The Three Musketeers


            As with most of Whistler`s Aussie Army, I`m spending my time here in BC sharing a house. It's a common scenario and brings many funny, memorable and, in the end, wonderful experiences through living in a foreign country often with people who have answered an add in the pique or met over après. Regardless of the circumstances sharing a house allows much of the army to broaden their Whistler season.


            Now if you get lucky you may shack (or condo) up with a bar server which can result in some great late night specials or a cab driver which is particularly handy a this time of the year. In our house we have quite a blend, from snow shovelling to hospitality management, but without a doubt the excitement comes from the three lift hosts in our house. Our three musketeers.


            Now whilst being called musketeers may imply the brightly clad lifties are partial to skewering guests of the mountain with ski poles, it's more the classic idea of all for one and one for all. Because one lifty can help all on the Mountain and in certain circumstances all the lifties may have to help just one. All three began their training together along with the latest fresh faced group of lifties prepared to brave the elements to help prevent embarrassing mishaps that are inevitable when ice, humans and moving metal meet and that's where the story starts.


            See whilst most training involves a shift or two following someone, maybe even a manual, training to be a lift host resembles more the preparation of soldiers heading into a battle. They have it all, ranks, signals, sirens, bells, whistles, uniforms and resilience against the cold that rivals that of Russian troops on the Eastern Front. There is also a 100 plus page dossier that covers everything from bears to blizzards. It seems all the reading would explain the black graduation tassels that dangle from their tooks, that or the designer was impressed by the Mikado.


            There are also apparent subtleties the untrained ski enthusiast would be unaware of. Things like the slightly slower stopping time on the glacier express, the correct side of the chair for children to sit when riding with an adult and the physical excursion required to man the T-Bars that are finally opening across the resort without letting one pass or making an extremely uncomfortable slip when helping boarders onto the T. Whilst skiers and boarders merely have to remember to lift up the guard and keep ski tips up when departing, there is a whole network of troops ensuring we make it up the hill.


            Now on their second shift one of our musketeers, let's make them d`Artagnan, arrives home boasting about a "Hanger". "A Hanger!" echoed Athos and Porthos (The other two Musketeers), impressed by the news whilst the rest of us kind of stare blankly. It turns out a "Hanger" is someone dangling from a chair lift by their hands. Even now I still troubled by whether it is worse that someone managed to get themselves into this position or that this happens enough to warrant a nickname.


Not to be flustered, and in the spirit of all for one and one for all, the lifties resolved the situation by rushing down the slope with one of those firemen trampolines and catching the person. It is a scene you would see in a movie - the jump for safety and a free fall before the comforting embrace of six strangers holding a glorified bed sheet. But it's as easy as that. Crisis averted, limb and possibly life saved and the chair back in motion all as outlined on page 117 of the manual.


            Sure there are days when Porthos will come home bragging about seating celebrities and Athos will whinge about the apparent difficulties ski school students have staying upright on the magic carpet, but when you see the crew in blue, have faith that they are well trained and extremely qualified. So next time the bells ring and the chair stops on the coldest point of the journey, look around and enjoy the view, who knows, you may even spot a Hanger

Operations Shots