I’m a nonbeliever. Nothing you can say or do will convince me otherwise.
Time is illusory.
And yet, I constantly fall to its whims and fancies. The minutes and hours slip past unnoticed and I’m left wondering what happened to the time. Never is this more true than Winter.
My alarm croaks through the dimness at 5:30. Depending on whether or not I need to shave to meet the grooming standards, I may hit snooze for 15 minutes. My next hour and half is spent preparing: I shower, dress, pack, cook, make coffee, and either bike through frigid temperatures, wander to the bus, or await my ride. I spend between thirty-five minutes and an hour making my way up to the slopes, before jumping headlong into my day.
This is where things get weird. It’s important for the mountain to have enough instructors to cover all the lessons they get each day. This isn’t always a simple matter, as it’s only estimates. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to pay an instructor not to teach a lesson, so that means we get a paltry sum (around $4) for showing up just in case, and if they have a lesson, then we get paid to teach.
In the early part of the season, not a lot of people are coming up and taking lessons, and the management likes to spread the wealth among the instructors showing up, so it’s hard to teach every day. When I don’t teach, I’ve been dragging my laptop up, doing research on schools and scholarships, reading, and trying to better myself. I try to ski every day I come up, but the waiting sometimes drains my energy more than skiing.
As the season progresses, extra work starts appearing: setting up signs and fences where the groomers ran, booting and teching equipment, and greeting customers or basic maintenance. After my first season, I was labeled King of the Sunkid, our beginner magic carpet, because I arrived early each day to set up flags, fences and pieces of flare. Now it’s habit to be early, have time to help out, and take a little unrushed me-time to brush my teeth and get geared up.
Right now, it feels like I have all the time in the world. An hour of downtime here and an hour of downtime there start to add up. And yet it’s never enough to feel truly productive. I was able to whip out a scholarship essay during a 45 minute stretch one morning, but one success is hardly enough. More often, I find myself chatting with my coworkers also trying to spell the time.
When lessons don’t come in, we’re at our leisure. We can ski, take a clinic to better ourselves, or head down the mountain to complete chores. Finding other work, however, is more difficult. Some instructors keep evening jobs, but when you don’t know if you’ll be needed to teach all day, getting off around four in the afternoon, or if you’ll be released at ten in the morning, it’s hard to plan an alternative schedule.
Most instructors have other jobs. Eldora boasts more than 200 instructors on staff, which is large for a mountain this size, but only about 40 of us are full timers. Even fewer, a handful at best, are like me and up there nearly every day.
By the time I get home, it’s already dark out once more. I leave my home in darkness and return in darkness. I generally have enough energy to make some dinner before crawling into bed and doing it all again the next day.
I don’t mind spending two hours commuting daily. I don’t mind waking up extra early to cook breakfast for myself and my compatriots. I don’t mind not working some days, instead getting to train or relax or free ski (it is one of the perks of the job). But it drives me nuts that my life, in so many ways, is nonexistent outside of my job in the winter.
And that is a matter of time.