As I type this, I envision a crush of people at the local grocery store trying to purchase the turkey, cranberry, stuffing necessary for the big feast tomorrow. My plan is quite different. Instead of stocking up on food, I’m trying to get rid of it, as we get ready to head out of town, not to go to family’s house, but instead to the ski area for working on Thanksgiving.
Having worked 5+ years in the ski resort industry, you learn that holidays are not days for the stores to shut down, and to cook all day and watch football, but rather days for skiers and snowboarders to hit the slopes. For families who all indulge in skiing or boarding, it’s a great way for everyone to get outside, get some exercise, have some fun and bond together. Because Thanksgiving is still early in the ski season, and many resorts are just starting to crank their lifts up, it doesn’t tend to attract as many people as Christmas and New Year’s Days do.
But this year, we’ve had some pretty good early season snowfall, and resorts know Thanksgiving weekend offers the first real opportunity for most city dwellers to hit the slopes. They often take advantage of this enthusiasm by opening new terrain on Thanksgiving Day to capitalize on this excitement. Still, Thanksgiving weekend will pale in comparison to the number of people who choose to ski on Christmas Day or New Years Day.
This was brought home when I worked at Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort in Lake Tahoe one season. My regular job was working at our Nordic Center located at mid-mountain, but one some of the busiest days I would also help out selling lift tickets. Since this was 15 years ago or so, many people still bought their lift tickets at the resort. Today, most tickets and passes are sold via websites, where the prices are cheaper when purchased ahead of time.
On this Christmas Day, conditions were favorable with lots of new snow, and it didn’t seem like a quite Christmas at all. Hordes of families had come out to go skiing in the morning, and I was amazed at the amount of tickets I was selling. Since most of the business was in the morning, most of us ticket sellers shut down our windows around noon, and it was only then I realized the full force of sales I had done. There were about 11 tickets sellers that day, and I had processed over $25,000 in sales just on my own. And this was when lift tickets were probably 60% of the price they are now — staggering!
So as many of you who read this blog, get up tomorrow and set about cooking, think of me and my fellow workers, who are getting started with our work day, providing services for the skiers and snowboarders. Even though we will not be feasting until much later in the day, that doesn’t mean there isn’t gratitude abounding everywhere. For those of us who make our lives in the Rocky Mountains, the start of a great ski season provides much to be grateful for as well — outdoor recreation, fun, employment, and a chance to spend time outside in one of the most beautiful places in the country.