Chairlift Related Incidents – The Early Off Loader

So people really do fall off chairlifts. Luckily we have had no one injured from falling this year, as the falls have been relatively minor and very close to the load and unload stations.

Though this particular incident doesn’t happen too often it has happened and I have been witness to it twice this season.

Right near the end of each chairlift ride, right at the point where guests start to raise the safety bars on their chairs, skiers do a little wiggle and shift themselves forward in the chair as to make it easier to stand up at the unload point. I hate this. Especially when the kids do it.

Twice now I have seen a skier do their little wiggle near the end of the ride, and wiggle a little too far.At the time an enclosure was set up around the entire unload station and so the falls are very short and in to soft snow.

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Both times the person stood up dumbfounded, looked at me and said “sorry”. Luckily neither were injured.

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Living as a Lifty – The Accommodation

Being a Lifty is great. But the accommodation for a Lifty? Yeah. Not so great.

Nissen

Nissen 2 – Sunny Side

The majority of the Lifties and Instructors on Falls Creek live in two buildings called Nissen 1 and Nissen 2, right at the top of the village. These buildings are known by the locals and frequents as being terrible.

I live in Nissen 2 on the top floor of ‘sunny side’. When I came up for training week there were so many problems with our room. For starters (and probably the worst), we didn’t have a hot water tap in the shower and had no way of getting the hot water on, so we had cold showers. Our heater also didn’t work and the bathroom door handle kept falling off. Perhaps the funniest fault was that our fridge was on the coldest setting and the knob we needed to turn it up was broken, so our food and drink kept freezing……. Oh, and our microwave didn’t work and the power was out half the time.

nissen beds

(My room mate just walked in home from the pub in a short dress and bra stuffed with toilet paper and makeup, ripped the toilet paper out of his bra and said “man I can’t begin to tell you how itchy my nipples are”. This is Nissen life)

Nissen 2 is a three story building. The bottom floor is used by resort maintenance and the top two floors are a series of dorm like apartments about 3.5m wide and 6m deep. Bathroom, beds, kitchen, living room and all included. It’s cosy. Moving here was a complete change. For the first month and a half I was quite uncomfortable in this building, but now I love it. It grows on you. Socially this place is brilliant, every night there is something going on and there are always people everywhere.nissen shelves

Last week I was in the bathroom preparing for a night shift, and when I went to leave, I discovered that the handle had fallen off (after maintenance had been and fixed it) and that I was stuck. For about half an hour I was yelling through the vent screaming “ROOM 49” and various other things. But no one came. Eventually, given the uncertainty of the time and the consequences of not arriving at work on time. As well as knowing that my house mates are at work and wouldn’t be home in time. I decided to kick the door in. I got to work. I also had plenty of time.

On the plus side, our broken door is now the most functional it has been all season. There is even a little hole where the handle used to be to pull it by. 

This place took some time to adjust to, but there is no where in the world I would rather be right now.

A Day In The Life Of A Lifty

Being a Lifty is an extraordinary experience. Coming from being a desk bitch for years, starting work here as a Lifty on Falls Creek nearly broke me.

falls-creek-ski-lifts

I have heard many comments about how it must be an easy job, just getting to stand there and greet people all the time. Whilst a lot of the time we are seen to be just standing around, this job is not as easy as it may appear.

Every morning we turn up to each and every top and bottom lift station, typically an hour before the lift opens. When working on the snow, everything must be completely packed up and re set up almost every day, otherwise things become iced over and stuck and/or buried and lost. As soon as us Lifties get to work in the morning we are smashing star pickets in to ice and snow, tying ropes up for que races, shoveling excess snow out of lift stations and sometimes even shoveling snow in to lift stations.

Through our working days, I would like to remind all those non lifty types out there that conditions are more often than not, very unpleasant. It’s very common to be working in rain, hail, heavy wind, snow and white out conditions, and it is always cold.

The first two weeks of my time here at Falls were like being forced to drink cement. The season started with a ‘Boom’. In about one week we went from having no snow to having a base well over a meter deep. Every shift for the first two weeks was almost entirely shoveling. My body became so sore, worn and injured that I could not sleep and had to force myself to just keep slugging.

Once a lift stations set up is complete and I phone the Lift in as operational, the chaos begins. Most lifts here at Falls Creek are very well designed, easy to load and unload and not much goes wrong, but some are mental. The reason some lifts are crazy is not even mostly due to the lift itself but rather the lifts location, subsequent traffic and under experienced riders.

Whilst a lift is operational, besides shoveling and maintaining the lift station, our job is primarily to pay attention and to keep safely getting people on and off the lifts. Every person must be treated as a beginner. Often people line up to get on a chair with the latest and greatest gear yet have never been on snow or used a chairlift. Everyday, on a few lifts in particular here, incidents happen. The parent that insists their child is fine to get on the chair themselves without help, the enormous school groups, the large non english speaking families just riding the lift for the scenery, the people that simply don’t stand up at the unload point, the occasional clown that drops his/her board half way up the lift, the beginners that go up summit and freak out at the top etc etc.

A good Lifty is constantly prepared, with a finger on the slow button, and another on the stop button. A good Lifty has eyes on every single customer and is ready to lift, push, pull and occasionally even drag people to wherever they need to be to ensure that no one gets injured and that people can safely continue to load and unload the chairs.

Being a Lifty is amazing, but be prepared to have nature test you.

For anyone looking to get seriously fit, have an active social life and to save some cash at the same time, do a snow season at a Victorian resort. You will also leave as a pro on the snow.

Wind Hold – A Lifties Perpective

From the moment we woke, outside was completely white. The kind of white that will only vaguely let you see objects within a few meters.

As usual I prepared for work. As a Lifty we don’t get to choose whether or not we go out. If the conditions are horrific, and we are on the roster, we strap on our boards and get out there. On leaving the accommodation there was no suggestion of heavy winds, only the usual calm of the mountain. I set off on foot to Eagle Chairlift (the usual meeting point for all of us Lifties in the morning) where we waited for all the appropriate clearances, loaded the chairs, and went off to work. But this was no ordinary chair ride.

At the base of Eagle Chair everything seemed normal. A little colder than usual perhaps, but nothing extraordinary. Our ascent began and very shortly I could hear the whistle of the wind. By half way up the Chairlift the wind was extremely heavy. All three of us on the chair were gripping the safety bar as it swayed uneasily in the wind. I remember looking at the chairs returning to the bottom swaying so hard that they were nearly hitting the Lifts columns. About three quarters of the way up, Milli (who was sitting beside me), had her helmet blow completely off her head and into the ‘never to be found again’ unknown.

Eventually we all got to the Top of the Chair and grouped by work buddies for the day (the lifts stopped immediately and went on a wind hold that lasted for two straight days). Milli and I were working at a Lift Station that was at the bottom of a blue and black run area, with some very steep terrain. We skated our boards across to the top of the run we needed to take and strapped our other feet in. The wind was horrible, as we stood up and pointed our boards down the mountain, the wind was smashing ice and snow so hard against us that we were being pushed back up hill. We eventually had to make the decision to unstrap our boards and start trekking down very steep and slippery terrain, straight in to the wind, dragging our boards with us. It took about 15 minutes worth of slowly struggling downhill for us to reach a point at which we could actually strap our boards on and get to work at the bottom.

Once we reached the bottom we were immediately notified of the wind hold situation. Basically it was too dangerous to operate the lifts in such extreme conditions. Unless you happen to be a Lifty of course.

During a wind hold, depending on circumstances, Lifties can end up doing a variety of things. During a wind hold at a bottom station with excessive snow means an entirely shovelling work shift. Unfortunately this was that shift, so we picked up our shovels and started digging. I remember the ice being so hard to break that we were using a hammer drill with a giant ice bit trying to break it up.

I remember standing at the base of the slope looking up the mountain. The air at the base was still but I could see the chairs swinging wildly in the wind above. Most notably I remember staring at the slopes as the high winds picked up all the fresh snow and carried it in wind currents, meandering it up the side of the mountain through the natural features and moguls.

wind hold

This was one of the most extreme experiences I have ever had, it wasn’t very fun, but I’m so happy I was there to experience it.

And So It Snows

Last night offered me only 3 hours sleep. The Snow Season is late but is now ON! In less than 24 hours now I am on my way up to Falls Creek (the snow resort) and I don’t come back.

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It’s enlightening to look back at my journey so far. There are so many societal expectations that I have been trying (successfully) to fulfill for such a long time and there are others that I have more quietly completely flunked on. But up until now, I have never really been happy. Of course there have been good days and there are memories that I hold fondly, but if I were to step back and look at my life as a whole, it was never going in a direction that I wanted it to. It has been going in a direction that I felt was expected of me.

I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen with the rest of my life, but I have learned many very important lessons recently. Mainly that there is no point doing something if we don’t enjoy doing it. Secondly, stuff what people think we are meant to do, the only person that can decide on what is best for you is you. There is nothing that we are meant to do. All I choose to do now is keep myself happy and surround myself with good people. I don’t have space left in my life for negativity.

Being happy does not mean life comes without it’s stresses. For the most part I have found a profound peace recently, but anxiety still lingers, every now and then it pops up and I find a sleepless night. Will I run out of money? Will my choice of lifestyle be sustainable? Will I be able to continue to save? However in order to find our place in this world, the place where we find our purpose and are happy, we must face these fears head on. I have already faced my biggest fear, I have left my profession.

So tomorrow, my adventure really begins. The snow is coming. For the next few months I will be the best damn lift attendant on the mountain and on my days off I will forget the past, and forget the future, and live in the moment, with anyone that is willing to share their time with me. Life’s too short. People are too important. I’m looking for some more good people to share my life with.

A few brief words of wisdom from a bearded man to see me off. My next post will be from the Mountain. I’m very excited.

I Want to be a Fire Truck

When I was a toddler I wanted to be a Fire Truck. Then when I was a little older, I wanted to be a Lawyer. Then when I was a bit older again I wanted to be a Cabinet Maker, then a rock star. Now i’m an Engineer.

Image Credit: bit.ly/1gKy8pG

Image Credit: bit.ly/1gKy8pG 

My point is that it always seems we should have some idea of the direction in which we want to/are meant to head. But really, we probably don’t. Ultimately the majority of us just fall into place, somewhere that our education has dictated we belong, or somewhere that our connections have placed us. We then just keep turning up. We stop asking questions. Wait for the next pay packet. Then figure out how to spend it.

I can’t accept this.

I overheard a conversation on the train this morning, on my way to my desk. A lady was telling her friend about how her child seems to have figured out what he wants to do with his life. He wants to be a physio because he is good at maths and sport. It seems to me that as adults we expect that our children should be making decisions so young as to what they want to do with the entirety of their lives, and that it is expected of them to do that thing they decide on so young, their entire life. We scare them into thinking that if they make the wrong decisions they will be stuffed.

Perhaps life is more about the journey than the destination. Perhaps we should concentrate on enjoying the right now than exposing ourselves to stressful and unenjoyable situations in search of some ultimate goal or job that we don’t know yet if we will even enjoy. The workforce is so far removed from the education system that we are simply not giving our youth realistic expectations.

I am no wise old Wizard. I’m just a young man, confused and lost, starting off on my pursuit of happiness. I feel though that my wisdom is growing. Money no longer controls my thoughts. Though money is necessary in this life, and I do aim to make my own, passion, people and love are taking over my mind.

If I could, and I hope I soon do, speak to the (ultra) young people (i’m still very young) currently going through school and being asked to make decisions for their future. I would tell them to do whatever it is that makes them happy, and do it better than anyone else. Choose subjects based on what you enjoy and not on what prerequisites a particular course at university might have. If you are doing classes that you don’t enjoy in order to get into a University course. You’re probably not going to enjoy the University course. Success is personal. If you’re measuring your success based on someone elses opinion of you, you’re doing it wrong.

So, really, the moral of my story is enjoy now. Now will never come again, and if you spend now worrying about then, when then comes, no doubt you will be worrying about the next then. Don’t get lazy, keep pushing forward, keep doing what you love, keep drawing, building, creating, writing, reading, traveling etc. If you’re not doing what you love, then you have simply not thought hard enough about how to get yourself there. In Australia, there is no excuse, everything you could possibly need is at your fingertips. Go out and get it. Quit complaining.

Btw, as of right now, I have:

  • 7.17 days;
  • 172.10 hours;
  • 10,326 minutes; or
  • 619,560 seconds left until I am no longer an engineer.

In one and a half weeks from now my life will be entirely different.

Life in a Backpack

Followers of this blog will know that I have been rapidly downsizing my life. Getting rid of all the clutter, throwing out all the crap that I have accumulated and trying to figure out what it is that I really need, and what is really important.

Where my things once were

Where my things once were

There’s less than 4 weeks now until I take off for Falls Creek for the snow season and I have successfully removed almost all of the material crap from my life. Those things that I have chosen to keep (a few guitars and a telescope) have been rammed into ‘out of the way’ corners at my parents house for storage. The rest of my life, the things I wish to take with me, are getting very close to fitting into a backpack.

After the snow season I don’t yet know what I will be doing, though I was thinking about making a move up to Queensland and spending the whole summer working and surfing. I hope that by cramming everything I need into a backpack that making a move like this may be as simple as just going. Just doing it. Of course if this is the direction that I choose for my next chapter then I will do what I can to pre-organize work and accommodation. But if these things don’t happen, why not just go? Why not just try and wing it? What is the worst thing that can happen?

It hard to be care free. But that is, in part, the aim. What is life if we are not doing the things that we want to do? Or at the very least doing everything in our power to get there? Any one of us could die tomorrow.

Corners, careers and a moment to hold on to

30 days now until I finish my engineering career. Less than a month. Wow. It has been an incredibly difficult year, but the next episode is only just around the corner.

My work ethic is pathetic (perhaps my fate is in poetry) at the moment. It’s not something I’m proud of. I feel terrible about my present performance. I need to be doing so much more so that I don’t leave problems behind me for someone else to deal with.

Looking at what needs to be done, it seems perfectly fair and reasonable. Without doubt it could all be achieved ahead of time. But I am not a robot. I am Matt. A big kid. When all passion is lost, all enthusiasm has been drained by a desk, the drive to achieve has been eliminated by the realization that hard work and crap work as an employee result in almost identical personal outcomes. The ability to sit and work crashes and burns.

It’s in times like these that I must hold on to the future. My time will come. It is only just around the corner. It is in one month now that rather than hold on to the future I will be holding myself in the present. The first sight of snow for the season. My first ride up a chair lift. The first run down a slope. Sunrise from a mountain top. ‘Hopefully’ a lady under my arm. Life on Falls Creek. My endless ‘now’ will be my moment to hold on to.

One more month. I need to subdue my overwhelming urge to scream, yell, smash and destroy shit for only one more month. My strength is in understanding that no matter the events of the next 30 days, soon I will be on the snow. The stresses of this life will come to pass. Soon.

Three (more) Things I Am Grateful For

Over three weeks ago I watched this TED talk which inspired me to think harder about some of the things in my life that I am grateful for. Three weeks ago when I first posted on the topic of gratefulness I found it quite difficult to come up with three things. Times have been dark lately. This time however it seems much easier. Things are looking up, more so every day, and as such I get to pick three things that stand out among a much longer list of things I am grateful for. So here it goes again.

Three (more) Things I Am Grateful For

1. The Snow    

In just over a month now I make my way up to Falls Creek, where I get to stay for the entire Snow Season! This, coming from an 8:30 – 5:00 desk job nearly 2 hours travel from home is such an enormous and welcome change. The reality of the situation has not hit home, and likely wont until I get there. I get to spend every day outside on the snow and among people. Even if I am to work full time hours, I gain a minimum of 4 hours to myself everyday to have fun, be social and work on myself. I can’t wait.

2. Failure    

Had I not failed, and fallen as far behind as I have, I may never had made the decision to escape the professional trap and start my life journey. Now, although I don’t know what comes after Falls Creek, I am determined to do everything in my power to really live my life. Because we only have one. Ask yourself, is your life boring? Or is it an adventure? I am also grateful for the debt I found myself in, which is now nearly gone. Having so much debt has really hammered home the value of money. Fact is the significant majority of mine has been spent on things that have actually been harmful to myself. Now I can really begin working on becoming a wealthy man.

3. My Education  

We really are exceptionally privileged in Australia. It can be hard to understand when this is the only way we ever experience life. I have received a top notch (though it never seems so at the time) education. Now I also have further education in the form of real world experience. Although I am now choosing to leave the profession I educated for, I do not regret my schooling in it at all. Conversely, I found that University really taught me how to think for myself, and ask the right questions. When faced with something I do not understand, I have all the tools available to me to investigate and learn about the subject. It is no longer a matter of what can I do, but what do I want to do. I have the resources at my disposal to do anything.

Thankfully this wasn’t so hard this time. Next time, I expect it to be easier again. Next time I will be on my snowboard. Almost every day.

Sunshine and Hope

The Sun shines through the train window, its energy being absorbed by my skin and its warmth putting a smile on my face. A smile is all I need a lot of the time. A smile and everything is ok.

Last summer was meant to be the best summer of my life. But that didn’t happen. Although it wasn’t the worst, it was certainly the hardest. I spent it depressed, behind a desk and battling personal demons that I have now proudly squashed. I beat many demons.

Everyday now, I’m a little healthier and a little more optimistic. Those that really know me know that I can tend to be overly enthusiastic and optimistic about all of my silly ideas. Well I’m sorry to say (not sorry at all really) that my enthusiasm is only increasing, and that I anticipate it will explode once I get to the snow.

We are almost in winter now (In Australia), so it’s strange to be thinking of summer already, especially when my winter is already so full of everything amazing. But this summer will be different. This summer I will not be behind a desk. This summer I will get myself somewhere I want to be, no matter the risk. Maybe it’s a summer in Queensland? Maybe not? I have an amazing winter to look forward to where I get to figure that out.

I will spend more time under the Sun, I will learn to Surf, I will play in the sand and dive into the ocean. I will find an amazing swimming hole, with an incredible vantage. I will find myself a bunch of amazing people and we will drink too much, talk to much, laugh too much and never regret a day. This will be my summer of sunshine.