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Five Ways to end Your Ski Town Relationship

The chairlift: Where many mountain town relationships begin... and end. Paddy O'Connell photo. 

Love is a very curious thing, especially for a young man who moves to a mountain town in order to assert his manhood while simultaneously channeling Peter Pan. I left the safety of my Midwestern upbringing for the wild of Colorado when I was 23-years-old. I was wet behind the ears, unsure of my way in the world, and, by most standards, a complete moron. This was only overridden by a large personality, a desire to make others laugh, and a healthy dash of “hey, look at me” overconfidence. I was going to make the mountains mine, and I wanted a partner to come along for the ride. So began the hilarity, heartbreak, and misadventure of dating in a mountain town. Now, I am not a dating expert, far from it, but my experiences have illuminated the five main ways mountain town relationships can end.

The Head Fake

One minute you're holdin' hands at the local java shop, and the next she's off to Denver. Paddy O'Connell photo.

Just like in sports, you think you’re going one way, then there’s a stutter step and you’re on the ground with two blown ACLs. “I love you but I have to let you go,” is a common utterance when you are being juked.

When I first moved to Telluride, I was dating a gal in Chicago. The plan was to spend the winter skiing, then move back to The Windy City to become a real person. I flew her out at Christmas, and she saw that the mountains had set their hook in me. “I’ll move anywhere for you,” she told me. A week later we were finished. On the phone she quoted one of my favorite songs, “Well, I guess this is our last goodbye.” Somewhere, Jeff Buckley shook his head in disgust.

The Ghost

Sometimes ghosting requires one party leaving that shack to live in a tent. Paddy O'Connell photo. 

Depending on the region, this could be known as the Ninja Vanish. Either way you’re left dumbfounded and scared, with a high probability of your guts being strewn across the floor.

After my inaugural winter, I moved into an attic with my first Colorado girlfriend. She was a ripping skier, smelled like Dr. Bronner’s and dirt, and wore grease-stained Carhartts. I was, of course, smitten. At some point in the relationship, she just disappeared. Not in the emotional sense but physically not there; as in, one day all of her belongings were gone and she was nowhere to be found. Two days later she pulled up in her Subaru, which was packed to the gills, and told me she was leaving for Denver. She never actually said “we’re breaking up,” but when she moved back to town a few months later and started dating a co-worker, I figured we were through.

The Switcheroo

A mountain town mansion. Paddy O'Connell photo. 

“You haven’t lost your girlfriend, you’ve lost your turn.” Whether it’s your boss, your friend, your roommate, or that guy who sells painted river rocks to tourists, chances are your ex will start dating someone you know.

If a flow chart was designed to represent my mountain love life it would look like it was created by a drunk, crossed-eyed spider. Getting into specifics on this is a fool’s errand and an exercise for which my brain is ill-equipped. Let’s just say that in the mountains the population is so small you can’t stick to the bro-code of not dating your friend’s ex. This is a two-way street and it’s almost always jammed.

The Slow Fade

Come on strong, steadily pull back the interest level, and poof…they were never there. The significant other is typically left with a confused look, questioning whether or not it had all been a mirage.

Ok, if I am being honest, I have both faded on ladies and been faded on. I think your twenties are mostly about holding on for dear life in a whir of stupidity. In mountain towns, that whir is a foghorn. I’ve acted like a jerk plenty of times. But, once a girl gave me the boot after she came to Chicago to meet my family at Thanksgiving. And once I was dating a girl who left on vacation and returned a lesbian. Then there are the handful of times I was told I was too nice or not nice enough, the dozen or so “I live a block away but I’m going to do this over-the-phone” break ups, and a peppering of random relationship evaporations. I am not justifying my fades, but I am saying life has served me a few steaming helpings of just desserts. Sometimes karma tastes like cat turds but you just have to chew.

The Geographic

Ahh, Telluride. The author's failed relationship stomping ground. Paddy O'Connell photo. 

Across town or across country, this typically occurs at the beginning of off-season when the lease is up on the closet you and your girl are renting together. Chances are she’s going to move on and move in with someone whose housing situation is more attractive than you are handsome.

The same girlfriend who ghosted me moved into a pretty nice pad with her new guy when she returned to town. I couldn’t really get mad. At that time, I would have dated a knot on a tree for a cheap ski-in/ski-out rental. Not all break ups are painful. Hell, today I’d dress up like Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu and strut on Main Street if it afforded me a reasonably priced, mouse-infested shack in town. I just wouldn’t get into an unnecessary relationship for it.

Here’s the deal, love in a mountain town is tough. The dating pool is that muddy, oil-filled puddle you try to avoid in a parking lot but end up dropping your keys into. And to date in a mountain town is that anxious moment, bent over the puddle, deciding whether to delicately pinch at your key ring or plunge your fist into the muck. Sometimes, it’s best to find a stick to fish at your keys, but I think it’s good to remember a little bit of dirt never killed anybody.

About The Author

stash member Paddy O'Connell


excellent writing hermano!

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