With near-record busting snows, being a lift operator is tough. Skiers and snowboarders whoop into lift lines raving up face shots and sick powder lines. But Josh Meier weathers it well. “It’s fun,” he says. “I feed off their enthusiasm.”
Meier is a patient man. Where others might act snap-nasty missing out on epic powder runs, Meier smiles, knowing he’ll get his turn.
The snowboarder from Iowa works as a liftie at the bottom of Chair 7 at Whitefish Mountain Resort. “I love it,” he says of his fourth winter at the resort. “I get to hang out on the back side of the mountain all day with great scenery and lots of interaction with people.”
Running a lift is drudgery – shoveling snow and sweeping chairs. Especially in a storm cycle that hammers the ski area with 6 feet of snow. “You really have to hustle to get things up and running,” says Meier. “We’re shoveling a lot this year.” On weekdays, the bottom of Chair 7 can be an easy-paced place with short lines. “But Saturday is a different world,” laughs Meier. “Crowds keep us hopping all day.”
Meier and his crew get one perk – first tracks down buttery Goat Haunt. But at day’s end, when he grabs his snowboard for the ride up Chair 7, even then, he can’t pop down his favorite powder stash. For safety, his crew must descend Big Ravine together.
This is seasonal work with little reward. Lifties are complaint targets – especially about things out of their control, like snow conditions and fog. But for a person like Meier, who last summer hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Snoqualmie Pass, Wash., only to be halted by snows, complaints are something he melts with a smile. An anonymous group of frequent skiers calling themselves the Big Spirit Committee recently recognized Meier’s persistent smile and sent him a thank you gift certificate for his upbeat demeanor.
This summer, Meier longs to finish the PCT’s last 200 miles. “It depends how much money I can save up–whether I have to work or can take a long trip,” he muses, thinking he may stay in Whitefish instead of working in Iowa.
Meanwhile, Meier loads chairs while the powder deepens. When does he get those face shots? “I just wait for my day off,” he says.
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