It was 2011 and I was in my 3rd year of University.
When I left high school I went straight into Uni and I had been working in the same job at a bicycle store for a while. I felt like time was just passing me by. I didn’t want to go straight to a job without having experienced something more. Something adventurous.
The previous winter, I went on a trip with some mates up to Mt Buller for a 5 days, my first time on a snowboard. We had a ridiculously fun week and I was hooked on snow boarding.
It planted the seed in my head that I would like to do a season at a snow resort.
In my mind I thought New Zealand would be a great place to go, have an adventure and get to live in another country. I never committed to it though. I never just said “stuff it, I’m going!” I had always been in my comfort zone and I found it tough to take that next step…
While browsing around looking at different ski resorts, I noticed that applications for “Lift attendants” at Mt Buller were closing THAT NIGHT. So I put aside my worries, scraped together a resume and applied without any real expectations of landing the job.
A few weeks later I received an e-mail to invite me to attend a group interview with the mountain operation bosses in St Kilda. I had never been in a group job interview before and by the time I got to the interview, my palms were sweaty, knees weak and my arms were heavy. There was no vomit on my sweater though.
For the weeks after the interview, I checked my email every day, waiting to hear if I would be deferring uni, temporarily living out of home, doing my own washing and spending a season in the winter wonderland just 3 hours from Melbourne.
I was sitting in my lecture theatre at Uni when the email came through…
“CONGRATULATION! BULLER SKI LIFTS WOULD LIKE TO OFFER YOU A POSITION FOR THE 2011 WINTER SEASON!”
The edges of my mouth curled up uncontrollably towards my ears. As I was sitting by myself, I tried my hardest to control my mouth to stop myself looking like a creep to the people around me.
I finished my semester at Uni and felt a mix of excitement and fear at what was to come. I waited on the call from Buller for my start day like a kid waits for Christmas.
I got the call on a Thursday in early July. I left on the Sunday.
I packed my stuff into my car and headed up to Buller. Arriving into the Village, I was sent to the top of Holden Express (Buller’s control centre) to get my work gear. I was carrying all the gear I had received, heading back down the mountain to my staff accommodation at Spurs and visibility was no more than 10m. Nek minit, I‘m lost. My first day at Buller and I had no idea where I was. Luckily Ski Patrol found me after 15 minutes and directed me to Spurs. I can’t imagine what they thought of their future fellow staff member!
I ventured into my accommodation and started the process of meeting and getting to know 30+ people, who for a shy person like me is a bit overwhelming. I bonded the easiest way I know how to when feeling anxious – over a few cups of goon in a paper cup, the only way it should be consumed.
The first week of work went by in a flash. I began to enjoy meeting new people everyday. My job as a “LIFTY” put me in the cross fire of many a punter. Seeing all these people having the best time of their lives, whether it was cruising down the hill or laughing hysterically as their friends fell every 5 metres, everyone at Buller had a ball. I’d also like to apologise to the people that I did not correctly ‘bump’ the chair for and received a harsh blow to the back of their knees. Rest assure that I shared some of your pain…
Our accommodation and 3 meals a day was only $220 a week! We were in the best spot on the mountain, doing what we loved and getting paid to live this dream.
Work was always entertaining but we lived for our days off. I would wake up, gear up, open the door and ski straight to the lifts for an awesome day of boarding. And usually finish it off with a hike up summit to watch the sun set, as is tradition. It truly was the perfect life.
Our nights were mostly spent at the infamous Hoo Hah Bar (Kooroora) We would have a few sneaky drinks and talk about the day on the mountain. Staying til’ “Amore” or to those uninitiated, closing time. Whoever was left would generally link arm in arm and all sing “When the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie…. THAT’S AMORE!”, as is tradition. They were pretty much the only words of the song I knew, but I sung it proud and loud. And mumbled the rest… After Amore we would get our nightly hit of hot dogs and Dim Sims from the local Chinese shop or go straight back to our dorms to make some cheese toasties to go down with our mulled wine. Good times.
Everyday bought a new adventure and more people to meet and with each meeting and new face I got more and more confidence. The close of the season was like saying goodbye to family. We have stayed in touch since but nothing could ever compare to those amazing months on the mountain.
It was sad leaving Buller, but I left with a tonne of memories and many more friends than when I arrived. I left with a passion for adventure that I carry with me today in everything that I do.
The biggest lesson I learnt is that you just have to apply yourself to the opportunities that you have in life, as scary as they may seem.
Big changes can be scary, especially if you’re stuck inside your ideal comfort zone, but they come with bigger reward.
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