|March 12. 2006:||By Robert Dully, Wyoming Ski Times Staff Writer|
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."