A lifestyle that takes one happily into retirement

  • Published in MyView


This is addressed to Ken Quackenbush.

Dear Ken,

I just finished reading The Burlington Free Press online article about Mad River's Single and your journey on the final chair. It was very nostalgic and brought a tear to my eyes, recalling all those times that I rode that lift, many times with a shovel in my hands, while working at Mad River. Names are more of what I recall than "epic" powder days -- George Neill, Guy Livingston, Clesson Eurich, Lynn Barnor, Bobby Aylward, Dick Brothers, Gordie Eurich, Pat McCuin, Tex Thompson, and countless others who were the crew that made the place what it was each day.

I remember how we needed to shape up and be sharp if Roland Palmedo was expected or was at the area. Also, it was important to know who else had a stake in the place, like John Gerli, Ed Eaton and Mr. Botzow. I think I was 13 years old the first time I packed snow for ski privileges, and the next year we were paid 75 cents an hour. I recall standing with the other employees in that narrow hall downstairs as you handed out the paychecks -- and then going over to Andy Hengstellers and applying that check on my account to pay for equipment, reminiscent of the "company store."

I recall thinking that Bud Phillips and Don Powers were about the coolest guys I had ever seen. I have vivid memories of the preparation for the New England Kandahar (hay bales on the trees on the Beaver) and that funky Parachute Race where the racers jumped out of a plane and tried to hit an "X" in the Catamount Bowl before they barreled down the mountain, with just a few control gates, more to mark the course than to control their speed. I remember that at least one racer ended up near Bristol, having been blown off course and bushwacking out to where he could hitchhike back to the mountain.

I recall going up the Single with you early one morning for the milk run. The wind was blowing terribly and you wanted to measure the speed. You must have had an anemometer with you, because we climbed that wooden observation tower and you climbed up on the railing, while I held you around the knees so you could get a reading. I have no clue why you felt another four feet of elevation was important!

I recall how proud I was to be asked to help load on the Single and be in that exclusive club of mostly farm boys who got to work for George Neill. Then there was the time Clesson Eurich thought it was time I learned how to chew tobacco while we loaded chairs -- not a pleasant memory!

I thought those wool and denim horse blankets were the grossest thing ever -- they had to be dried after the rider had sneezed, drooled, coughed and God only knows what in them on the ride up the lift. I remember thinking that I wanted to make a career of skiing, how important it was to work outdoors, and no matter how bad things were, it only lasted for a few months and then we got to do something else in the next season. I'm glad that the insurance thing got in the way and I was able to have skiing as a life sport instead of a career!

I met Connie when I was the head snowmaker at Bromley and she was an instructor-she came back to Waitsfield with me and spent 14 years instructing there. She would go to the Cricket Club, bundle up our kids, and give them lessons on her lunch hour. She can tell more Mad River tales than I can.

Connie and I now spend eight months of the year in Park City, Utah, and I'm able to ski 50 to 60 days each season. Thanks to guys like Tony Hyde, Frank Day, Henry Perkins, Sewall and Art Williams, and many others, including yourself, who made sure that a bunch of farm kids got into an open cattle truck every Wednesday afternoon and made that sometimes brutally cold trip to Mad River to learn a sport that for many of us would become a vocation and, for some, a lifestyle that would take us happily into our retirement years. Thank you so much!

When Dick Jamieson is not in Park City, Utah, he lives in Waitsfield.