A Simple Twist of Fate

Since I was 6 years old I’d always had a season pass at Hunter Mountain. My parents, Dorothy and Jack skied Hunter and Dad was a ski instructor there for a long time. After they moved to Florida; Orville Slutzky, still comped my son and me a season pass every year. An act of generosity I’ll always remember.

At the time, I didn’t have many friends/acquaintances that skied. Those that did wanted to go on to Vermont instead of going to Hunter. I’d ski Hunter with my son or by myself. Once he went away to college I either went to Hunter by myself or with a couple of guys from work. Since I’m a teacher, I also skied one night a week with my school ski club.

My wife was never too interested, but as my daughter and youngest son got older, I took them with me and we had a great time. I was getting out probably 30+ times a year, either alone, with my kids, with the occasional friend or on a school trip.

Life was good, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. I felt unfulfilled. When I was a kid we had a house at Hunter that we shared with my uncle who was also a ski instructor. There was always friends and family, loads of people to ski with, après parties. We felt very much connected to the Hunter ski community, especially with those involved in the ski school. It was more than just skiing, it was a lifestyle. I missed that lifestyle and it didn’t look like I was going to be a part of it again anytime soon.

Then, back in 2001, my oldest son, was out of college and skiing again. The two of us had been kicking around the idea of trying to hook up somewhere as a host/safety/ambassador or maybe snowsports, but we had no definite plans. He got a couple of comps from a friend that were good at Whiteface or Gore. Neither of us had ever been to Whiteface so we decided to give it a try.

Whiteface Aerial

It was very late in the season, a sunny spring day. We both liked Whiteface, it seemed to have everything we were looking for in a mountain. It was big, with enough challenge for us to ski it every weekend, and it was a very doable two-hour drive from home.

At the end of the day, we went to customer service to see about applying to be volunteer employees. We were told to call the Operations Supervisor. The following Monday, we called Whiteface and left a message. It was April, and I didn’t really expect a return call. I figured I’d call back in October. Two days later the Operations Supervisor called me, asked some questions, and told me he had a couple openings in the Mountain Host program. He said my son and I could have the positions. Sight unseen, just like that.

It was the best thing to ever happen to me. We made a bunch of friends to ski and party with and we love the mountain and the job. My affiliation with Whiteface led to a part-time position as a rep for Nordica and three summers ago we bought a house 4 miles from the mountain. I guess I’m a simple guy with simple dreams because now I have everything I ever wanted and couldn’t be happier. All because of a decision to ski a day at Whiteface. It turned out to be a life altering choice.

It’s just amazing to me how what seems like a meaningless choice, can have such a profound effect on our lives, the ramifications of which may last the rest of our lives. Brought on by a simple twist of fate.

9 comments on “A Simple Twist of Fate

  1. During the Hunter years, were you living south of Albany? And had that changed when you went to Whiteface the first time in 2001?

  2. “It’s just amazing to me how what seems like a meaningless choice, can have such a profound effect on our lives, the ramifications of which may last the rest of our lives. Brought on by a simple twist of fate.”

    Well written, HPD. It is the most profound and amazing truth in everyone’s lives, whether they realize it or not (I certainly do–I am nothing more than a deterministic pinball).

    This past year I made a commitment to get to Whiteface but it didn’t happen. Next year will be the year for sure, especially since I am without a season pass. Would be nice to share some turns with you.

    Excellent write up, thanks for sharing.

  3. Interesting. Since I’ve been downhill skiing (I started in 2000-01), conventional wisdom has always dictated that if you live in the Albany area or north, your home areas are the ADKs or VT and you only go to the Catskills when they get the brunt of a storm (like the big one at the end of February this past season). Maybe it was different a few decades back?

  4. Tell us more about duties/responsibilities as a Mountain Host. I might like to do that one day when I finish the 9-5 grind. Do they frown on retirees seeking this kind of position? Also, what’s your favorite time of the season at Whiteface and how do you like the new terrain?

  5. Steve – just let me know when you’re coming up.

    James – no it was pretty much the same back in the day. I did ski other places then Hunter, but as I wrote we got free season passes every year so we went there on a lot of day trips. Hunter was less than a 1 ½ hour drive; it has good terrain and didn’t cost me anything so to me it was a no brainer.

    Anonymous – the main duty for hosts is to work in the drop off areas at the base of the main lodge and Kids Kampus. We assist people loading and unloading and keep traffic moving. We also do “meet and greet” on the 3 summits and work crowd control at races and other events. We have all ages and it is a volunteer position. We are compensated with passes and there are some other perks. It’s mainly a weekend holiday week thing.

    My favorite time is usually spring, but I’ll take anytime of the year with the most snow. Lookout Mt. is great. The Wilmington trail is a nice long cruiser with lots of twists and turns, Lookout Below is the steepest trail at WF, bumps up nice, southern exposure so it gets the sun, Hoyt’s High is probably the best trail on Lookout IMO. It’s 4/5 of a mile, consistent steepish pitch, turns, just a really fun trail to ski. I hope they get snow making on it sooner than later, but in this tough economy it might be latter. The Sugar Valley glades are a great addition. The top entrance (above Hitchcock Hill) is steep as you continue down it becomes less challenging, but still fun. It is a huge glade area and is a work in progress. A 3rd way in is suppose to be cut this summer.

  6. Highpeaksdrifter, yours is an engaging and valuable story. Volunteering your talents to something to have a passion for is often the most direct and meaningful way to become a player, not just a bystander.

  7. We love the Face and this story. We probably crossed paths with you and your family over the years at Hunter. My Uncle has been a pass holder there for close to 30 years and my wife and I have skied there for 20 years together and I grew up skiing there. As I got older, we drove more North to get our ski days in and continue to do so; more in VT these days.

    We love how you and your family (son) talked about becoming mountain host and you eventually finding your new career, one that my wife and I have been contemplating getting into. Skiing is a way of life, and the culture is bar none to us the best out there. What you have done is inspiring and we think you have inspired us even more to make the move to the mountains and live out a skiers life.

    Thank you for this great Friday story.

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