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On The Rocks: Go West, Young Man

In my Midwestern town it’s expected that following high school or college you’ll pack up your car and drive west to work at a ski resort for a winter, where you’ll finally put to use all that techy gear you’ve been wearing around campus the last four years.

My own trip came together when a friend working in Utah offered me the use of his couch for as long as I wanted, provided I could pay $150 a month and didn’t mind peeing into a Gatorade bottle late at night since the only bathroom was off his bedroom.

I landed in his downtown living room after a two-day drive, my arrival timed to coincide with job fairs at all the local ski resorts. My second and most memorable job fair was at Snowbird. I wound my way up Little Cottonwood Canyon that day and sat through an orientation led by a mustachioed man wearing a referee shirt. I remember nothing from his presentation except that he said I wouldn’t be able to ride the tram my first year of employment and that facial hair was banned, except for mustaches. I got the feeling he’d fought hard for that exception.

After orientation he encouraged us to mill about a large room setup with card tables, each one representing a different place we could work at the resort, and they would do interviews on the spot if they liked your resume. I surveyed the room and noticed an odd preponderance of motocross shirts. Most people were in T-shirts or sweatshirts, and one guy was wearing overalls. I considered myself in a good position to land a job since I’d put on a tie and khaki pants.

My two interviews were so odd that right after I had them, I transcribed them as best I could remember. And I still have them saved.

2004, Snowbird

 “Hi, what are you guys hiring for?” I asked.

A toned woman in a turtleneck with deep wrinkles on her face shook her newspaper and looked up at me over the top of her reading glasses.

“What are you looking for?”

“I don’t know. I have some managerial experience, a ski tech background, and boot fitting. Do you guys have anything?” I asked.

“So you just saw me reading the newspaper and thought you’d come over and interrupt me?” she asked.

She was sitting at a table at a job fair. It was an odd question.

“Here, fill this out and come back.”

She slid another five page application across the table with questions like, “Why do you like being part of a team?” and “Talk about why you love helping people.” I flipped through the application and said, “Is it okay if I just ask what jobs you have available before I fill this out?”

“We have some sales jobs open. Could you handle that? Taking orders from people?”

“Yeah, I was just thinking since I had some managing experience I would ask since you guys might be hiring an assistant manager or something,” I said.

“Look. I’m going to be honest with you,” she said.

I sat back in my chair and met her eyes.

“I wouldn’t hire you. You didn’t even shave, your hair’s not acceptable, and you didn’t even put on a nice shirt.”

I glanced up from the table at the room of long-hairs wearing T-shirts and looked back at her.

“Okay, never mind, then.”

“Look, if you want to go home and shave and put on a nice shirt, then I’ll interview you.”

“I’ll think about that.”

I walked away, stopping for another interview on my way out. A woman in a motocross jersey offered me a job selling ski boots. She said they had managerial openings since every single person who had previously worked at the store had been fired for theft. She handed over her cell phone number, and I told her I’d call in a few days to let her know.

“No rush,” she said. “At least you can relax now, knowing that you’re guaranteed a job.”

So, if you’re among the nation’s youth heading west looking to live the dream at a ski resort, my advice is simple: dress up a tiny bit, it can’t hurt. And if the job doesn’t feel right, walk away from it. There are plenty of jobs in ski towns.

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