December 01, 2000 Features & Images » Feature Story

A little Geddyup for the ski season 

Page 2 of 3

"Ah, no thanks. So, whatcha up to these days, J.J.? Haven’t seen you since the beginning of the month. The Company got you down in Florida dimpling chads?"

"Where’d you hear that?" he said, looking serious. "I didn’t have anything to do with that and I don’t do work for the Company any more."

J.J., Whistler’s only private eye and way too scary a guy to actually consider a friend – but even scarier to think of as an enemy – had alluded to his past involvement with American intelligence types over the years I’d known him but always seemed particularly uncomfortable at the suggestion he might still be on retainer.

"I only went to Florida to see some old friends. That’s the truth."

"Yeah, okay. You up on the mountain today?" I dropped the subject.

"No, man. It was the weirdest thing. I was about to go up and some dude in a mountain uniform stopped me. I thought they might have clued into my homemade pass but that wasn’t it. He asked if I wanted a free lift ticket. I said ‘Sure.’ He said I’d have to be part of a focus group for a couple of hours. I figured, why not?"

"They must not have been very particular about who they were focusing on," I said. "You’re not exactly the mountain’s target market, you know. What’d they want to find out?"

"There were half a dozen of us. We went up to the big building at Base II, down some stairs, along a long hallway and into some secret looking room with hard chairs and two-way mirrors. I thought the dude lied to me and I really was busted but then some happyface in a lab coat came out and started describing programs to us, asking us what we thought."

"What kind of programs."

"Stuff the mountain’s thinking of doing to stand out since it doesn’t have the butt-kicking snow yet this season like there’s been the last few seasons. High touch stuff to pamper the foreigners. Things that don’t rely on waist deep snow."

"Like?"

"You won’t believe some of this stuff, dude. Bucklers."

"Bucklers?"

"Yeah. Guys who wait at the top of lifts and buckle your boots for you. Like porky boomers who can’t bend over to buckle their boots without almost passing out. They’d have some guy up there who’d come over to do the buckles for them. Real valet-like, you know?"

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