For a couple years now I have been interested in working a ski season. I know a couple people who did it in years past and it seemed like a lot of fun. I was always occupied during the winters before though, gallivanting around other countries (or saving up money at home in order to gallavant around other countries).
This year was the year to do it since I worked the seasonal tour leading job this past summer and I had no plans on the horizon for the winter.
When it came down to choosing a resort I knew that I didn’t want to work for a big corporate one. I have a friend from high school, Alex, who moved out to Crested Butte after college and all of her photos of the area looked amazing, so I decided to look for jobs there. I looked at Jackson Hole as well, but all the start dates there were before Thanksgiving and I stubbornly refused to start before then since I wanted to spend time with my family.
I initially applied to be a lift operator (lifty), without even looking into applying anywhere else. I didn’t want to work retail or in a cafeteria but I didn’t really bother looking at the other jobs available. Thank god for Alex who put me in touch with her old manager at an on-mountain restaurant where I got a job as a bartender, because I think I would be considerably less happy working as a lifty.
So after Thanksgiving, I flew out to Denver and made the 5-hour bus trek out to Gunnison. I had pretty easily found a place to sublet in Gunnison from a couple who was going up to Canada for the winter. Gunnison is about 30 miles from the mountain and there’s a free bus that goes up and back through out the day. It’s a bit cheaper to live in Gunnison than in Crested Butte or on the mountain, and even though the bus ride is about an hour, I don’t mind it.
I work at an outdoor bar called the Ice Bar at Uley’s Cabin. There are both pros and cons to working outside in the middle of winter, as you might imagine. I love being outside, especially on sunny days, and the bar faces the peak so the views are amazing. Of course when it’s not sunny it can be cold, but actually not as cold as I thought it would be. People are always asking if my hands are freezing since we can’t wear gloves while making drinks, but my hands usually stay relatively warm – it’s my toes that get cold.
Then there’s the snow. We had record breaking snowfall in early January, which was great for conditions and there was seemingly endless powder. But if I was working at the bar, we would have to arrive and hour early and spend ages clearing all the snow off the deck. Powder days also seem to be slow days at the bar. No one wants to sit outside and drink when there is so much powder to be ridden.
Overall I love it. I need to put on more sunscreen though because my nose is getting an ever-increasing level of freckles. We have little fox friends that like to come around the bar at closing time looking for food. Our chefs like to feed them and they’ve been coming for so long (years) that they are no longer afraid of humans. Makes me a bit sad because as wild animals they shouldn’t be used to humans, but they’re so darn cute I love when they come by. There’s also a pine marten that forages for food under and around the deck and if you don’t know what they look like Google it right now and I dare you not to squeal.
I got a second job at a restaurant in Gunnison called Blackstock Bistro. I started as a server, and have since begun bartending there as well. Between the two jobs I keep busy and on my days off I go snowboarding.
I did have to miss Christmas at home this year, but I had a visitor. Jonny, my friend from Scotland who I met in Australia, came to spend Christmas and New Years with me. He had never been snowboarding before so it was fun to watch him fall– I mean it was fun to teach him how to snowboard.
And I’ll have another visitor here really soon- my mama is coming in less than a week and we have some fun activities planned. We’re going to a dinner in a yurt that you cross country ski to and there’s live music. It’ll be on Valentine’s Day and the moon will still be 90% full so the ski out to the yurt will be moonlit. I’m excited to have her here.
So far I’m really enjoying life out in Colorado even with temperatures sometimes dipping into the negatives. Summer here is meant to be brilliant, with Crested Butte being the wildflower capital of the state and tons of good hiking around. I’ll have to come back at some point to spend a summer season here.