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After graduating from high school in 1996, Yohann announced to his family that he was moving to Whistler "just for a year," he says. And laughs. "I already knew it was a lie. I already knew I wasn't coming back. But. I just couldn't admit it publicly yet..."
Remember what Whistler was like in the late 1990s? It was madness. Rents were sky high, people were paying exorbitant prices to stay in closets and crawl spaces... and everybody was partying like there was no tomorrow!
Yohann showed up in the summer of '97. "We applied for work everywhere in Whistler, but people told us we had to have a place to stay before they would give us a job." He sighs. "But there was absolutely nowhere to stay." What to do? What to do? In classic Whistler ski-bum style, Yohann soon found a solution. "We restored an old squatter's shack out by Fitzsimmons Creek," he says, "And planned to camp there until winter." More laughter. "But on October 1st, we woke up to two feet of snow on the ground. That's when we decided to find a real place to stay."
What they found wasn't a huge improvement on their squat. "I think it was the oldest cabin in Alta Vista," he says. "Pretty basic place — virtually no amenities — the fireplace was our only source of heat." He shrugs. "It doesn't exist anymore."
But at least they had an official place to live. Now, they could at least apply for legitimate work. Easier said than done, says Yohann. "I applied everywhere — all over town. But nothing. Finally I had one résumé left and I decided to drop it off at the only place I hadn't applied yet — the Listel Hotel."
Yohann smiles. "The manager at the Listel looked at me and said: 'Do you want to work today? If so, you can be our ski valet.' And I said 'I'm your man.'" He stops. Smiles happily. "And I started work that very afternoon."
Of course, the young newcomer had a lot to learn. "I remember the hotel maintenance guy found an empty tin container, shoved a few bucks in it and then showed me where to put it so it would be conveniently visible to my clients." He laughs again. "Wasn't long before I was making 150 bucks a day in tips!"
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