19 Apr 2006 21:06:37
SkiBrokeback.com: A Day With Brokeback Mountain Ski Patrol

SkiBrokeback.com: A Day With Brokeback Mountain Ski Patrol

March 12. 2006: By Robert Dully, Wyoming Ski Times Staff Writer
http://www.skibrokeback.com/

4:45am. Ski patrolman Michael Hannus slips out of his bed before a
dusty alarm clock has had a chance to announce the new morning. Two
other men bunk in the near corner by the stove. Michael puts on his
boots and jacket and heads out to the fresh snow while rough snoring
continues to permeate the men's dormitory building.

Michael has been the leader of the Brokeback Mountain Ski Patrol since
the resort has been in business. Always the first man to rise and the
last to rest, the mountain's daily routine is in his blood. At one
point he was overseeing the entire ski resort operations which included
trail maintenance, chair lifts, ticket sales, ski school and ski
patrol. When a snowboarder triggered an avalanche which nearly resulted
in a loss of life Michael decided to step down as the resort director
and resume the ski patrol operations only. This way he was able to
focus more clearly on ski and snowboard safety while doing what he
enjoys the most - being out in the snow on his monoski in deep powder
every day.

Since then many seasons of patrolling, saving lives and helping injured
skiers have hardened Michael beyond his years. Yet nothing could
prepare him for the indignity caused by the recent Hollywood film
"Brokeback Mountain." This local ski resort has gained ill reputation
overnight due to unwanted onslaught of homosexual skiers and
snowboarders. "We're just a family ski hill minding our own business
and we'd like to keep it that way," sighs Michael. "We will not
restrict the access to the mountain to anyone, even if they come from
gay San Francisco but at the same time we've got to protect our family
values."

Although the regulars report no incidents involving the gay snow sport
devotees the tensions run high. Some of the gay skiers vacation at
Brokeback Mt. Ski Resort with their entire families giving an odd twist
to an old story. A local skier who requested anonymity reported that
she let her daughters sled and build a snowman not realizing their
playmates were children of several gay couples. "When I realized who
they were I immediately called my daughters to pack up and go home.
Then I thought to myself I was overreacting and let them go back.
Luckily no harm was done and my kids didn't ask how come Bobby and Andy
have two daddies," she confesses. Other guests report similar
experiences on the slopes and at the lodge. However the majesty of the
mountain seems strong enough to overcome anxieties. The powder is
plentiful enough to burry the hatchet deep, at least until the spring
thaw.

"Safety first is every patrolmen's motto," reads a worn out vinyl
banner hanging on the wall. We're sitting in Michael's small office
which also serves as a locker room for the patrol staff. Ski boots are
drying on a rack and there is a small bench for quick ski base repairs
and waxing right beside the window. Worn out transport toboggans are
stacked on the floor. "You don't ever want a ride in one of these but
if you're going to get injured on the slopes we've got the best ski
patrolmen in the business to take care of you," jokes Michael. His
words ring true. The photos on the office walls show patrolmen lowering
stranded skiers from a broken ski lift, doing avalanche control with
Howitzers and stabilizing fractured arms and legs.

A short silence ensues. Before I get a chance to ask any tough
questions Michael leans over as if there is a confession to make. "We
thought this over, this thing with the homos," he says. Then he reaches
into the pocket of his uniform and gives me a handful of rainbow
colored condoms. "Safety first. Then the family values. That's the job
of ski patrol."