Back before I lost what grip I had on reality and joined the ranks of corporate America, I had the privilege of living and working in the mountains of the great state of Washington, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Well, I might trade it for early retirement or to be one of those cool YouTube influencers. Anyway, every time I think back to those simpler times, I just smile at the amazing things I witnessed.
I can remember watching the orange glow of an alpine sunrise grow as the sun rose in the eastern horizon, warming my face on a frigid sub-zero morning on the summit; I remember trying to outrun a seriously pissed off moose that was sprinting full speed down a run one dark afternoon, and I will always remember the quirky, good-spirited mountain folk with whom I shared my flask on more than one occasion. However, ski industry workers also bear witness to some truly bizarre occurrences on and off the hill. These are a few of their stories.
Canned Food Free Ski Night
Nothing brings out the hordes of die-hards, budget skiers, or power drinkers like canned food night, where a couple cans of food gets you a lift ticket. The money you saved likely goes right back into the bar, so the economics totally make sense. While these events serve to help the local food banks, they also provide some epic people watching.
At the start of one of these events, I spotted a guest who stood out from the rest. Dressed in a Polaris snowmobile jacket, with Levi’s tucked into pure white, rear-entry boots that were already clicked into pre-1990, 210 straight skis—and a motorcycle helmet to complete the ensemble—this dude was perfectly herringboning all the way from the parking lot to the lodge, with a can of food in each hand and no poles. As he clickety-clacked his way across the concrete pad in front of the ticket counter, I swear I saw sparks fly from the metal edges of his skis. Without breaking stride, he tossed the canned food in the collection tub, grabbed his ticket, and jumped on the lift. Had to give the guy mad props for style and technique.
Race Coach vs. Snowboarder
A fellow coach and I were tasked with setting a giant slalom training course one exceptionally cold January morning, which we completed right as the lifts were offloading the first skiers and riders of the day. Not wanting to waste time by cycling back around on the lift, we decided to hike back up to the top of the course. Halfway up, we caught site of two snowboarders barreling down the closed course towards us.
Thanks to the copious amounts of adult beverages we had consumed the previous evening, I barely had the energy to yell and wave off the intruders, but my co-coach managed to go one step further. Bellowing in an incomprehensible language at the top of his lungs, my compadre took one of his skis and proceeded to hurl it like a world-class javelin thrower at the Olympic trials, narrowly missing the lead offender. I laughed so hard my face hurt, and I nearly wet my knickers in the process. Almost felt bad, too.
During my first year of employment in the ski industry, I was invited to go up to British Columbia with a group of co-workers. At the last minute, nearly all of them bagged out, except for one dude. I picked him up at his house, and I nearly lost my breakfast when he came rolling out in a sky-blue one piece. I should have called it quits then.
As we approached the Canadian border, he started going off about how he was into guns and continued to drone on even as the border guard asked us where we were going. Thanks to my passenger, that conversation was cut short and we were ordered to pull into the inspection area, where my 4-Runner was damn near torn apart, and I patiently awaited a similar inspection of my body orifices. Thankfully the latter never occurred. At least the snow was good. //
Brad Northrup is a former ski racer, coach, and ski bum. His therapist has suggested he should take up a different sport.