Being a lift operator, aka a liftie, in Jackson Hole has surpassed all my expectations. I never thought this job would be so cool. Where do I even start? My first day was interesting, that’s for sure haha. I woke up at 5:45 to make the 6:15 bus to the village, it was pitch black out, and the snow had been coming down all night long. There were about 4 inches of fresh snow blanketed across the valley, and when I got to the resort I found out that there was even more snow there.
All the Casper lifties met in the locker room at 7:00am sharp, where we were given our uniforms and assigned our lockers. We got hardshell jackets, softshell jackets, puffy jackets (that zipped into our shoftshells), and pants. All the jackets and pants were Marmot, and really nice stuff.
After getting geared up, we head down to catch the 7:30 gondola ride. We were the FIRST ones up the mountain, and the snow was still coming down hard. When we got to the top, it was a sight I have never seen before. The top of the gondi station is usually packed with people, but there was nobody in sight. It almost had a ghost town feel. As we looked off the mountain we could just barely see the sun through the snow beginning to rise over the mountains on the other side of the valley. The snow in front of us wasn’t at all what you expect to see at a ski resort. It was COMPLETELY untouched, not a single track before us…at times it was even hard to tell if you were moving because there was nothing in the snow that you could see move by, and the visibility was so low. We were even getting to make turns before ski patrol!
As we made the decent to our lift, we were floating silently through thigh deep powder… it was truly bliss. Being able to ski fresh snow before everyone else is a benefit I will never take for granted…in all my years of skiing I have never had an experience like this…and I’m getting paid?! Something cant be right here! Having to work the day after your birthday at 7am kind of sucks, but hey, this made it all worth it in my eyes.
When we got to the lift, we got it running, set up the maze, and did some ramp work to prepare for the public. Then my boss and I headed up the chair lift to the top shack where i would start my shift. Every day, we have one top shack shift where we spend 2.5 hours at the top, basically just making sure everyone gets off safely. When we aren’t doing this, we rotate between 45 minutes of skiing and 45 minutes of bumping chairs. Being paid to ski for about 2 hours and 15 minutes every day is good in my book. Not to mention loading the public into chairs and watching them fall from time to time is quite entertaining as well.
When my boss and I got to the top shack, a winter storm was in full effect. There were winds reaching 40-50 miles an hour, it was -10 degrees, and the snow was still pounding the mountain. When we opened the door to the shack, the force of the wind was so strong it blew out the plexiglass window, and it folded into about 4 pieces and flew down the hill! Needless to say, I had to go pick up the pieces lol. About 30 minutes later the wind died down, we called into valley dispatch that the lift was open, and my first day of work with the public officially began.
As if my morning wasn’t interesting enough already, just about an hour into my shift I got somewhat of a wake up call. A woman was riding on the lift with her backpack, and when she tried to get off the straps of her pack were caught in the chair. She was screaming and was hanging from her backpack straps, and was now about 10 feet in the air as she went around the bull wheel and began riding it back down the mountain! I luckily was able to hit the stop button on a quick reflex, and she slid out of her backpack straps. I made sure she was okay, and then climbed to her chair and retrieved her backpack. She was very thankful, and very embarrassed. Not a bad start to what I’m sure will be a very interesting season!
The rest of the day was pretty fun, being in a place you love when you “work” and getting to talk to people about skiing is really relaxing. Throw in those 45 minute ski breaks at regular intervals and you have one very happy employee.