A Smuggs Ski Host Talks Lift Lines and People Pairing | Outdoors & Recreation | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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A Smuggs Ski Host Talks Lift Lines and People Pairing


Published October 9, 2013 at 10:01 a.m.

When I’m skiing alone at Smugglers’ Notch, I live in fear of Peter Guay. For the past two winters, the 41-year-old Milton resident has worked as “ski host” — or lift-line gatekeeper — at the Jeffersonville mountain. It’s his job to determine in what order you board the Sterling or Madonna lifts — and with whom.

I live in fear of Guay because of his peculiar method of pairing up singles.

As you’re waiting in line, he walks up to you, cup of coffee in hand, and quietly asks your name. He pauses a moment, looks up and down the columns of skiers, then shouts at the top of his lungs, “Who wants to ride with Paul?!

If you’re lucky, someone quickly volunteers. If you’re not, he shouts again, “Anyone? Does anyone wanna ride with Paul?!

It’s the height of embarrassment. Dozens of people are staring at you, wondering whether anybody will share a double with you.

Eventually, someone volunteers. Guay asks his or her name and introduces you. Cheeks burning from the cold and the shame, you board the lift, too embarrassed to speak to your newfound friend.

Seven Days decided to get to the bottom of what drives Guay, so I asked him a few questions about his wintertime vocation.

SEVEN DAYS: So what on earth is a ski host, other than someone who yells at people?

PETER GUAY: A ski host, pretty much, [keeps] the lines organized and checks tickets and makes sure that everybody has paid. It’s making sure things run slowly and efficiently.

SD: Tell me about your strategy for pairing up singles.

PG: First of all, I’ll ask them what their name is. As I do it, I’ve got to be really careful. You know what I mean? Having this innate ability to find people who are outspoken, who are friendly. Of course, you’ve got a lot of people out there who are really, really shy.

I ask what their name is. If her name is Jennifer and his name is Brian — of course, I’m getting looks like, “What do you want my name for?” You know? As they come out, I first say, “Jennifer, this is Brian. Brian, this is Jennifer.” And, of course, the other people feed right into it, which just makes my job that much easier. ’Cause they’re being, like, “Aww, isn’t that cute?” And I’ll be, like, “Yep, Brian, you’re going to have to take care of Jennifer, because I know that she likes long walks on the beach.” People are out there, they’re having fun. They’re skiing. They’re not at work. They’re on vacation.

At the beginning of last year — I’ll never forget it — there was a single female. She was obviously there on vacation. And there was this other gentleman and he was asking me about the mountain. There again, I got their names. I introduced them. And they skied together all day long. So when I’m pairing people up, it’s pairing people up, but it’s also friendship.

SD: No kidding!

PG: Another time, somebody had lost their [GoPro] Hero video camera. Somebody gave me this camcorder and, in my infinite wisdom, I turned it on. And I’m going down each line saying, “Is this your camera?” And I’m videoing every single person in line. I filled it up. It got to the point where there was no more room. It was an icy day and there were gentlemen that had ice all over their beards. And I’ve got this camcorder and I’m bringing it in close to their beards. I mean, look at this guy. Look at the icicles. And the guy’s just moving his face around, giving me the best possible video. And about 25 minutes after that, finally this guy comes up and says, “That’s my camera.” And I’m, like, “Are you sure?” And he’s, like, “Yeah, that’s my camera. I lost it up on Sterling.” And I’m, like, “You know, I’ve gotta see some kind of proof. And, sure enough, the glue stick that was on the bottom of the camera matched exactly the glue stick on the top of his helmet. So I said, “I don’t know if you’re gonna be able to use your camcorder for the rest of the day, but I’ve sure got some great footage!”

SD: I actually do remember that and I am in that footage. And I’ve got a lot of ice in my beard, for sure. OK, so let me ask you this: Is everybody as embarrassed as I am when you holler out their name?

PG: No.

SD: No? Are you sure?

PG: Not everybody is. But I would say 80 percent of the people are embarrassed. But I get laughter out of it, and that’s what I enjoy the most. I get really bored when the lines are not long, when it’s an off weekend. If it’s not a holiday weekend, I get some enjoyment out of it, but I certainly don’t get as much [as] if I got a full corral. [That] makes my day go by so fast. I go on Sterling for half an hour. I go to Madonna for half an hour. I go to Madonna 1. And I will tell you, for an hour and a half of those antics and laughter, I get a 30-minute break and I’m tired.

SD: So you’re the only asshole on the mountain praying for long lines then, huh?

PG: Yes. I’m the only asshole out there praying for long lines. Yes. Absolutely. I really do enjoy it. But, as funny as it is, I put in for ski instructor for this coming season, so I will not be calling out people’s names or yelling them out.

SD: Oh, man! Bummer! So I’ll be free from embarrassment this winter?

PG: Yeah. You will be free of embarrassment. Unless I feel miserable. Then I’ll be back on the line.

SD: Will you yell at your students?

PG: No, no, no. Because, as fun as ski host is, when you’re instructing, you know, you don’t want to scare them. Because those people, you want to keep having them come back year after year. So learning how to ski, that’s scary on its own. It’s one thing to have fun, make people laugh, embarrass a lot of people, but when you’re a ski instructor, you don’t want to embarrass people. You want them to have the best experience possible.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Yell It on the Mountain"