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Wednesday, 06 March 2013 12:57

Every Hill Needs Some Heroes Featured

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 ...and Sam Boice is one of ours!  Working at a ski hill can be thankless and cold. Many jobs are hardly glamorous, parking one of them. Try telling someone who wants to park in the loading zone she can’t or that plum spot, the one right by the lodge, isn’t available. But Sam Boice has turned the work into something else entirely, something like a calling. It’s still cold (and he’s there even when it’s 5 degrees with a wind-chill 10 degrees colder) but he’s transformed the job into something warm and welcoming. He’s my hero at the mountain, kind and generous and always with a smile. You can see it even with the balaclava on (it’s in the crinkle of his eyes). He knew my name long before I knew his, and because he’s often the first person you meet on the hill, he sets the tone for the day. He also sees the full realm of human behavior – or, at least, the lengths people will go to for first tracks on a powder day. And, the job has more to it than his smile. It’s literally changed how he sees the world. Here's my Q&A with him where he reveals his secrets from surviving the cold to getting people to put their clothes on... 




Platty: This always seems to me the hardest job at the mountain, but you are always so kind and cheerful as you greet people. How do you manage to be so nice and inviting?

SB: It can be the hardest or the easiest, depends on how you look at it.  I choose to look at it as an opportunity to talk with everyone. And being inviting, that's my job, that's what is expected of me. I'm the first and usually the last person customers see and interact with at Platty. 

Platty: Indeed, you’re the one guiding them into the loading zone to pick up their stuff – or to back out of their spaces).

SB: It all starts before people even get out of their cars. I want to make sure customers know we do things differently at Platty. We value them. In order to do the job well, you really just need to be on your toes all the time.  Always scanning what's going on and keep the traffic moving.

Platty: So has that part of the job – that awareness – changed how you look at things? I remember learning that Manchester United, the British soccer team, has a vision specialist who helps players use the peripheral vision better, so I imagine your peripheral vision is better than mine. Have you noticed it improving? And how do you manage to keep an eye on everything? I feel like you see my car appear before I even get there – it's not like there aren't a bunch of silver SUVs in the lot...

SB: Yes, my peripheral vision has definitely improved, so has my hearing to some degree. What I mean is I can usually hear a car coming long before I can see it on the road. The sound travels up the valley, so I know I need to be prepared. 

Also, my attention to "movement" has increased, whether it’s from people walking in and out of the parking lots or from cars coming and going. As soon as I detect any movement, my attention is directed that way so I always know what's going on. Or, at least I try to, and often I’ll associate people with their cars. I keep a mental inventory of vehicles as they come and go.  As creatures of habit, those who are "regulars" usually come and go around the same time, which also helps me identify customers. 

Platty: How do you handle grumpy folks who might want to park where they shouldn't?

SB: Humor! I try to make everyone laugh and joke around with them.  It usually loosens up the grumpy people.

Platty: Why do you do the job? I mean it’s outside and cold – and you’re not skiing…

SB: Really, I have fun with it, and it comes naturally to me. More importantly, I do it because Platty needs it and I believe 100% in what everyone is trying to accomplish on the mountain. Being a smaller, family-owned and operated business, we have to stand out, we have to do things a little differently.

Platty: What was the coldest day you worked?

SB: I couldn't even tell you. I try not to pay attention to the temperature.  Once I have that number in my head, I will start to feel cold.

Platty: How do you dress for the cold?

SB: I typically wear three layers:  Thermals, jeans & Carhartts on bottom and thermal shirt, turtleneck and my Platty Avalanche jacket on top.  I have a great pair of insulated boots (from when I was in the military) and good wool socks.

Platty: It is all about the socks isn’t it?

SB: I also always have a couple of extra layers in my car just in case….

Platty: Any advice for reversing in tight spaces? I always get very unnerved and that center row of cars on the top level...

SB: Yes, watch me.  I will guide you into a space.

Platty: What is your weirdest interaction with a customer?

SB: I’d have to say it was when I had asked someone to dress their kids inside the lodge and not in the loading zone. They thought I was picking on them…  

Platty: And your best?

SB: People baking me bread and cookies.

Platty: Oooh, that’s a good idea. What’s your favorite?

SB: Or buying me coffee and hot cocoa. Of course, the occasional flirtatious interaction with a beautiful woman. After all, I am a single guy!

Platty: Didn't a car once go over the side a few years ago?

SB: I've been told a story that a few years ago someone forgot to put their car in park and it did go over the bank.

Platty: What's the funniest thing you've seen in the car park?

SB: Maybe it isn't that funny, but I always get a kick at how nervous people are parking on the edge of the cliff.  I mean, I'm there directing you, I won't let you go over.


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