The Great Yank-Euro Ski-Off

Part 2: Keepin' It Real

Meanwhile, Black rocks the suds     Photo: Nathaniel Welch

THE CHALLENGE:
Wash dishes at Garibaldi Lift Company, a bustling slopeside bar/restaurant.

OBJECTIVE:
To regain an appreciation for the little people in the ski universe.

BLACK LOOKS AT HOME in front of the GLC's industrial Hobart dishwasher. He should; he's a bona fide ski bum, and he's washed dishes "professionally" before, in Jackson Hole. He wears his apron snug and straight over a gray T-shirt, and he moves beer steins from busboy trays to the Hobart with nary a wasted motion—as firm and no-nonsense as a mother cat moving kittens by the scruffs of their necks. As Black will proudly tell you, he never sought higher education. "Skiing is my college degree," he beams. "That's what I have. And I've made that into something."

Perret, on the other hand, seems out of sorts as a sudsman. For one thing, he's dressed all wrong, wearing a nice, suffocating sweater under his apron and a fancy Swiss watch from Hublot, yet another of his high-dollar sponsors. Perret wipes his hands too often, only to get them wet and slimy again moments later. He actually holds glasses up to the light to gauge their cleanliness, which is much too orderly and far too Swiss to fly in a chaotic Whistler kitchen.

One enduring urban legend of ski resorts is the dishwasher with the Ph.D. Though in reality there may be more bachelor's and master's degrees found around ski towns, it takes little prompting to get Black and Perret to philosophize about the reasons why so many people are willing to slave away for lift tickets and powder days. Between them, they have skied a cumulative 75 years, and they're each on snow more than 80 days a year, but neither sounds the least bit jaded.

"Skis are like transmission lines," Perret says. "They put energy into you. It physically comes in—"

"That's the addiction of it," interjects Black. They are standing in the GLC's kitchen, beneath a poster for Kokanee beer and another of Canadian downhiller Erik Guay. "My favorite sensation is coming over a rollover weightless. Weightlessness is a wonderful thing. Everybody should feel it. That's all I need. Hide the liquor and let's get mashed."

"In the middle of the turn, it's grace," Perret replies. "It's a gift. Skiing before that moment is hard, and it will be hard again later. But it's a beautiful moment."

When the final dishes are counted, Black wins this event, but give the Swiss swabbie a few extra points for eloquence!

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