Last season, while sitting in the gondola and enjoying the close eavesdropping that the new cabins allow, I tried to hold my tongue. Those that know me can attest to how difficult this is. They talked about the plans of Crystal, questioning the future the old Chair 1, now that it was out of service. Sitting in my ski patrol uniform, I might be considered an authority on the subject. So I spoke up.
“Actually,” I injected. “They’re taking the chair down this summer.” I decided to use the collective “they” pronoun this time. Sometimes I say “we” and at other times I use “they”, depending upon how much anonymity I want to maintain.
The other riders looked at me and smiled. One of them, a local that knows me, smiled too. “Well you would know,” he said. Then he looked at the others. “She’s Mrs. Crystal.”
I laughed. “Not really,” I said. Sometimes it’s easier to just be a ski patroller than the wife of the owner.
I walk the fine filament between ski patroller, ski journalist and the wife of a ski area owner, and while these hats don’t usually clash, sometimes they don’t overlap.
Recently my post about mandatory helmet laws was picked up over at Teton Gravity Research and sparked a bit of a debate. A link to a post I’d written at Mountain Riders Alliance added fuel to the fire. A few of the commenters wanted to discredit my opinions because I was married to the owner of a “corporate” ski area. Since MRA is “creating sustainable mountain playgrounds,” using low-impact, privately owned guidelines, the commenter suggested that my association with Boyne Resorts discredited my opinion. Obviously, I disagree. In fact, I think my unique position in the industry—at once an employee, a journalist and an owner—gives me a valuable perspective.
When I first met John, I had been working as a ski patroller for almost 15 years. I didn’t have a cell phone, nor did I even own a purse. Instead, I spent the summers living out of the back of my truck, working for Outward Bound and the winters at my parents cabin at Crystal.
People often ask me how I met John, but what they really want to know is how he fell in love with someone like me.
Obviously, I can’t answer that.
I can say that we’re right for each other. Even before we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, John was diagnosed with a rare cancer, hoping for a liver transplant to save his life. Since cancer patients are not usually candidates for transplantation, this posed a real problem. That catch-22 acted as a crucible, simmering our relationship into something solid and golden.
My book touches on this, demonstrating how our lives in the mountains gave us the strength to get through our ordeal. Our adventures were dress rehearsals for the real thing, and when he got sick, I relied on them to buoy me.
Currently, I am writing magazine articles that incorporate both sides of my life–the hard-working ski patroller and the hostess to the mountain. They aren’t all that different really. Sometimes I see myself as merely the most enthusiastic and invested employee at Crystal. Other times I gladly don the role of Mrs. Crystal, showcasing this mountain that has been my teacher and my shelter.
You see, it’s a little complicated.