Let us all be honest with ourselves. Most of us skiers have no clue what actually takes place behind the scenes to make a ski resort run. We have a trip planned, weeks, months, or even years before the execution. Our eyes are set on the prize.
Snow is still coming for the next few weeks, sun after that. Everything is lining up for the perfect ski trip. We just hope everything goes off without a hitch. And that’s the thing – most times it does, thanks to the unsung heroes working tirelessly to make your ski vacation memorable one for all the right reasons. Let us gather, skiers, and pay our respects.
1. The Snow Cat Driver
Just when your day is winding down, and you’re settling into the après Happy Hour menu, this hero’s workday is just beginning. Working from 4 p.m. until midnight or midnight until 8 a.m. (and in some cases mid ski-day), the snow cat driver is mostly responsible for smoothing out the groomers and cat tracks so you can get your rubbery-ass legs down them.
Crappy moguls? Yep, those are the result of no snow cat driver. Without the the snow cat driver, your warm-up groomer of choice would be more of a frozen-over field of death cookies than a finely tuned piece of work, a.k.a. fresh corduroy. The cat driver is a magician at their craft, blading out every berm and tilling the skied-up snow to perfection.
2. The Shuttle Driver
So you think you can drive in the snow, eh? I mean you drive the 405 every day, so what’s the big deal? Think again, Angeleno. Without the fine ski town employee that is the shuttle driver, there would be a lot more white-knuckled drivers behind the wheel of a Silverado holding up a mile of cars.
The shuttle driver makes it easy: load up your sh*t and prepare to get your phone out to post about how your trip is better than your friends’. The shuttle driver is the king or queen of small talk. Do you think they care where you are from?
Plainly put … no. But that doesn’t mean they won’t listen and smile. So the next time you catch the shuttle you from the village to the Calico on to the Stagecoach for disco night and back again, all the while letting you blast your favorite Whitney Houston song, the least you can do is throw in a good tip and a thank you. Meet the best shuttle driver in Telluride.
3.The Pool Cleaner at Your Hotel
Whether you are staying at the Wellesley Arms Hotel or the Belvedere, somewhere on payroll is a pool tech that is responsible for the outcome of your soaking experience. So when you dip your toes in to the hot tub, appreciate the person that had to pick out the pubes and Bandaids from the previous day’s dude soup session. Hot tubs are a labor of love.
It takes a special person to constantly, monotonously check the chemicals and clean the filters day in and day out. Without them, your trip just went to from serious fun to some fungi. This employee gets the full on treatment, from stocking towels to fielding dueling complaints about temperature on each end of the spectrum.
But as an integral part of après culture, the hot tub tech is on your side. They want you to have a good time and practice your latest whirlpool with all the other college kids that have drank 10 beers and still haven’t taken a piss.
4. The Ski Tech
You think you want a race tune and a chevron pattern like your buddy got in Aspen, huh? No you don’t, about all you need is a good belt grind and a wax. The ski tech risks his or her fingers with every ski tuned. With one slip of the file, your new Soul 7 just became soulless.
This resort employee works tirelessly so you and your family aren’t sticking in the flats and have an edge on the blue ice. Who doesn’t like to huff p-tex fumes and burning wax for a living?
So next time you come in needing an edge after nose pressing the fun box all day, remember that this guy doesn’t care how rad you are, they deserve a good tip for making sure your skis have the right grease for the day.
5. The Ski Patroller
Let’s say you hook an edge and dislocate your shoulder. You call the ski patrol. Speaking from my experience at my home mountain, these guys and gals are very highly trained emergency personnel that love what they do, all while being paid peanuts.
Rope lines, boundary gates, obstacles, directions, searches, rescues, and life saving sh*t: these people work for you. They are in their boots before you and still in them when you are in said hot tub referenced above. Tirelessly working to set the boot pack, mitigate the avalanche danger on new snow days, and open terrain as fast as they can. These guys and gals want things open more than you so they don’t have to listen to you heckle them like a baboon.
6. The Bar Back
You order a drink. Bartender gets you said drink and takes all the credit. That wouldn’t have happened without the guy or gal stocking the tank. The bar back is responsible for stocking the cups, changing the kegs, making sure there is enough Zima for you and your buddies.
Then someone pukes in the bathroom from an overload of White Claws, and guess who gets called? The bar back. All they are trying to do is make it through their shift so they can ski the deep the next day. Stocking, more stocking and more restocking. And if he’s lucky, the bartender might throw them a 20 spot for their efforts. Stowe's longtime barkeep Chris Strong has some solid advice on living – and tipping – well.
7. The Lifty
Most likely living in squalor miles away from your ski-in/ski-out condo. The lifty is truly what makes the bullwheel turn. I mean who else would drink all night, eat ramen for breakfast, and go to work on a powder day? They are there before the sun rises shoveling massive quantities of snow so the lifts can turn and then take pride in that ramp for your enjoyment.
The lifts open up! It’s deep! And the lifty gets to watch you cycle through hooting and hollering like it’s 1999. You ski up and ask how their day is going with exuberance. If they are a good lift attendant they will muster an enthusiastic “Great!” and bump your chair like a champion instead of letting it whack the back of your rubber-assed quads.
So the next time you come across these fine humans, give a a high five, say thanks, and throw them a compliment. It will surely make their day and help keep the stoke going so the family getting off the plane has the same great trip you just had.
Brit Barnes is a ski tech who loves his job but has barely had a day off all winter.
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