Friday, April 10, 2009

My Hoodoo Days

Alot of people have been asking me about that picture of Hoodoo Butte with Travis in it. It's true; I did work at Hoodoo. I graduated from high school in 1991 then went to community college in Albany for a year. Confused about the smell of a paper mill and concerned about adventure I went to Alaska to stay with my Mom the next summer. After working at a deli in the Plaza Port West mall for a few weeks (where the Taco Time is now) and then working at a salmon cannery I ventured back to Oregon to snowboard, which at the time was a big passion of mine. My brother Alex and I applied at Hoodoo and we both got jobs. We started in the lodge at the cafe and after a month or so I took a job as a ski lift operator. Look at the revised picture of Travis. I have either circled or pointed to the locations on the mountain where I worked. This picture is taken about 15 years after I worked there. That is fucking mind blowing. Time fucking flies.


There are a few other places that don't appear in this photo where I worked, including the blue chair which is a shorter lift that is open for night skiing. I began at the lodge when I worked at the cafe. Then one day I covered a shift on the bunny lift for someone who didn't show up to work. They forgot about me over there and I did a 10 hour shift without a lunch break. You can't leave a lift to tell someone you are hungry because there is 100 kids waiting in line and you have to watch that they aren't hurting themselves. I was a little uppity about missing lunch and expressed my displeasure with my boss, which I feel dumb about now.

Shit happens. After my success on the bunny lift, and due to a new policy of drug testing at the mountain (which cost many 5+ year employees there jobs! 5+ year employees making 7$ an hour were fired! not a good business model) I was promoted to the red chair. At first I was really excited about this. It meant hanging out in a tiny shack with a heater and stopping the chair if there was an incident. It also meant my immediate coworker was a jaded 60 something who lived alone in an RV in the parking lot and philosophized every time we spoke. Ugh! The way it worked was two of us ran the chair. We talked continuously on the chair phones about riders and would comment on the state of things. He could be a pain. He was set in his ways.

My boss would bring the employees in alone once in awhile to his office and ask how it was going. I remember complaining about the guy I had to work with from open to close. It sucked. He was hard to talk to. This was after a week or so on the red chair. Well, another month went by and by December I had gotten to know my coworker alot better (I believe his name was Joe). I eventually came to really like him, and looked forward to working with him. He was 40 years older and he was really laid back. It was my first memorable experience with someone who took everything so damn easy. He really grew on me!

Around Chistmas him and I won the Hoodoo employee snow sculpture contest! It was a living room scene complete with a snow couch and a snow tv, and a snow chair as well. Life size! The other lifts complained that Joe and I could work on it during open hours because not only were we out of view of the lodge, but we also were the slowest chair on the mountain. Both of these things are true! LOL! Winners! I went to claim my prize and was disgusted by the pink mid 80's cursive Hoodoo sweater we won. Boy, I sure wish I had that thing now.

Towards the end of December Joe and I were chatting in the cafe chatting after our lift had closed. I asked him about his life and why he lived in an RV in a small ski resort parking lot. He explained to me that he used to do the corporate thing. He had run a chain of drug stores in California and made tons of money. He then pulled out his wallet and showed me a picture. It was a Mom and Dad and a girl. I recognized the man in the photo as Joe, and asked him about the other two. Paraphrase: "They were killed by a drunk driver" he told me. "I couldn't function. I quit my job and bought the RV and now I just go where the wind takes me." I remember tearing up at this. Where is Joe now?

After the holidays and several more firings due to the random drug testing going on I was promoted to the blue lift and then finally to the green lift. The green lift was the longest lift, had a midpoint drop off and was the lift the pros used.

This picture I sniped from Google Earth. A year spent working at a ski resort is fascinating. It's such a moment in time. Rocking School of Fish's Human Cannonball in the green mid-lift shed while drinking cold hot chocolate and watching for problems. Getting to know all my coworkers well. Most other employees are in a similar boat. What's next? Where will the wind take us, so to speak.


Dad did some surfing when he grew up in San Diego. Alex and I decided to take him to the mountain. He tells a story like we took him down a black diamond, and I believe we did at one point. You forget that steep is scary if you don't know how to stop. This is a fantastic picture of Dad rocking the slopes. He was sore for two weeks after this day and decided he never needed to snowboard again.

On the last day of work for the employees my boss told me if I came back I could have any job on the mountain I wanted. I knew it was time for something else. The resort had run it's course for me. I went back to Alaska that spring and stayed there the entire winter. I think this sucks but I believe I have only been snowboarding at Hoodoo twice since I quit. Once in 1993 with my friend Aaron. There was still plenty of old coworkers there that year to say hi to. And once in 1999 or so with Joel and Nate when we were living in Eugene. Every year I think about getting back up there but I just don't care about boarding that much anymore I guess. In fact, I have been to the top of Hoodoo probably 10 times since I quit, but all during the summer as a hike. Like the picture below

when my Dad and I hiked to the top in the summer of 1998. And the picture at the top of the page when Travis and I hiked it in 2007. Or the time Aaron and Alex and I hiked our bikes to the top and rode them down. Or the time Rex and I hiked to the top and he pretended to find a wallet, but it was his own. It was a great practical joke.

Every time I go there it blows my mind. You know those feelings of 'home' that you get? The sensation from a place or smell or sound is so strong that it bring you somewhere? That's what I get at Hoodoo. When Travis and I went camping at Lost Lake (not the Mt Hood Lost Lake) in October 2007 one morning we both woke up at like 4 am. Neither of us could sleep (garlic?) so we decided to get up. "Come on man- I know what we should do! A fucking sunrise awaits!" We drove the five minutes from the lake to Hoodoo and hiked that bastard to see the sun destroy us. And it did.


Black Butte in the distance. Capturing the sunrise!




Travis fighting the wind. What s strong shadow! It was so early we didn't even bring beer!



My clever Drinky Clown mask I couldn't get enough of that trip. The top of Hoodoo in the background.



A proud Travis at the top!




This picture is a capture from a video I took on my and Travis' hike up Hoodoo. I spent hours and hours in that little box. It was actually the best spot to be on the whole mountain if you're a lift operator. Usually only competent skiers would make it up here so it was fairly incident free. The video below is of Travis and I at the peak of Hoodoo on our sunrise hike. It is really windy so it's really loud. Also it's a rough handling of the camera, but it gives a sense of place.

2 comments:

RolandBV said...

Such an adventure when you're younger, only to be topped by the journey to the Last Frontier the following winter.
You went the rugged route in life and damn did it pay off!

Travis said...

That's a sweet fannypack I'm wearing.