Sun Peaks will begin phasing out ticket checkers this year. Here’s what’s lost.

Role is yet another example of society’s inexorable push towards automation 

Ticket checkers have long been the smiling face greeting you on an epic ski day. Photo SPIN

Skiing to the base will be a little bit different this year. No longer will you have to fumble for your pass and show it to a friendly, well-intentioned young ticket checker. Instead, you’ll pass through a turnstile that will register it and instantaneously shuffle you through. 

As some of you may have noticed, Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) is in the process of installing RFID scanners at the valley bases of some of their lifts, with plans to eventually place them at the bottom of all the lifts. By doing this, the mountain is joining major ski resorts around the world, as it faces international staff shortages as a result of the pandemic.. 

While I understand the rationale, it’s difficult to imagine skiing to the base without one of the resort’s ticket checkers there to greet you. I’ve always admired these workers. It didn’t seem to matter how cold they were (or how little sleep they were operating on), you were always met with a big hello, smile and positive vibes. 

But I suppose the change makes sense. After all, we live in an increasingly digitized, automized world. We shop on Amazon, scan and bag our own groceries (when forced to go to brick-and-mortar stores) and cruise for love interests on our phones. 

It’s a strange new world, with numerous casualties; ticket checkers are just one of them. 

Andrew Lawrence looks back fondly on his ticket checker days, having carried out the job for the 2016-17 season.

I recently asked Lawrence what sticks out most in his mind about the experience. The answer, I suppose, should have been obvious: the cold.

That makes sense. Snowboarding in -20C degree weather is one thing. Standing in it all day long is a whole other. 

Lawrence added SPR was good about having “boxes and boxes” of glove warmers for workers to use on those cold days, and that workers would constantly rotate who was on break in order to keep warm. 

Lawrence also remembers the kindness of the skiers who passed through. 

“A lot of older skiers—dad skiers, if you will—would come through and be super friendly,” he recalled. “They’d be like, ‘Hey, how are you going?’ And some would give out candy around Christmas. They were all super friendly.'” 

Jonathan Moses, who worked for Sun Peaks as a liftie, recalls the good times as well, how lifties and ticket checkers would break into dance when a “good tune” came on the radio.

“I think during the quietest days, the best parts were just trying to come up with the best dance moves,” he said. “It was great. We all got along really well.” 

Moses has since moved on to Whistler, where he now works in human resources for Whistler Blackcomb. Creating a positive work environment is now a critical part of his career. 

What sticks out to both Lawrence and Moses (above even the frigid temperatures they had to endure) were the lasting friendships they made. 

Lawrence recalled how during employee orientation, Darcy Alexander, vice president and general manager of SPR, asked new employees to look around, and told them that some of the people they are seeing will be their friends for life. 

“I was like, ‘Come on man, I’ve got friends at home that are mates for life, that I’ve known since I was like four or five.’ But yeah, now I definitely feel I’ve made mates for life.”  

Ticket checkers were there, of course, for more than just being friendly. Their job is to make sure everyone who passes through has a valid pass, and were reportedly rewarded for catching someone without a valid pass with a cool $50. Not bad when you’re trying to scrape by in an expensive ski town.

Lawrence caught one person in his year. But there was a girl he worked with who busted “dozens.”

“Ya, she had an eye for it, she was very determined,” said Andrew. “She wasn’t afraid to confront people and ask people about it.”  

I asked him what he thought about SPR’s decision to phase out ticket checkers, to my suprise, he wasn’t nostalgic. To him, it just makes sense. Mountains in his native New Zealand have had the system in place, and he was surprised it wasn’t in place here when he arrived. 

“It’s convenient,” he said. 

I have no doubt that the friendly vibe that Sun Peaks is known for will be alive and well this year. The loss of ticket checkers isn’t really going to affect that. But things will certainly take a bit of time to get used to.

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