Boulder, The Town America Left Alone

A scathing criticism of a place I truly love.

Boulder, Colorado is the kind of town where one can always find a willing partner in the pub, spraying about the great lines one could ski, or problems one could throw down on. It seems very easy to onsight routes on the diamond from pearl street mall, the night before.

The crux it would seem of any big day out of Boulder seems to be getting up before noon, getting in the car, sober, and heading for the hills themselves.  The access to intermediate terrain, right out the door is a powerful motivate, distractor and excuse. Why go big when you can get up at noon and go across the street to send?

My initial impressions of the town, was that the majority of big lines that went down around town, went down in the Lazy Dog saloon, and not the Summit County or Rocky Mountain National Park as I had assumed. And yet somehow, there seems to be an underbelly. For every ten rad dudes who seem ready to slay at a moment’s notice, there is actually a hidden dork with big mountain chops, who did slay, didn’t tell anyone, and will be in bed before midnight ready to go again.

Boulder can’t seem to decide if it is a college town full of climber and skiers, or a climbing town full of sorority girls and google employees. Its say’s something strong about this town, that a population of 100,000 is serviced by 7 climbing gyms, 10 sororities, and some 19 or so breweries. Why ever leave town?

Boulder as a town is quite high. I mean this literally, although all implied metaphor also rings somewhat true. Sitting at 5,430 feet, Boulder is the kind of town where if you take home a waitress you wonder if you might have joined the Mile High Club without your feet ever leaving the ground.  The beauty of boulder is in this altitude. It is just high enough, that the sun is hot and melts the snow, so one can climb year round depending on one’s toughness. Whatever you do, don’t jump on a shady Boulder Canyon route in February though.

The soundtrack around town, is a perpetual mix tape of bootlegged Grateful Dead concert sessions, blaring low fi from speakers everywhere. It’s fitting perhaps as the Dead have been called ‘The Most Pleasantly Mediocre Band in World History’ [1].

For a town that seems to constantly fear the encroachment of Californians, Boulder sure seems to have a few ‘Mass-holes’, Virginians and Pennsylvanians. Which is not a bad thing, it makes for a wonderful mash. Where else can you eat a quality east coast style sub for lunch and San Fran style burrito for dinner?

The Jam Band music that they love so much here is a powerful metaphor for this town. In the end it’s a place about throwing your plans to the wind, taking a little something from everywhere else, mixing it up, dipping in your toes and going with the flow. It’s also a town that a few years ago learnt how powerful that flow can be, when a major flood tore apart trails, surrounding village and houses.

Boulder looks to have a spent the last fifty years eddied out [2], sitting the rapids of modern America out. But I’m worried this town of skiers, climbers, sorority girls, hippies and software engineers is about to drop into a huge river wide hole.

Its doesn’t seem to matter much, by then it will be like Jackson, WY and the rent will be too high for anyone not employed by google. Where to then?



[2] An Eddy current runs is the calm re-circulating water behind a feature in a river, providing a convenient spot for a kayaker to pause mid river.



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