This may be a lame idea but I find it interesting. I guess it should be somebody/something you didn't expect or an unusually interesting person, celebrity etc... I've had a lot of great conversations on lifts. I find the oldsters to be the most interesting with stories about bear-trap bindings and stuff. I met a retired fighter pilot once who had intercepted Soviet bombers over the North Sea and flew OV-10s in Vietnam. He was teaching his grand daughter to ski at Jiminy.Anyway, I'm curious.
Best conversations with strangers have definitely been with oldsters, meaning over 80.
Several years ago I reached the base of Supreme at Alta before my ski buddies and was asked by an man who was clearly well over 70 if I was alone. When my buddies got there a minute later I told them I was riding up with the gentleman. It was clear he wanted company. He was a snowbird from the Midwest who spent the winters in SLC skiing Alta with the Wild Old Bunch. As we rode up I asked what his favorite run was in that area. He pointed to the Supreme Bowl and said that had been his favorite. But that four years before he'd hit a tree, dented his helmet, and broke a leg. So he was a little more "careful" afterwards. Then I had to ask how old he was. Pretty sure the answer was 87!
I had a chance to ride up with Naomi Wain when she was 92. She stayed at Alta Lodge for 50 years the first half of the month during the winter, skiing pretty much every day. She did her last NASTAR racing when she was 90. She wasn't exactly a stranger, but I'd never ridden the lift with her or skied with her before. I didn't talk to her at Alta Lodge until she was 91. As we rode up Sugarloaf, she looked over at Devil's Castle and said she remembered the day she skied it five times. I asked how old she was then. She wasn't sure, but knew she was at least in her 50s, perhaps in her 60s. She said it'd been a bit of work but "that's where the good snow was." She didn't discover skiing until she was 40. Was definitely an inspiration since I was in my 50s at the time.
One time I sat next to a elderly lady, she seemed frail, but had an incredibly big smile on a bluebird day. I wanted to engage her but I didn't seem to have any kind of a conversation starter. I looked at her and smiled.
She said to me "a great day for the race!"
I didn't see any evidence of an event, so I said "what race is that?"
She said "the human race!"
"If it's my mountain, I'm installing a fixed grip and telling the lifties to stuff the beginners into chairs as aggressively as they have to, to keep it going full speed." —Brownski
In 1992 I went to Timberline Oregon with some friends . I got to the base of the Palmer lift and was waiting when I noticed a single skier in the special line for the Olympic skiers. I yelled single and skated around the crowd. The skier was Tommy Moe who went on to win Olympic gold. He was super friendly and totally engaged in our conversations.
This one time I was in the old ‘dola at Squaw, puttin’ zinc oxide on my nose and face on the way up. I thought I was good, cause I was making a real mess of it. This hot chick, I think Vicki was her name, told me I missed a spot, said you gotta be real careful because you never know where your gonna get burned. She really, um....helped me out.
As for real gondola conversations, I had a pretty interesting one with a group of young guys at Whiteface last year about where they buy their wax in Placid. They were having a pretty good time with their vape pen, I was headed for the trees and politely declined.
last year I had the pleasure of skiing with 2 gentlemen, both in their 70's. I meet one on Hawkeye. We had a short conversation then wound up riding the straight brook chair together. I mentioned how good lies was and he said lets ski it. He went right over the headwall and ripped the entire trail. I could not catch him. In my mind I tried to justify this and blamed it on the rockers I was skiing. Hard to believe I could not chase down a 70 something.
We worked our way around the mountain for a couple of hours.
Few weeks later ran into another 70 something at platy. He was an old hickory rat. He asked for a tour of the glades so I showed him around.
Very inspirational to ski with two guys that age who could still ski so well. They were so full of life. It was great to hear there stories, especially the history of Hickory
Windham, circa early 90's. On the lift with two guys with radios, but not in any type of uniform. They were talking about dropping 700 in this one and 500 in another. Something about Roundtop. Then they asked how I was and if I was having fun. I ranted about how much I loved skiing and how I scored free lift, lesson, rentals, etc. because my relative worked there. It turns out they were the owners. I'm assuming they were talking 500k and 700k in improvements.
When I was out west we had a celebrity race each year. As instructors, we were brought to the gazebo where as the VIPs arrived we were offered as guides/instructors, etc. (I felt a bit like a prostitute at a brothel). I could have skied with Kris Kristoferson, but didn't respond swiftly enough as I was holding out for Julianne Philips (Springsteen's 1st wife).
Anyway, I ended up skiing with the organizer who, while on the lift, was blabbing a bit about some of the participants. I remember her saying that Buzz Aldrin (participant) was a former alcoholic, etc. etc. who is on the road to recovery and, because of his endorsements is making about half a million a year.
I was paid $9.50 an hour and only for the hours I worked. A good day was $50.
Sent from the driver's seat of my car while in motion.