The Gap

You know, when you sit on a beach chair at the shore, your mind gets baked like your body and you tend to wander as you look at people walking down the beach. That guy with the black socks, and sandals, …..what does he do? Then you think of all the crazy scenarios that run around in your sun baked mind and you laugh. Now there is a young family……wide eyed and full of the future ahead of them…..wonder where they live? The mind thinks of nothing important in a beach chair. As my eyes located our two young life guards, I saw them constantly talking and laughing and I was thinking, ” I wonder what their story is?” ” Are they college room mates working together for the summer?” ” Maybe they are lifelong friends on a summer adventure?” IMG_0938

Then my mind went back to when I was not ready to enter the working world just yet after graduating from college. I said to my dad, ” I want to work at Sugarloaf, Maine this winter as a ski instructor. I will be staying in Bob Irish’s cabin in Stratton, Maine. I want to get the hours and training in so that I can pass my PSIA Certification for Ski Instruction.” My dad looked at me in a funny way and said, ” Don’t make a career out of it.” I could have done that, as many have done and enjoyed their life in the mountains, but I knew this was a need for a specific purpose and that I most likely would not make a career out of it. But, I was sure glad that I went and worked at one of the more premier ski locations in the East. It was cold as hell that winter, but the experience was great and it prepared me to go to Killington and pass my exam. I subsequently made another trip to Tuckerman Ravine and camped and skied with some friends and eventually made my way home straight to Marilyn Young’s party- 15 hours of driving right into her driveway looking pretty much like what you see here. 70019150-SLD-001-0028

A lot of young people take a “Gap Year” to do something they might never get to do if they just pursue their education and take the subsequent job after college. Some quit mid-stream and ” find themselves” when they are perhaps lost in the educational shuffle and need some time off to find their way. Others leave and never come back because college is not for them. I have seen both paths and most of them have worked out best for the person who is willing to take the time off, travel, experience new things, but knowing that someday, they would finish their education or move on to the job that awaits them after college. I really did not have much direction other than the half baked idea that I would go to law school. But that fizzled and the “Gap” at Sugarloaf gave me some perspective of being away on my own, earning a meager living, and working in the resort industry. It was a lot more fun than my summer job in the box factory and it prepared me for something outside of my formal education. I traveled a lot in my 20’s because I was more interested in my outside of work activities than I was with my job of working in my dad’s small company. It was important for me to have this “extracurricular” life because my work life was not all that fulfilling. My dad was understanding but the catalyst for my wanderlust began with my winter in Sugarloaf.

Personally, I think most young people are really not ready to go to college after high school. And if they do go, sometimes there are difficulties or questions that lead to taking the ” Gap”. Questions need to be answered and needs met so I tell young people all the time that if they have a particular passion to do something for a little while outside their prescribed path, they should take the opportunity. You have your whole life to work, have limited vacation time, and then the pressures of family, mortgages, and life in general. You feel better sometimes if you get it out of your system. Some people make a living from their “Gap” passions and if you can do that, you are fortunate indeed. But at the very least, you have had the experience and you can have the pleasure of relating your experiences to your co-workers in the future or your family and friends. To this day, I still tell of my adventures as a young guy in New England and I am happy for it. I am glad that my path took me to Sugarloaf and I am glad the the result of my winter was fruitful in many ways. I should have done more of that.

So, these two in the lifeguard chair have a lot of life to live. They will remember these days for the rest of their lives and when they are sitting in a cube or perhaps in their own business someday, they can look back with fond memories of the laughs at the beach, and the stories from their “Gap” experience. Parents- encourage your kids in all aspects of their development.beachwater Thanks for reading.

Maine Memories

3ba337e7_vbattach3090 At the risk of being “risque” I am posting one of the most famous ski posters of all time. Gadda stay edgy or people won’t read your blog.:) This is the 1972 Lange ” Keep your tips up” poster. There have been many conversations about this poster over the years and one of the pervading questions is ” who was this girl in the poster?” She actually was from Stratton, Maine and I met her when I was working in Sugarloaf, Maine in 1977. As you would suspect, she had no truck with me or any of my granola crunching, woodchuck friends who worked at the ski area. We were way below her “pay grade.” She was a rock star in the Carrabassett Valley.
Her parents were a nice old couple who ran a motel accross the street from where I was staying in Stratton. Ralph and Margaret were an interesting couple. She was a pretty native american lady and Ralph was a crusty old Mainer who was as wise as he was tough as nails. We had many conversations on those cold, clear nights and some of his gems that he told me were,” Don’t ever trust a traffic light up here. Look both ways because the logging trucks can’t and won’t stop coming in from Canada.” Don’t ever go accross the border and go to a bar looking like a college kid. You will surely get your butt kicked.” ” If you see a bull moose, give it distance because they can charge you.” I found that out in a hurry one night when I came accross one right outside of the town of Kingfield. My VW was no match for him. I jammed it in reverse and laid tire for a couple of hundred yards.
It was cold that winter and waking to 40 below straight temperature was no picnic. But Sugarloaf is a wonderful ski area. I used to watch the Can-Am Downhill Ski Races there on the Narrow Gauge trail. I saw the Crazy Canucks as they were making their way to the International World Cup scene. Todd Brooker, Ken Reid, Steve Podborski all raced at Sugarloaf. The Narrow Gauge was an unforgiving rock hard track and one poor bugger lost one of his skis coming over the rise about halfway down and shouted,” MEDIC” as he rocketed into the woods. We thought that comment was funny until we saw the ski patrol fish him out of the woods and haul him to the hospital. I learned a lot about skiing that winter. I often think about those days and about Ralph and Margaret and whether their daughter ever made a killing from that poster. Ralph told me that he met his wife at a dance on the other side of the mountain. He had taken his dog sled to the dance and after he met Margaret, they were instantly attracted to each other and he strapped all her belongings on to the back of the sled and took her back over the mountain to Stratton where he married her and she helped him run the motel and raise a family. Maybe I should have taken a dog sled to Bellevue and taken my wife Janet back to Hampton Twp,Pa. It would have been a great story but tough sledding over Rt 19 and Rt 8.
I will always cherish those days and I tell young people all the time that after they graduate, if they feel like doing something fun and adventurous, do it. My good friend Art Bonavoglia is working in Vail as a ski instructor this year at 60 years old. He didn’t have the opportunity as a young guy but he is living the dream now thanks to the patience of his wife Sharon. They love him in Vail. Carpe Deium Art.