So I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a story about my first season working at a ski hill for some time now and have never quite had the motivation to do it. Mainly because I have absolutely no following on TGR and it potentially means that absolutely no one will even bother to read this. But I decided to anyway, to at least get something down, so if anything, it was a record for myself of the season. So here it is, a recollection and series of thoughts about working a ski season in Canada.
Firstly, as an Australian, I expected to see Aussie's. We love to travel and that's no surprise, I did not however expect almost the entirety of staff employed at the resort to be Australian. In fact in my entire season working there I only met and made friends with one Canadian. It showed, first hand, why there is always talk of ski town partying, where staff get up to everything possibly imaginable. Everyone is on a working-holiday, emphasis on the holiday.
Being a skier for most of my life I managed to get employment through the snow school as an instructor where thoughts rolled into my head of a job that involved me hard charging steeps with a client in tow or chauffeuring wealthy couples around the mountain, only to receive an even wealthier tip. How I couldn't be more wrong. I'm sure there are instructors out there that fit that description, I was most definitely not. As a new instructor our main role consisted of dealing with kids who were dumped on us by their parents, could barely ski and sometimes didn't even want to. We were glorified babysitters. You would sometimes hear other staff that worked in other departments saying "well it can't be that bad, at least you're on snow every day". Those people have obviously never watched, from the bunny hill, while everyone else went up the gondy on a powder day, even if it was just for a ride break.
Working as an instructor definitely had its grim days, whether that be missing out on a powder day or teaching a class of six screaming 5 year olds hungover, after getting three hours sleep the night before. In fact I had one child for a ten week program who thought it was funny to take his skis off at the bottom of every run and pretend he was asleep, neither the carrot nor the stick worked to deter him from this, in fact the only practice that worked was for me to start skiing away and pretend that I would leave him behind. Pretend...
All of that aside though, ski instructing had its great days, days that I will remember to be some of the best of my life. The training we received was second to none, we got the opportunity to head up on the early lift most mornings and have fresh powder or freshly groomed runs all to ourselves and on the days you were finally given a client who could ski you got to spend the day skiing while getting paid. In fact one of the best times of the season was after an extremely long drought of snow, the Rockies finally got a dump during March which laid 32cm's of light, fluffy snow. After so long without a pow day everyone was quite literally foaming at the mouth to get up the lift and what would you know, I got allocated my first 'first tracks' lesson. We entered the gondola an extra half an hour before the regular opening and at the top had a 360-degree view of completely untracked snow. It was ours to rip and rip we did. Nothing can quite really compare to that feeling of stepping out in the morning to breathe in that crisp mountain air and know that as you ski down you will experience the ecstasy that is powder skiing. You can read about, watch videos of pros flying through waist deep powder copping face shots left, right and centre, but until you actually experience it, you won’t fully understand. It's like a drug with some very serious withdrawal symptoms if you don't get your weekly fix.
That was the great thing about working the season, the fact that you had what seemed like an eternity to keep getting your 'fix'. I know for most people, they fall in love with ski seasons because it's usually a giant party, but for myself, the partying was an added bonus or sometimes something I chose to avoid altogether if it meant missing a day of skiing. For me I fell in love with the skiing itself, everything about it and it created this relentless hunger in me to better myself, to go harder; ski faster; jump bigger. After spending the summer back in Oz working to save up for another season I find myself literally not being able to think about anything other than skiing, whether that be looking at new ski edits, movies or salivating over a new pair of skis I can't afford. I have been hooked, and I plan to spend the rest of my young life chasing winter, if that's what it takes to get my 'fix'.