and fulfillment in all parts of your life, and an understanding that you should have a balance between work, life, and passion. Your transition to mountain man is complete.