Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Alta Memories

All this snow-snow-snow (up to six inches and counting -- went out to feed the birds and test it, but it's too powdery to make a snowman or snowballs), has me thinking back to when I worked at the Alta Lodge in Alta, UT. I left AR for the west with my then-BF after collage at age 21 (making me the black sheep of the family overnight). When we landed in UT to visit friends of his, I was instantly hooked and decided to stay for a season and learn how to snow-ski...

Alta is on top of a mountain range right next to the more well-known Snow mass, and down the way from the popular Park City. But Alta is the best-known secret (or it was then), because it was far less crowded and the skiing was excellent. The Lodge was run by a family -- whose patriarch was the then-mayor of the town, and the Lodge was very swank -- just spectacular.

Most of the guests were repeat clientele who came each season, staying the week in the same rooms etc. And many were very nice. We had a few celebrities. Unfortunately it seemed the majority were high-strung New Yorkers with an overbearing attitude and demeanor who thought paying through the nose allowed them the right to treat employees like galley slaves and servants. Disclaimer: I have nothing against New Yorkers in general. Every future trip and business trip I had to New York proved lovely, regardless of their occasional attitude towards out-of-town-ers, no doubt cultivated by necessity.

Back to Alta; Everything about the place fascinated me. I started out in the late summer working in the office, helping summer guests, making reservations, stocking the bar, and making their renowned Alta Guacamole Dip*. The Lodge was glass and timber and nestled into the slope of the mountain. To get to the entry you walked down a billion stairs, or could enter through the service entry at the top of the parking lot. This kept the Lodge from being struck by avalanches. (Avalanches did wipe out a few cars and some buildings at street level, though. Most were planned, set off by Ski Patrol with howitzers, but some, as described above, were not). The buildings standing at street level all had doors instead of windows for the second and third stories, and I was thrilled to discover we would be walking out of them after the snows came. By the third week of October the snows began that year and by December we were using the upper window-doors and rooftop windows.

I had quickly figured out over the off-season that waitressing in the dining hall got me better ski hours (working as a maid was out of the question), and I hated the snob I had to work with in the office anyway, so I switched over just before the season began and the Lodge would open. Everyone working there was in their late teens and twenties - I think the eldest ski-bum holdouts were in their 30s -- seemingly ancient to me at the time. The manager/maitre'd of the dining room was one of these 'old men,' and for weeks he coached his staff on how to walk with heavy trays, how to open wine bottles and pour out glasses, how to put down plates and clear them away, and most importantly, how to be discreet and polite and make sure our guests had a sumptuous dining experience, drilling into us how the guests were always to be treated like royalty.

Working as a waitress I learned just why you should never, ever, offend your waitress, and what is likely to happen if you do. I have seen with my own eyes just what some can do -- or some chefs -- if people are obnoxious. But back to our story...

Opening night, we all donned our uniforms of long skirts and unitards for girls, hair neatly back in buns, and stood at attention before the doors opened while the manager made one last minute inspection of his staff and the dining room and tables. Finally the door opening. Our guests poured forth. The first table was seated. The manager clicked his fingers at his favorite -- I don't know why -- maybe they were sleeping together -- a whiny nasal-voiced New Yorker with haute attitude who proved to be a huge slacker over the season...we all hung back to watch her in action...striding over to the full table of noisy, chattering guests, she waved her hands in the air. "SHUSH-SHUSH-SHUSH!! Whadd'ya want??!" She screeched at the now shocked patrons.

The manager/maitre'd slumped against the wall.


* I'm too lazy to find it now but if you want the recipe send me an email and I'll send it to you.

10 comments:

Doris Sturm said...

My sister, the ski bunny, is sending me lovely photos of the Bavarian alps where she has been skiing regularly for the past 2 months. I never learned to ski, but would love to go just to play in the snow. It looks heavenly! No snow here for me and I miss it!

Beth - In My World... said...

Golly, I think this nasally waitress is now the cashier at my supermarket...if not her, perhaps her sister? What a small world! Rude, rude, rude! I used to love to ski but haven't been in years. In light of all this snow in Upstate New York, it may be time to break out the equipment. Otherwise, it will continue to be a very...long...winter.

ReformingGeek said...

I love Alta. We just skied there as a day resort. It was started to get a little too popular when we stopped going regularly in the 90's.

Loved your story!

Jayne Martin said...

What an awesome time in your life.

The only time I ever tried to ski was once to impress a guy. I turned out to be the best-dressed person face down in the snow all day.

I think you had a much better time of it.

Retired English Teacher said...

Thanks for the memories! Alta is such a neat place. I wish I'd had some of your adventures during my youth.

Arkansas Patti said...

One regret I have is never getting to snow ski. Today I break too easily so it is out.
What a neat experience you had.
I worked as a waitress while going to college and as a result am an over tipper today. That is hard work.

Cottage Tails said...

I have been a waitress - and oh boy I have seen what goes on out the back - one reason why I don't enjoy eating out...

Love Leanne

Manzanita said...

Thanks for stopping at my blog. Those were the free and fun days. I had so many friends who worked in resorts after college. It gave you one last fling before seriously diving into the work world. A grand life experience. I never did it because I got married too young. Wish I had.
Love and Peace
Manzanita
Wanna buy a duck

wendy said...

fun story....I KNOW ALTA. right in my back woods when I lived in Utah. I never skied there though as I gave that up once I reached my 30's.
I hate snobs.

Stephanie Faris said...

That's why I hate going out to eat with people who aren't kind to the wait staff. I don't want things done to my food because I happen to be at the table with someone who has angered our server!