Leaving for the Summer

By Beacon Staff

From the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades of the West to the far northeastern corner of Maine, ski resort employees by the thousands are leaving their jobs and their rented houses, rooms and cubicles as their winter jobs in ski resorts melt in the warm spring sun.

Couples begin to break up their winter romances and tearfully depart in opposite directions for their hometowns. There, some will have jobs waiting for them and a bedroom in their parent’s home. Some will spend the summer trying to justify their winter jobs to their friends.

I joined the mountain exodus the first several Aprils after World War II and spent the summers in Malibu and San Onofre riding my redwood surfboard.

Winter employees, just like regular guests, at a ski resort become comfortable there and it is easier to return to work for the same resort. Over the years I have met a lot of winter employees who have grown in their jobs and by the third year they have worked their way up into a full-time career.

Sometimes, I will be sitting and thinking about what drove me to put skiing above all else for so many years: 1947 until now? I have just finished my 65th winter of being in the snow from fall until spring. In all of those years, I was either at a ski resort or traveling between them.

In the early days we lived in the back of our cars on weekends during the summer and did nothing but ride our surfboards. We had a Coleman stove, a mattress and sleeping bag, a cold box and enough money to eat on, but not much else.

Today, when you see the cars leaving the resort parking lot in the spring headed for somewhere else, they have a couple of mountain bikes on a rack, a surfboard and a windsurfer on the roof and a couple in the front seats.

Before they know it, the summer will be gone and they will head for a ski resort in October. That’s when the smart person looking for good ski resort employment will get there. That is when the rental places get leased and the winter-only jobs are taken by the first people in line. They get the best jobs that offer the most ski time and get the biggest tips.

A reasonable number of resort workers in the spring only get as far as the construction companies that will be building the condominiums and houses during the summer. Don’t forget that by the middle of November, many of the people who left in the spring are now, once again, becoming the migrants and heading back to the mountains.

When I was teaching skiing in Sun Valley and Squaw Valley, I knew that I would pick up my framing hammer, tighten up my nail belt and start making a lot of money during the summer in construction in Southern California. This gave me Saturday and Sunday to surf. I would run into the occasional skier I had taught the winter before. Usually, they were a guest and not an employee and had yet to make a commitment to a spouse, a house (mortgage) in the suburbs and a lifelong job on the seventh floor of a downtown bank building.

I always encourage people to leave the resort in the spring to come back in the fall. Do it while you still can. Just tell all of your new best friends that you will be back. Tell me what is wrong with a couple of desertions and migrations on your resume?

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