Piste Off Liftie: Opening Day

The first couple of weeks of the season are a little tough, but man, opening day sometimes sucks worse than the Seahawks’ O-line. Yeah sure, everyone is super excited about the start of the new riding season, but for those of us that work on “The Rock” and run the lifts, the first day usually feels like the longest we spend on the mountain all season. Here’s why.

First off, I gotta drag my ass out of bed at zero dark thirty. For those of you that don’t habla, that means super frickin’ early. And let me tell you something, getting up at that hour after a late night of playing Beer Pong and Spades ain’t real easy to do. Probably doesn’t help that I have been doing that all summer long and sleeping till 10 or 11 in the morning either. Thankfully, it’s just a short stumble up to the lodge where the real fun begins.

Once I fill up my two-gallon coffee mug with the kitchen’s finest jet-fuel, I try to avoid getting accosted by any one of the super-perky new ski school instructors who no doubt arrived three hours early for work. You can spot them a mile away. Hair perfectly styled, clean shaven, bright-eyed and blathering a mile a minute about how excited they are, etc. I respond to the usual question of “How long have you worked here?” by growling, “Ever since I got out of Walla Walla after doing a nickel stretch.” They usually don’t bother me after that. In fact, most of them avoid making eye contact all together.


After donning my cold weather gear, I make my way to the lift-loading area and get ready for the day. I always load ski patrollers who are heading up early to make sure the mountain is good to go, and nearly all of them give me high-fives or wish me luck. But there always has to be a few tools who think their excrement is not odorous. If I even hear “Make sure my seat is dry” or “You need to learn how to shovel the ramp,” I can guarantee the chair will hit them just right in the back of the calf, every time they load. I’ve got a short fuse and a long memory.

When the public finally shows up, I know it’s going to be one of those opening days if the first person in line asks me how the snow is up top. Dude, do I really look like I have been conscious for more than an hour? Let alone making turns since sunrise just to tell you how good it may or may not be? Did you actually read the ski report? It says there is 20 inches on top, which really means there might be 12, and it’s probably like rock hard concrete or has brush poking through. Either way, methinks you chose poorly by bringing your new skis up. It’s late November, so be thankful that the lifts are running at all.

But I always remember that informative 15-minute customer service video we watch during training every year, and I respond with a smile that even the Cheshire Cat would envy. “Epic conditions, bro. Best opening day ever – cheers.” //

Piste Off Liftie is a tongue-in-cheek column exploring the fictional exploits of a quintessential dirt-bag ski lift operator penned by Brad Northrup, a former ski industry professional and mountain man. He forgot how to play Spades years ago, but can still hang at Beer Pong.

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