Every day the blue army spans the mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb, the unsung heroes who keep the action going. With the end of season exodus hitting every department, I got the chance to be let outside and take up a shift as a liftie.
The day started at 8am. Many of the team has already been up for hours, the first batch deployed at 6am, the second at 7.15 to get things moving for the first upload at 8. A morning meeting conducted in dry tone announces where everyone will be stationed for the day, “Lauren, G2,” followed by a run down of the temperatures, forecasts and runs of the day.
G2 is the mid station of the Whistler Village gondola. Whilst not exactly outside, I didn’t realise how key this middle stop is. The control panels here control the whole gondola which is technically two separate lifts, the village section and the alpine section seamlessly coming together with a change of line. Aaron, the lead hand here explained how to read the controls. Should a stop arise, this is where all the information is, who stopped it and why. Then comes the crucial two bells. Two bells from the top, two bells from the bottom, then it’s time to hit go and get her back up to speed. From the middle here you can also select the running speed, slowing it down when needed.
It took a little while for mid to get busy, the morning rush usually including people passing through. Mid morning with people having skied down a little way, we had to work together a little more to fill the spaces in the bubbles being sent up from the bottom. With lots to do, time passed quickly. The heavy snowfall brought with it high winds meaning all skis were being backed inside with the guests. Being a part of the guests day on the mountain rather than their bookings was a nice alternative, sharing smiles with them as they passed through.
The best bit about it was still to come, and I’m not referring to its proximity to Ollies Grilled Cheese, best food on the mountain. Will, my housemate was sent over from peak chair which was shutting for the day (much to his dismay) and we got to work together. If being a liftie isn’t a once in a lifetime opportunity, then working with Will certainly is!
As the day drew on, the download side started getting more traffic with fewer people heading up. As rubbish from the mountain too restaurants and even an avalanche dog got loaded down from the top, it was like an inside view into how everything fits together.