I was quickly offered a position selling tickets for ski school lessons at Squaw Valley and my wife got a job at a ski and clothing shop near Alpine Meadows. I also started working at a 7-11 convenience store near Squaw Valley. We both got Season tickets for skiing at Squaw Valley so we were going to be able to ski for free. Our salaries were small, but we were going to be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We ended up renting a very small apartment that was a converted motel. It was so small that you could reach both walls from the bed and the TV at the foot of the bed if you had to. We had a tiny little hot plate and that was all we needed. I remember eating instant oatmeal every morning….and loving it.
Unfortunately, there was very little snow all Fall and even through much of January and February. There was man-made snow and not much else. It was beautiful to ski in the sunshine everyday, but it was a drought for the state and precipitation was badly needed. This was a very special time. I taught my wife how to ski and she became quite good at it. We had very little money and were not paid well, so we lived a very simple life. I cashed out the little retirement money I made in the three years teaching as I thought I would never return to teaching. I was enjoying every day so much. I often think it was the best year in my life.
I later got a job on the Cable Car that ran up and down the mountain. I was able to work the night shift that went from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM at night, so then I could ski all day, everyday. I would put an X mark on my calendar every day that I skied. At the end of the year I had skied 82 days. I had become an outstanding skier. I skied ice, powder, in the rain, in snow storms and more. I lived to ski. Nothing like sitting on a chairlift surrounded by beautiful trees, fresh air, sunshine and white slopes. I miss being able to do that so much, but am grateful for that opportunity.
The cable car I operated was actually a very important, challenging and sometimes dangerous job. Years before, lives had been lost on the cable car. It could hold up to 100 people and at times you were exposed to severe winds that could come up suddenly. You had to pilot the cable car in a way that the winds would not slam the car into the towers they traveled by. Sometimes you would have to come to a stop. There were wind gauges at the bottom of the hill and you kept in touch via radio. You always had to act calm, but sometimes it got scary. There was at least one time that I was stuck on the top of the mountain unable to come down because of the winds. It was terribly cold at times as well and I would keep those chemical bags that heated up in my boots to keep my toes warm.
Eventually in March, it finally started snowing like nothing I had ever seen. We quickly accumulated 12 feet of snow. (about 4 meters). It was spectacular. I had big chains on the tires of my van so I could drive in it. It also became extremely cold for a while…below zero by 10 to 15 degrees, so you had to be very careful when leaving the house. Your body simply doesn’t function well in that cold. It was exciting. The one common thing was that it was typically sunny every day. It would snow all night and you would wake up to brilliant sunshine, crystal clear blue skies and green pine trees with the big pine cones. It was dream like. I got to ski in powder snow everyday for a while and became quite good at it. I remember one morning I got on the cable car early because I worked there and then I was able to go on another chair lfit to take a run on granite chief that had remarkable powder runs. I was the only one on the slope and I remember listening to the Indigo Girls surfing down the powder snow. It was a wonderful life! There was a hill behind our apartment that I would run up each day in the afternoon if I had time. I wore my warm Sorel boots. It was so strenuous. I would put the music on and labor up the hill. My heart was pounding and I was sweating, but I loved it. Then I would enjoy the view from the top briefly before coming down the hill quickly with big jumps. The simple pleasures. To read the newspaper at that time I would pick up the newspapers left at the local restaurant. We would check out books from the local library, but I don’t recall reading much. It was a physical Winter
For part of the Fall I also worked a night shift at the 7 -11. I had never known how demanding the job was. You have to keep the refrigerators stocked, the hot dogs warm, the cheese melted, coffees refilled….have to know how the lottery game works, write money orders….and the list goes on and on. I actually liked the job. I loved greeting people coming in and getting to know everybody. When I got the job on the cable car I had to quit. Shortly after that something really terrible happened. I was skiing down the slope one day and a woman came up to me and burst into tears as I recall. She was so happy to see me alive and ok because she had heard that the cashier at the 7 – 11 had been shot the day before and she thought it was me. .There is a lot of luck in life.
As the Spring approached, we heard that the trail job had finally been given the go ahead and I could report to Big Sur and La Ventana Wilderness for the 50 mile trail job. My wife would stay behind and finish her job at Squaw Valley, but the money was too good for me to stay. I drove to Carmel Valley and found the trailhead and hiked in to meet the team. It was a very different experience than the Pacific CrestTrail. It was dry, hot and the vegetation was completely different. There were things to be concerned with like rattle snakes, poison ivy and ticks. After one of the weeks on the trail I came down to take a shower and found something hard stuck to my body in a sensitive area. I pulled it off my body and I then realized it was a tick that was full of my blood. It had the shape of a football. The trail was beautiuful , but the work tough. Very thick brush that took hours and hours to make any progress through. I did run into a rattlesnake on the trail at one point and it just sat there. I waited it out but it did not move. I am fearful of snakes. I finally just went for it off to the side.We had a fallen log that we had to saw through with a two man saw. That was because again, chainsaws were not allowed. The one tree took most of the day. That is how big it was. Unfortunately, before I had arrived on the trail, the team had cheated and used a chainsaw. Government inspectors found out and stopped our job dead in its tracks. So the job was short lived. I returned to Squaw valley.
One of the good jobs in town in Tahoe City was the cashier job at safeway. Decent money and benefits. I went there and took a math test that they give people. They told me not to worry about finishing it because nobody ever had. It was simple math and I finished the multiple parts quickly. They didn’t believe me and then found out I got 100 percent correct. All those years of working with baseball statistics paid off. They offered me a job. What happened next?