One of the only good decisions I ever made was to move to Alta, Utah. I got the idea from former pro Matt Collins. I had interviewed him for a story for Powder.com as an intern here. He talked about the dorm-style living at The Goldminer’s Daughter. It seemed like an extension of college (an all male one, but still), except they skied all day instead of studying. They even called it the University of Alta. I wanted that. A year later, after receiving my real degree, I enrolled.
Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter, Peruvian Lodge, Alta House, and Rustler Lodge are all hiring right now. You could start in three months. Your front door could be a snowball’s throw from the lift. You could ski every day. Bellhop, line cook, concierge, or server might not be the job title you expected out of your liberal arts degree, but the work is not really the point.
It snowed 700 inches the winter I lived in Alta. Two of our responsibilities included clearing our room’s basement window of snow and making sure our parked cars were visible along the bank across the highway so snowplows wouldn’t clip them. We’d use our backcountry shovels to locate the right Subaru, lost in white mounds, then dig until we could pull out of the space and back into it.
I remember waking up one morning exhausted from 67 straight days of skiing, and digging, and working on my feet every night. The room was dark, which meant the basement window was yet again covered by at least two feet of fresh snow. I remember wishing that it would stop snowing, just for a day. I’ll never forgive myself for that.
I lived in the hotel room on the G-Floor, the basement of the legendary GMD lodge, just down the hall from the sauna, hot tub, and game room. Sometimes we’d mix it up with the guests, but usually we’d wait until they’d gone to bed, and then congregate in the game room, which we found to have the most noise insulation. We’d play drinking games. Things would get weird. We’d wake up and go skiing.
I worked in the kitchen, six days a week, from 3:00 to 11:00. I figured out the last chair I could ride in order to have enough time to sprint to my room, ditch my ski coat for a chef’s jacket, and run up the stairs to the kitchen. I learned how to properly wield a kitchen knife, present tiramisu, make Asian lettuce wraps, hide burnt things, and drink beer on the clock.
I made $250 a month with minimal tips. I also walked the Alta Medical Clinic doctor’s dog, Zevon, a bear-sized Lab/Rottweiler mix. With the extra cash I had enough to regularly buy beer, the only reason we ever had to go to the Valley. We didn’t have access to refrigerators so we’d stash the beer on the windowsill, next to the frost.
I only lived in Alta for five months. But when you share chairlifts, living space, women, hot tubs, and beers, you get to know people pretty well. I count some of the people I met there as the best friends I have. Collins was on to something.