We return to the snow and already the beauty abounds. After good snow falls for the opening weekend, a rain and wind storm saw lots of it washed away. Now we are delighted at the merest hint of white precipitation!
This week, the snow sages are saying, “Yes,” as they nod wisely, “we should get some this week … and see more lifts open …”
Crystal ball gazing … ?
Some predict large falls (50cm), others small (5-7cm). One thing I learnt last season is, that it will come when it comes. Snow weather can only be forecasted broadly and then we “wait and see”. It provides good conversation fodder though and the old men from many seasons here recount wistfully the years when there was so much snow they could ski on to the roof of the lodge! Ah – ’tis the stuff of legend these days – but there are photos about to attest to these weather events.
Snow good for you
Snow has an interesting affect on the psyche though. It “lifts” spirits and the general morale. People get excited. The landscape is transformed into a white wonderland. Eucalypts take on a new look as their leaves are weighed down by the clinging clumps of snow. The dusting of white powder gives the village a fairy tale feel.
Lots of people are passionate about snow. It’s exciting – especially in Australia -where it is limited to a small region. A recent hiring clinic for instructors saw a gathering of ski and snow board enthusiasts being put through their paces in a competitive hiring program. When asked why they wanted to be instructors, they were pretty consistent about fulfilling a dream, following a passion and having a “cool” job!
It is not just Gen-Ys who seek this out. The enthusiasm is contagious to other generations too. My baby-boomer partner (Monsieur Controleur) also falls into that category, becoming very focused about his on-snow activities from working – to training – to free skiing! He is not alone there. There is a whole contingent of part-time instructors affectionately called “weekend warriors” whose other lives are in professional roles and demanding jobs away from the hill. Most winter weekends they make the 4.5 hour trek up the highway from Melbourne. After working the weekend, they then journey home. Now that’s commitment.
When it’s your passion commitment seems as natural as breathing. I think that is the secret – doing what you are passionate about. After all, it is not a particularly lucrative career. For starters, living in a ski resort is not for the faint hearted. Accommodation is expensive, work is not always consistent and you have to do your time to work your way up the ranks. Add to that the inconsistency of snow seasons and you have a pretty good set of challenges.
“It’s a beautiful thing when career and passion come together.”
I am part of this snow life as a lodge manager. That means I manage the accommodation in a dwelling set up as a cooperative where members have purchased shares. An elected committee manages the running of the lodge and they employ people like Monsieur Controleur and me, to run the lodge during the ski season. Lodges are generally communal living arrangements where people share living spaces, kitchens and bathrooms. With increasing costs, there is pressure to make them commercially viable, and they have been forced to take non-member guests and enter into more commercial arrangements. Enter the lodge manager to keep things running smoothly!
Snow community spirit
The spirit of the lodge remains though. The origins usually lie in a common bond between snowsports enthusiasts. There are those founded by groups of professionals like engineers, or from a particular area like Shepparton, or by former work colleagues. More varied origins exist but they all pulled together to build the original lodges in the 70s. Founding members contributed financially and with work parties.
This community “feel” spills over into the lodge atmosphere. Often TV-free zones, families and friends join together over board games, cards and fireside chats. The children band together and have loads of fun. Similarly, lodge managers form their own community. The beginning and end of each season is peppered with get-togethers. We have “pot luck” where everyone brings a dish to share. Local establishments host events where we taste their wares and hopefully “recommend” them to guests. They are great social occasions and this way of “topping and tailing” the season makes up for the busy period in between when we are all under the pump with guests, change-overs, school and uni groups.
As a returning lodge manager (2014 my first season) it is a warm and welcoming group to be part of. The friendships forged last year have already been rekindled and have translated into other opportunities as a mountain host. A new season brings new people to become acquainted with, other friendships to deepen as well as absent friends we’ll miss. It’s that old-fashioned sense of community that I enjoy. You are immediately part of the place and sense inclusion. It is a nice change from work in corporates, and a great place to appreciate people and learn new skills.
Photos – author’s own