The Lodge That Built Me

Everybody has a significant place in their life that has built them. A place that taught you lessons, brought you new ideas, and showed you life skills. Of course, we wouldn’t be the same without every location we have gone and seen, but there is always a place that is the most significant. For me, this place is a lodge, or a few lodges, at a ski resort. My family owns three lodges at the Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington, where I’m from. My extended family bought them in 1995 from some Austrian folk, hence the Austrian-inspired decor of two of the hotels and our famous après ski bar, the Snorting Elk Cellar. The main lodge, called the Alpine, takes center stage.

With access to our ski resort, I basically started skiing when I started walking. Ever since, my skis have been my second feet. I grew up racing on the Alpine team for 7 years, which I still love and miss to this day. After racing, I joined the Big Mountain, or Freeride team.  I remember the first time I competed, it was very strange and different from what I was used to with racing. Despite the difference, racing helped me significantly with my form and speed, something that helped my scores in freeride competitions. But Big Mountain was a whole different game. It pushed my fears more than anything else. I was challenged to ski steeper and more technical lines, jump cliffs, and compete in any conditions. I also met a lot of my friends through skiing, many of whom I hang out with to this day, even here at the U. It means a lot to have a community of people from back home and share our favorite sport in the place we all met. 

Once I turned fourteen, my parents encouraged me to start hosting in the restaurant of our main lodge. Originally, I thought it was so I could start making money, which was part of it, but it was also to gain experience working with and speaking to customers. No matter who you are or what work you end up going into, being able to communicate with any type of customer and coordinate with other employees is always a valuable life skill. My parents always told me, “Never trust someone who hasn’t worked in customer service”. They were right, because there is a large difference between people who have that experience and those that don’t, and it shows. In my opinion, everyone should experience working in customer service not only to have work experience, but to see how many different types of people act. Being able to communicate with a wide range of individuals has definitely helped me in the long run. In addition, I’ve seen as I grew older is what it means to run a business. I’ve seen my family do many things over the years to improve every lodge. A lot of money, hard work, and planning go into making every component work. Despite all the effort it takes, the benefits are high. We have many valuable connections thanks to our family business and presence on the mountain.

Lastly, I am grateful. Grateful to have another place I could always go to growing up. I love Seattle and enjoyed growing up in the heart of the city, but a lot of kids who grow up in cities don’t get as much of that outdoor experience. I’m grateful that I got to escape to my own personal place. Many young city kids haven’t seen places that aren’t crowded with people or cars. If you grew up in a place that didn't allow for much outdoor experience, there's still time and plenty of places to see! It's very important to get away from the city every once in a while. I think learning about the natural world around you is an especially humbling and important part of growing up. I remember my dad sometimes taking me skiing just outside the resort boundary where there was nobody and no tracks. It was amazing. It was a breath of fresh air every time. Now that I'm in school here, I don't get to go back often. So now each time back just gets better. As I gain further understanding to the complexity that goes into our whole operation, the more appreciation I have for the process my family went through to bring these opportunities to me. Hopefully, the place that helped you to grow still holds a place in your life. It is also possible that you are still searching for your place, and that's okay! Or maybe, the place that built you was more of an experience or a specific event. Either way, life lessons and skills presented to you over time are incredibly valuable, and will shape who we are and who we become.

 

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Image Sources: All images are the author's