In the United States there are three skiers-only resorts, two of which are in Utah. Alta Ski Resort is one of the oldest resorts in Utah, beloved by visitors and locals alike. The Alf Engen Ski School at Alta was the first ski school in Utah, and for years its focus has been on teaching people of all ages to ski. Twenty-five percent of the runs are beginner, 40 percent are intermediate and 35 percent are advanced, meaning Alta has great terrain for skiers of all levels. Lismore Nebeker, a junior in health society and policy, worked at Alta last winter as a ski instructor. Here’s what she said about working the mountain.
Q: What kind of people go to Alta? What attracts them to this resort?
L: Having it be an all-skiers resort makes it extremely unique, it keeps the terrain perfect for skiers, and it’s something that sets it apart.
I think something that’s also pretty cool about Alta is that it’s been kept pretty traditional over the years, they do a lot of different maintenance updates but it really feels like an old school resort when you get there…Alta’s biggest focus is the mountain, and the skiing, and good snow and good friends.
Q: And you? What makes Alta your resort?
L: I have been skiing at Alta since I was two years old. I grew up at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon and I have a family cabin in Albion Basin. It was the first cabin on the mountain that my grandpa built 60 years ago. My last name is Nebeker and we always say “You’re not a Nebeker if you don’t ski at Alta.” My dad, my granddad, and all my aunts and uncles grew up skiing at Alta. It was a family resort for us.
Q: What are some of the pros of working at Alta?
L: The best part about last year is I was up there four-to-five times a week. I was on the mountain, I was skiing with friends, and I was teaching little kids how to ski which was so fun. It was so unique to be able to see it click in kids’ heads.
Q: What has been one of your favorite days while working at Alta?
L: We had a crazy day last winter. It was a complete blizzard, it was just dumping snow. We were put on interlatch in the lodge. Interlatch means that you can’t leave the buildings while patrol is trying to take care of any avalanche dangers within bounds. All of these kids were asking “When can we go back out to ski? When can we go back out?” All they wanted to do was go back out and ski even though it was a crazy blizzard outside. The kids love it.
Q: Any stereotypes of ski patrol or lift workers that prove true? Or false?
L: I think some people would argue that the atmosphere is too chill. The biggest stereotype is the idea of ski bums smoking weed, drinking and hanging out, skiing all day. I’ve definitely found that that’s not the case, these people have really made a career out of ski instructing. There are plenty of people up there that have been doing this for many years. Some have previously skied professionally, or raced, or have instructed at other resorts and ended up at Alta. It’s definitely something that’s a career-driven place to work.
Q: Where’s the best place to get food at the resort after a long day of skiing?
L: A lot of the ski instructors go to the P-Dog. It’s a bar in the Peruvian lodge at Alta. It’s a hangout spot whether or not you drink. The ski instructors hang out after work, kick their ski boots off and talk about their day.
Q: In the future, would it be a conflict of interest to marry a snowboarder?
L: Yeah, probably. *Laughs* No’ I’m just kidding. I could probably manage a boarder; our kids would definitely need to know how to ski so they could get into the family cabin. So they would have to know skiing first and then if they wanted to pick up snowboarding they could.
Q: Why do you love what you do?
L: I think more than anything, just having [skiing] be a lifelong sport for me. It was a part of growing up. I think the reason why I wanted to work in the ski school was wanting to teach to have fun while skiing. It’s good to remember that it is a recreational sport and that you’re supposed to have fun. It doesn’t really matter how good you are, it can get pretty competitive and aggressive really quickly, but if you remember that it’s something you do for fun, and something you can with friends, it’s something that you can do for life. My grandma skied well into her seventies. It’s something that I’ll be able to do my whole life.
Photo courtesy of Lismore Nebeker