As the temperatures finally drop, and we’ve received our first snow here in Nederland, thoughts for many mountain residents as well as my work colleagues turn to “what am I going to do this winter?” Unfortunately (or fortunately) when you work in the parks field and you live in places that are high tourist areas during summer and fall, many jobs are seasonal in nature. When the weather turns colder, the tourists start to diminish, and with that the need for people to talk to tourists and park visitors also goes away. Perhaps the slowest times in mountain towns are mid-October to mid-November and the month of May.
But not to despair! Because in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the end of one tourist season means the beginning of another. Within the next couple of months, we will be inundated with folks seeking Rocky Mountain powder among the 25+ ski resorts (and that’s not counting cross-country ski resorts) spread throughout Colorado. I went through a similar transition while living in the Sierra, working in the national parks and forests into the fall, and then working for the Lake Tahoe ski resorts during the summer.
In a strange way, I feel as if my life as come full circle — I started out in my 20s working as a ski bum in California, and eventually found summer employment in the parks. I wanted nothing more than to find that stable, year-round job that would provide me certainty and a home in one place 365 days a year. Eventually, I got to that place back east, and surprise! found it not as fulfilling as I had imagined it to be. Now, I find myself back to the place of working two different jobs (or maybe more) in the same fields, but doing it by choice rather than doing it to build my resume.
After having experienced the higher-paying, administrative jobs in the National Park Service, I found out what many do, including my old friend, Dick Ewart who spend his entire career at Yosemite National Park as an interpretive Park Ranger in the field. He once told me he never aspired to get a management job at a higher level, because they weren’t fun, that you lost touch with the things that made you want to be a ranger. I’ve found the same to be true. What I love about working in the parks field or with ski resorts is the interaction you have with visitors, being outside, being in touch with nature, reveling in the natural beauty around us. And it seems to me, that the seasonal staff seem to have that in spades over the higher-ranking management folks.
So, where am I going with this? Well, as my park job winds down for the year, I’m back to finding gainful employment for the winter with the ski resort industry. I love skiing. No, I LOVE SKIING. And while I could perhaps find work in one of the cities along the front range, and become one of those weekend warriors driving I-70, I’d rather not. I’d rather make my livelihood on the slopes and get rewarded by hopefully providing a smile and a pleasant experience to our winter visitors to Colorado.
P.S. And getting that free season ski pass isn’t a bad incentive either.
More to be revealed….