Monday, May 27, 2024

The Chairlift: Wealth and winter wonderlands

Whitefish Pilot | December 27, 2023 1:00 AM

My first and only chairlift ride thus far this season was when Chair 1 took me to the summit on Thursday, Dec. 7. I rode with two professional photographers who were there to capture the excitement of the ski resort’s opening day. 

The three of us were surprised to see that a once heavily treed section of the chair’s path had been cleared. It is the spot right before the chair flies over the popular run, Toni Matt, for the second time and it is where I almost always look for money in the snow under the lift. 

Sprigs of evergreens and sticks can look like crumpled bills but I always keep a keen eye out for some American or Canadian dollars.

If I think I’ve found something, I will make note of the number of the nearest tower so I have a good idea of where to start looking once I’m headed downhill on my skis. Mind you, all this is done very surreptitiously if people are on the lift with me. 

Despite much time spent looking, I’ve yet to find money while riding the lift. 

I did, however, accidentally drop some cash from Chair 11 when it was the West Bowl Chair. I was skiing with a friend from work that day and he offered to ski Hollywood to look for it.

Any line immediately beneath a chairlift is called a Hollywood run. It gives skiers a chance to show off their winning smiles, radical moves and, oftentimes, dope onesies. On that day, my friend skied it solely to find my fumbled cash.

I knew two bills had fallen but I didn’t know whether it was two ones or two twenties or something in between. It was definitely not two Big-headed Bens (hundred dollar bills) because, sadly, I do not roll like that. 

Turns out, it was $11 that was lost, then found, that day.

Many years later, I was skiing down Hogan’s East on my birthday. No one else was around. I saw something cartwheeling across the slope but couldn't make out what it was. As it tumbled closer to me and I skied closer to it, I realized it was the wild cash I’m always hunting. 

The bill and I stopped near the edge of the run like a couple ski buddies (in the days before cell phones) who’d been separated since lunch. I sidestepped about 30 feet up the hill and put the windblown $20 bill in my pocket. 

Just then, I saw another cartwheeling object. That’s right, it was another 20. 

The mountain gave me 40 bucks for my birthday and I proceeded to spend it all at the Bierstube, thinking it would be good karma to keep the cash on the mountain.

I guess the riches we seek can come from surprising places. Here’s wishing you a fortunate winter season on and off the chair. 

The Chairlift is a column written by Whitefish Pilot reporter Julie Engler. Engler collects and shares the comments and conversations heard on the lift with the hope that readers might have a laugh and enjoy the buoyant mood of a chairlift ride.