Words by Steve Shannon
Before the glamour of high-speed chairlifts, ski-in ski-out accommodation and the mega resort, skiing was a simple community affair. While the mountains receive most of the recognition, the foundation of that community was usually a dark, damp congregation in the basement of ski lodges: the locker area. Schlepping all your ski gear across parking lots is an undertaking most detest, not to mention having to put boots on whilst playing a delicate game of Russian roulette between your ski socks and the inevitable sogginess that one errant loss of balance can result in. Then, what if you want to switch equipment part way through the day to go for a lap in the backcountry? With all of its usefulness, it’s a shame the ski locker has become such a rare commodity.
Growing up at Red Mountain Resort in Rossland, British Columbia, both sides of my family have held lockers for generations. My grandpa on my mom’s side held #9, a coveted location by the exit closest to the lift, from the very beginnings of the ski hill. He kept that locker until he pulled his skis out for the last time on a December powder day in 2004, when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Conversely, my dad took over locker #144 from his father. These days the wait list for a locker is measured in years. It’s been rumoured that some have even bequeathed lockers to their heirs.
As a kid, the locker room was a magical place, perfect for games of hide-and-seek with friends while our parents organized the gear. Getting lost in the narrow hallways and hidden passages make up some of my fondest childhood memories. Not to mention the locker customization. With limited space, every cubic centimetre needs to be carefully thought out, adding a shelf for boots, racks for skis and poles and a couple of hooks for backpacks. Catching a glimpse into someone’s locker is like catching a glimpse into their mind.
There’s something special about heading up to the ski hill in the morning, walking into the locker area, grabbing a seat on the bench and putting your boots on as others do the same. You see the same faces all season long, season after season. It’s social, and it brings the community together. On powder mornings it’s a frenzy to get out quickly, while the afternoon sees everyone winding down, swapping stories of hidden stashes. It’s a ritual that’s been going on for decades, yet I fear its days might be numbered.
With a priority on profits, building a space for locals to securely store their gear isn’t even on the radar of modern ski resort developers, whose focus is more so on valuable retail space to serve tourists. But this glitz lacks character, authenticity, and community. For me, I’ll always appreciate the dimly lit social hub found in the basement of the local ski lodge. Long live the ski locker.