My mornings start the same almost every day – a 3.5 km run to work, a tram ride, followed by a stroll through the snow. I’ve never been a huge fan of routine, but this morning ritual gets me off to a great start as I walk across the Plateau of Grouse Mountain, the moonlight reflecting off of the snow, as I look down at the twinkling city below. I am the only person on the mountain at 5.30am.
I am a Grouse Mountain dispatcher – essentially, I am the 9-1-1 and 4-1-1 and BCAA of the mountain. If anything breaks, I know; if anyone is injured, I know; if the Quiksilver cube got pushed down the hill again, I know; if the brand new skier drops their poles off the chairlift, I know. Not only am I made aware of all of these events and much more, but I get to delegate who/where/when these situations are dealt with. I love my job! I’m always thinking on my feet, every day is different, my limits are always pushed. However, at the end of a shift, regardless of how frantic the day turned out to be, I return to that space where I began my day – instead of a moon reflected walk, I strap in my snowboard and head down the hill.
There is nothing more peaceful…or exhilarating…than finding fresh tracks, untouched powder, for me to destroy. My love for snow filled adventures has also filled my life with amazing people. I have met my closest friends on a chairlift! When anyone lands a natural drop or successfully completes a backside rodeo, cheers and whoops spread like wildfire, even a good bail gets attention! However, working in the same atmosphere we love adds a lot of pressure – bad weather days, injuries, budgets, staff shortages – we see it all. To make up for it, there is one weekend every year where the whole team, the entirety of Mountain Operations, creates magic! This weekend is known as Showdown Over the City. Showdown is one of Canada’s top snowboarding competitions, sponsored by Quiksilver, attracting both amateur and professional riders from all over North America. The two weeks leading up to the event consist of demanding overtime, graveyard shifts, meetings, and the occasional moment of self doubt. We are all involved but the credit is due to the Park Team. The Grouse Mountain Park Team consists of ten staff, and a handful of volunteers. I’m proud to say that this group of people are some of my most cherished relationships.
Thursday, one day until Showdown begins, the intensity is high – I’m ecstatic and thoroughly impressed with everything the group has created thus far; the weather forecast is for sun – both a positive and negative aspect to a competition. The work day is busy – constant transport of materials, setting up the spectator gardens, restocking on salt and board wax; we all put in overtime hours and head to bed early, aware of the two arduous days to follow.
Friday morning arrives – we begin the day with film crews and last minute touches before the riders arrive. Beautiful blue bird skies and warm temperatures are exactly what the spectator’s desire; however, our concern slightly rises. The rider’s course quickly becomes slow as the snow becomes soft. I send down seven bags of salt for with one of the boys; salt laps approximately every 20 minutes and 14 bags of salt for the three hour open practice. We rush to set up the park hut as a waxing station. With an influx of 16 amateur riders needing waxes, and the rail jam about to begin, our Terrain Park Supervisor has his mobile to his ear and two radios both paging his number, all while re-arranging the judging station. The rail jam proceeds with two runs per rider; the day finishes ahead of schedule, and we call it a night, apprehensive for tomorrow.
We arrive before sunrise while the snow is still hard, hoping to reshape and spork the features before the temperature rise. We watch daybreak colour the sky, and the frenzy ensues. Adrenaline filled bodies operate the mountain with nonstop radio traffic, helicopter film crews, salt laps, chairlift lines, first aid, security, and one police visit. The spectator garden entertains the industry old-dogs, future prospects and the occasional lurker soaking up some vitamin D. Each rider receives 2 runs consisting of a 65 foot tabletop into a 75 foot table, followed by a rail jib. The slope style competition exhibited amazing talent! The day ended with exhausted and happy staff.
Chills went through my spine as we congratulated each other – I’ve never felt such a monstrous sense of pride. To create something with such passion is truly a wonder. Surrounded by my closest friends, the sun on my face and snow beneath my feet, I am at the roots of my own paradise.
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