One of the most important jobs at any ski resort is the lift mechanic. It makes sense. If the lifts don’t run, people can’t ski. “Our job is to make sure the passengers are safe and that everyone gets as many runs in as they can,” said Heather Parsons, a lift mechanic at Whitewater Winter Resort.
Heather has been working in the ski industry for many years. She began working at ski school and later moved to ski patrol. Eventually she found herself driving the Snow Cats and working long shifts at night. She went back to school as a general mechanic in Nelson and did a four year apprenticeship as a millwright at Selkirk College. She contributes her success to hard work and dedication. “I’ve always had a passion for skiing,” says Heather. “Not many people who have a passion for skiing get in this field.”
As a female in a male-dominated profession, she says it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the boys strength-wise. “It’s a challenge, but I’ve been taught to work smarter not harder,” she says. “If you take the time to think things over a little more you can pretty much do anything.”
Another challenge for Heather was dealing with heights. A lift mechanic often spends long hours working on high elevation towers, pulling things apart and dealing with heavy objects. Like conquering most fears, it just took time. “I feel more confident now about getting up there at those heights,” says Heather.
She advises “jumping on it” if you’re considering a career as a lift mechanic. “It’s a great idea to get into any trade right now,” says Heather. “Not only do you have various ski areas you can work at, but you have a choice of many other places looking for tradespeople.”
She said that Whitewater was right now looking at the possibility of hiring another millwright or taking on a couple of apprentices. “Once you get your ticket you can go almost anywhere and do almost anything.” Plus being mechanically inclined is just a good idea in general — it teaches you how things work and helps you on a personal level with things like health, according to Heather.
But the job isn’t easy. “A lot of things can happen out there, so you have to do your job right,” says Heather. “It’s a lot of responsibility and you have to know what you’re doing.” Due diligence is key in a job like this. When she first started out she thought she would never really understand. As time went on she learned more and began to figure things out. “Things that were complicated become simple.”
When the lifts go down on a powder day, people aren’t happy. “You have people yelling and screaming,” says Heather. “You take a few deep breaths and do what you can do.” A lift mechanic has to stay calm under pressure. But it’s all worth it when things start working again. As Heather says, “Suddenly you’re the hero.”