Outdoors

Open-Heart Surgery

Jon Reveal has appeared in at least 15 of my feature-length ski films, skiing at resorts from Bear Valley to Zermatt, Switzerland

As my eyes got used to the dimly lit hospital room, I could hear Jon Reveal breathing lightly.

Charlie Callander, Laurie’s son Colin and I had traveled 150 miles from Big Sky to Billings to see Jon after his double bypass heart surgery. He had two blocked arteries.

I sat on the edge of his hospital bed as a million experiences of nearly a 60-year friendship passed between us almost instantly. I first filmed Jon many years ago at Bear Valley, California, where he was working for Peter Brinkman, the ski school director.

As Jon perked up, we managed to keep him on his toes for almost two hours. In the middle of our visit Jon did a lap around the hospital corridor. I knew that Jon was too tough to give up just because of blocked arteries.

Jon has appeared in at least 15 of my feature-length ski films, skiing at resorts from Bear Valley to Zermatt, Switzerland to Courchevel, France to just about every ski resort in between.

Years ago I talked Bob Maynard, the then-president of Keystone Colorado, to hire Jon away from Bear Valley. At Keystone he eventually became the mountain manager when Keystone hardly had a mountain developed. When Maynard bought Arapahoe Basin, Jon was put in charge of the whole resort and eventually tore the lodge down and rebuilt it. He also replaced the ski lifts at Arapahoe Basin that had faulty cable grips. Those faulty grips led to chairs falling off of the cable and eventually all of those chairlifts in Colorado had to be replaced. Jon went on to replace all of the defective lifts at Breckenridge, Aspen, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass.

By the time we got through some stories it was time for lunch. The hospital was so nice that Jon could pick up the phone and order lunch for his wife Kim, Charlie, Colin, Jon and me. No green Jell-O, just good old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream and more ice cream.

Jon started working on a rope tow at the age of 4 that his father had built at a small resort on the western slopes of the central Sierra Nevada’s that would lead to him working in the ski industry for 66 years.

In 1999, he accepted the offer of coming to work for the Yellowstone Club when there was no one there. He laid out many of the best runs at the resort, realigned a couple of the chairlifts and set the course for the daily enjoyment of almost 500 members and their families.

After telling more stories, the doctor came in with a nurse and the two of them and Jon took a lap walk around the hospital corridor and then he laid back down very carefully with all of that hardware attached to his chest. By now, Jon’s wife Kim was nodding toward the door and Charlie, Colin and I knew it was time to start winding down the storytelling, climb back in the car and drive the 150 miles back to Big Sky and the Yellowstone Club.

All three of us agreed that the 300-mile round trip was more than worth it to know that Jon was going to return to good health and, luckily for the Cody, Wyoming area, able to continue managing the Sleeping Giant Ski Area. Even though he could not drive his pickup truck for three weeks, his wife, Kim, was going to fill in as the driver and suspend her feature film production business until that open-heart surgery was healed.

Luckily, Jon’s mountain management talents are applied at Sleeping Giant, which isn’t too far away, so we get to see him at least once a winter. Luke Stratford, our mountain manager here, was well-trained by Jon and comes from a similar background as Jon because Luke’s father was a professional ski patrolman at Aspen for about 40 years. It’s in Luke’s blood just like it’s in Jon’s.