Know what skiing's hourly wage minions—lifties, busboys, instructors, patrollers, janitors, snowmakers—have in common? Age. A young one. Somewhere in the 20s, not unlike the frat boys in Animal House. As such, they live for punking and pranks and stashing a horse in Dean Wormer's office (or, in the case of Alta miscreants, a live goat in Snowbird's patrol shack). These skiers never lose the urge to make super-fat hockey stops that spray friends with butt-loads of snow. Whether punking their friends, strangers, or rivals, they simply devise new, creative, and more dastardly ways to bamboozle people.
Screwing with people you know
Those who've been content to simply pop friends' boots out of their bindings in the lift line should dare to dream. There are many superior antics. For example, the incredibly cruel and cynical practice of waiting until someone pays $40 for a base-lodge lunch before knocking her tray to the floor.
Back in the day at Killington, says longtime spokesperson Skip King, tricks were both spontaneous and methodically planned. "During lulls at the patrol shack, folks who'd enjoyed a long night might grab a quick doze on this outside bench," he says. "Then they'd wake up duct-taped helplessly to the bench." Conversely, patrollers took almost three weeks to punk an assistant patrol director who was a stickler about radios, hiding an additional battery every day in his pack till he finally sensed something wrong and opened a pocket to find 20 batteries.
Screwing with strangers
Before going any further, please know mountain-town protocol allows anyone to huck snowballs at strangers in hot tubs, especially if said tubs sit beyond a security gate.
There is such a thing as "stranger danger." Take, for instance, the three college kids who rode a lift at Mammoth Mountain in 2000, got buck-ass nekkid, then streaked the lift line straight to the base. After receiving complaints of "men exposing themselves" in front of the ski school, Mammoth security intercepted the streakers as they attempted their getaway. One naked man was pinned against a parked van. The van's owner, aghast, reportedly yelled, "Get his penis off my van!" The streakers were eventually arrested for a felony of indecent exposure. Yes, a felony.
Then there's the utterly devious way that Snowbird employees devised to deny Alta even exists. On the highway winding up Little Cottonwood Canyon, they removed the signs directing travelers to Alta and replaced them with bogus signs (that took conspicuous time and money to create) for "Snowbird Entry 5" and "Snowbird Entry 6," rendering the Alta dudes interlopers on their own resort. Not to mention confusing the hell out of tourists.
When it comes to befuddling strangers, however, few can match the sociopathic Telluride monoskier known as Turbo. Early this century, Turbo made a habit of powering down bump runs right beneath a popular chairlift. In the infant carrier strapped to his back, a baby bounced grotesquely—often smacking its limbs against lift towers. Concerned lift riders screamed in alarm, begging Turbo to stop, but he never did. Though Texans aplenty were horrified enough to call management, no baby was ever harmed. The imperiled toddler, which Turbo called "extreme baby," was just a doll.
Screwing with rival ski areas
This goal can be achieved a number of ways, from the lame wearing of a Speedo while mugging before the webcam of a disliked resort to the institutional shit-flipping of mountain managers at Maine's Sugarloaf who, in the '90s, placed a sign on a lower lift (1,500 feet below the summit) proclaiming, "If you were at Sunday River, you'd be at the top now."
Yet the real pros here are redcoats. When not busy saving lives, it seems patrollers spend their days scheming ways to hornswoggle their counterparts at rival mountains. I was told Breck staffers have snuck into Keystone to pile flour on the blades of the hut ceiling fan; when turned on, it seemed to give the entire hut a bad case of dandruff. Another time, they spent long hours using cord to suspend everything in the room from the ceiling. Their rivals were stunned to come in the next day to find all their stuff on belay.
Keystoners responded by screwing with their counterparts' gear. Now, there's an unwritten rule that you can't commit shenanigans that imperil a rival's ability to save customers' lives. So no changing the locks on their shack or sneaking in to remove binding toe-pieces. Instead, in a move of subtle genius, Keystoners infiltrated Breck's patrol shack and swapped custom footbeds among various boots.
Alta versus Snowbird, though, remains America's most vicious intermountain rivalry. Alta's patrol once caused a panic below the Snowbird tram by peppering it with Avalauncher rounds that were feared to be live. Things got truly ugly in 1987. That Christmas, Snowbird patrollers received a box of donuts with a note that read, "Happy Holidays from your buddies over at Alta Ski Patrol." Donuts were happily consumed. Then, on April 1, a pack of Polaroids arrived showing Alta patrollers with the pastries wedged in disgusting orifices. That's not just mean, it's demented—and maybe the best ski prank ever.