Through the eyes of a tourist
One of the things that scares me the most about living in Park City (aside from the constant threat of blowing out my knee, being trampled by a moose and/or falling off a cliff while mountain biking) is losing the thrill of living here.
I never want the novelty to wear off. I work pretty hard at keeping life in Park City fresh, but the threat of a waning wow factor is always there.
That’s why I love it when friends and family from out of state visit and I get to see my town through a tourist’s eyes again. Riding the free trolley, going into T-shirt shops, paying full price for lift tickets, having dinner on Main Street without a two-for-one coupon — all things that, under normal circumstances, locals wouldn’t be caught dead doing.
Sometimes we tend to get a little elitist about the fact we live here. We’re proud to be locals and even more proud when tourists recognize that instantly. It’s like a badge of honor to be stopped and asked for directions without the tourist first asking, "Excuse me, do you live here?"
When I’m stopped by a stranger and immediately asked, "Can you tell me how to get to the liquor store?" I’m quite satisfied that there is some type of vibe, some aura, I must be giving off that says, "Yes, I know exactly how to get you where you want to go because I live here." (Either that or I give off some type of vibe that indicates I’ve spent way too much time finding my way to the liquor store.) But either way, I’m happy I can confidently point them in the right direction. And I’ll admit, somewhere inside me, I’m always a little smug about it.
But I was reminded this weekend that we shouldn’t hurl the word "tourist" as if it’s an insult. It’s not something to be ashamed of and frankly, as locals, we should be just a little more forgiving of those dumping pockets full of cash into our economy.
I know how tempting it can be to make fun of tourists, but what exactly do we expect? Should they get a job for the week they’re here? Buy an SUV for the weekend? And if they don’t ask us, how will they know what we do with the moguls in the summer?
This last weekend I was actually mistaken for a tourist. It shocked me, and at first I was deeply ashamed.
I was skiing at Deer Valley, going across a long traverse into the Daly Chutes area. The traverse was particularly tricky, with dips so deep a moose could have been hiding between them.
A child was skiing in front of me and struggling over the massive bumps. I tried to slow down to avoid running into him, caught an edge and ate it on the traverse.
I know it’s a rookie move to fall on a traverse, but there were extenuating circumstances. As I collected myself, a local blew by me and shouted, "You don’t belong up here if you can’t handle a traverse! Stupid tourist!"
I know he was a local because I caught a glimpse of his season pass dangling from his pants as he soared past me. And I know he was a donkey because he said that.
I got up, skied on and caught up with my boyfriend at the entrance to the first chute. As I was telling him what just happened, I saw the offending jerk standing at the top of the cornice, about to hop into the third chute.
He jumped and he yard saled in alarming style. Both of his skis popped off. His poles went flying. He was on his back, sliding head first down the mountain, screaming like a teenage girl who had just seen Justin Bieber. He came to a stop three-quarters of the way down the run, all his gear stuck in the snow near the top, just a short traverse from where we were standing.
Now, in the 10 years I’ve lived here, I have seen people lose equipment in falls dozens, maybe hundreds of times. (I have also been one of those people a number of times.) I have always stopped to help them. I have skied down with their various missing items. I have never not stopped to ensure they’re OK. But this weekend I did, and I delighted in it.
As the blockhead who, moments before, thought he was the coolest local ever looked helplessly above him, I couldn’t help myself. I yelled at him that he if can’t handle a chute, he didn’t belong up there and I encouraged him to enroll in ski school.
It was an instant-karma reminder to me that, as locals, we should tone down the snobbery some when dealing with tourists. We have all been tourists in someone else’s town, and sometimes we’re even mistaken for one in our own.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley. If you have a story idea, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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