The revered SGT boss man did not gain his power from his position, age, or even skiing ability. During my first year I looked up to a twelve-year-old Italian kid who spoke about as much English as I did Spanish (and let’s just say I’m the king of the ‘Smile and Si’). If you had the jokes, the ability to hit your opponent hard and above the belt, you could be having head guide Skylar Holgate make you afternoon snacks within days of your arrival, which I quickly was.
I admit it wasn’t my first rodeo. I hail from Manhattan, where the average ego is bigger than the Empire State Building and just about as stable as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but even for me the competition was fierce. Days spent on the mountain would be full of smiles, powder turns, and high fives, but deep down inside I knew that everyone felt that same sense of brewing anticipation for the verbal hellfire that would commence at the removal of our ski boots. Dirty jokes, you may ask? You’ve got it all wrong. The war starts with a truthful statement, spit out from a grinning set of yellow ones (we’re still dealing with skiers here). “I heard about that fall today.” That’s the one that always gets you; there really is no good response. Your verbal assailant walks away, and immediately you start brainstorming some mental comebacks: “Oh you did hear about that fall today?” I thought to myself sarcastically, “Well, just, uh, shut up or something.” Nope. Pace yourself. He’s not worth it. You put it in your pocket though, let it mull around for a while, and wait till he trips on the stairs. “Yeah, I can’t believe I fell today, I mean, right?” There you go, good job. He’s eating out of your palm for sure now.
And so it goes on like that, relentlessly of course, until the façade cracks and the occasional complement slips out to remind us why we really booked that flight in the first place, even if the sarcastic battleground was where we ended up. “Hey man, nice line.” “I’m sorry, did you just complement me? What an idiot!” And so it starts again…