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by Pat Keane
When Bull and the Big Guys Catch Up with Two Skiing Scammers, They Face Reality and Go To Work
Josh and Bert had been ski bums all their lives. The deceptions, cons, and maneuvers they had cultivated over a lifetime of scamming gear and free tickets were classic tales in the annals of dirtbaggery. But as they grew older, the antics required to maintain the momentum of their moochings started to catch up with them. Eternal optimists, they didn't foresee the devastating turn of events that endangered their plans to ski free for the rest of their lives.
"Our sponsorships and comps have hit critical mass," said Bert at the Annual Board Meeting, as they called it, of their phantom enterprise. "Without freebies, we have to figure out how to generate year-round income, but have the freedom to continue The Cause." The Board Meeting was when they got together each November to conjure up the stories of epic adventures and media coverage they would tell industry reps to get free skis, boots and other miscellaneous gear they had listed in what they referred to as their "Annual Report." Statistics in The Report shoed that many ski industry companies had become aware that they had scammed and altered the credits on magazine photos to attribute one of them as the skier dropping seventy feet of air off a Chamonix cornice or ripping bottomless fluff in the Chugach. To strengthen their offering as a package team, and for kicks, they alternated the credits, creating the illusion that they were both world-class skiers and photographers. The shots were carefully selected so facial features were never quite discernable. Josh's longtime girlfriend in Tahoe, Gloria, was a graphic artist. From the previous year's ski magazines she would compile a scanned and credit-altered portfolio for each of them to take to industry functions.
The first time they attempted such bravado, Bert and Josh were blown away to discover how few industry reps actually read ski magazines, let alone check the photo credits. So it continued for years. But their karma caught up with them the preceding October when a certain well-known company they had worked for a considerable amount of swag purchased a published photo for a major ad campaign and the true identity of the skier and photographer were revealed. Upon being confronted by a high-level company executive who talked like a lawyer, Josh denigrated to the classic denial mechanism of projection before slamming the phone down, " Whatdaya mean it's not me in the photo? That guy's old lady must've scanned and altered the picture. My attorney will be contacting you." Shortly thereafter, a heliski operator called to inform them that their scheduled freebie week ripping a certain awesome mountain range was canceled due to "conflicts with the possibility that any photos would actually get published." The grim outlook that Josh and Bert would actually have to pay for skiing began to set in. The Board Meeting now took on a certain significance. The Determined Ultimate Dirtbag Experience, Inc., or DUDE, Inc. as it was acronymed, was now in danger of running in the red.
Experts at marketing their faux alter egos to the industry, Bert and Josh assumed their false identities only to further The Cause. It's not that they didn't have marketable skills that would allow them to pay for their skiing. It's just that employment would get in the way of logging 180 days each season at the resorts of their choice worldwide. Besides, they worked during the off-season. Josh was a commercial pilot. Not always for the most reputable of employers, but his continued hours in the sky had gotten him rated to fly almost every conceivable winged aircraft ever built. He could have towed the line and been a two hundred thousand dollar a year flyboy for a major airline, but his ulterior motivations, like hanging around ski towns, partying, and chasing babes, worked against any aspirations he had to be successful in the aviation community. In other words, when you leave a hundred and fifty paying customers sitting in a 727 on the tarmac because it just dropped two feet of fresh, word kinda gets around at the airlines.
Bert, on the other hand, had worked in sales during the off-season for much of his life. He started door-to-door at a young age, then worked phones in boiler rooms, tried his hand on few car lots, and drifted through furniture stores. He usually hung around for the last commission check at the end of November, then walked out, never to be seen again. At least not until the end of May, or whenever his summer savings stash ran out, whichever came first. They both had a gift for gab, or bull shit, as many resort workers who figured them out put it. After all those years of defrauding the industry for free gear, travel, lodging, and skiing ,the quintessential essence of their wintertime lifestyle was drying up like a June snowpack.
As the Annual Board Meeting convened, Josh and Bert moved through the agenda. " What're our prospects for the year?" asked Josh. " Ugly. Word's traveling as fast as Jeremy Nobis skis," said Bert. " Hey, don't I have a credit on one of his shots?" "No, we don't poach covershots, remember?" " Oh, yeah."
Their discourse was laced with jest and smart-acidness humor, even in light of the overwhelming bad news brought forth in the Annual Report (Why get serious now?). Our Executive Scambags faced the serious proposition that the directions of their lives would be altered, possibly forever. Working backwards, they set forth a new Strategic Plan, one they would have never contemplated at any given moment before the aforementioned unfortunate turn of events.
" What's the ultimate goal?" " To ski." "What will it take to make it happen?" "Endless freebies." " There are no freebies. The gravy train ran out of track." "What about trust funds?" "You can't fake those." "Oh." "We need money." " Ouch! Jobs during the season? That defeats The Cause." " Not necessarily."
After much plotting and planning, Josh and Bert formulated a plan to ski all winter, establishing the three most important criteria of their new endeavor to support The Cause: Money, Air, and Landings. Money would come from jobs. Long considered detrimental to The Cause, a new approach would be taken on the dreaded J-word. Air stood for Air Mail, that's how the checks would come. Landings represented the check landing in the mailbox, the most important element of the Strategic Plan to fund The Cause. They adopted a new credo; one which supported their situational analysis of a good scam gone bad: A Constant Influx Of Checks Is Necessary To Ski All Season. Although caught in the middle, they had construed a plan that would allow them on finish on top of the mountains. If years of scamming the industry had taught Josh and Bert one thing, it was that there's nothing like skiing for free all winter. But they had also learned the value of plotting. As winter drew closer, the Strategic Plan was implemented in a carefully outlined step-by-step process.
"So Bert, you don't think driving full-time through every state in the West all winter long as our sales representative will get to you after a month or two?"
"Not at all, Mr. Ormsbee, I grew up helping my father drive a semi on nationwide trips every summer." In his mind he could hear himself talking to a ski company rep, "Yeah, Josh had just launched an eighty foot cornice before I shot that one, that was just before we did a shoot for National Geographic." Back in the now, as he continued his pitch on his prospective employer, h e went on. "Combined with my sales experience, I couldn't imagine a more suitable person than myself to fulfill the requirements of the position your company is offering. In fact, I think I could even offer you a few suggestions that would enhance what I bring to your company."
"What would that be, Bert?" "Well, first of all, that two-wheel drive company car your last salesman drove is not what a person traveling the West during the winter should be driving. A good SUV would guarantee that I could keep my appointments and maintain a good relationship with our customers. Also, a cell phone with an 800 number would assure customers that they could contact me in case they needed to talk to me at any given moment. Both of these requests would have an initial cost, but would improve customer relations and prevent lost time due to foul weather or canceled appointments."
"Bert, I like the way you think. If I got you a new SUV and an 800 number cell phone, could you start next week?" "Gee, I'd love to, Mr. Ormsbee, but about the salary . . ."
Halfway across the country The Cause was being furthered as Josh implemented his contribution to the Strategic Plan.
"As you know Josh, Mr. Blubols, being the owner of a Major League baseball team, will be traveling constantly during the season, but infrequently during the winter months. And, of course, you'll be paid salary, per diem, and all expenses while on the road. Your time and ratings in the Lear 25 are impressive, but a couple of your references noted that you had a propensity for being hard to locate for days at a time, especially during the winter."
"Thank you for the compliment, Mr.Clifford, I know the Lear 25 better than any of the aircraft I've ever flown. Regarding those comments my former employers had made about not being able to contact me when my presence was required. I spend as much time as possible caring for my elderly aunt who lives in Lake Tahoe. I chop her wood and get her groceries for her. During the winter months, the heavy snows often knock out the phone lines to her cabin. I believe that wouldn't be a problem if I had a SkyPager so that you could reach me at any time. As long as the roads aren't closed, I could catch a commercial flight out of Reno and be here in Kansas City on eight hours notice."
"Well, Mr. Blubols likes to get a little whimsical on us sometimes and likes to fly on only a few hours notice. If we got you a cell phone and a pager do you think you could reduce the time it would take you to get to Kansas City?" "By an hour or two, depending on the availability of flights." "And if we kept the jet hangered at the Reno airport?"
The Strategic Plan was in motion. And going as planned. Throughout the winter, The plan was executed as planned. Josh and Bert would stay in touch via their cell phones as Bert cruised from one resort to the next on his appointed rounds. Rather than actually visit his customers, he put the experience of his lifetime in sales to good work and closed most of his deals on the phone from the chairlift between runs. Only if it coincided with his ski-related travels did he actually stop to visit a customer in person. If conditions were exceptional, or weather reports indicated a big storm was headed his way, he'd hunker down at a resort hotel for a few days, feigning illness, car trouble, road closures, or use one of a thousand other viable excuses to log some powder days without suffering the threat of losing his lucrative skiing lifestyle. Meanwhile, Josh skied Tahoe as he waited for the call to fly into action. Bert was joined by Josh whenever it looked like he could sneak away form his on-call status ferrying the baseball team owner around the globe. With Bert on the road and Josh in Tahoe, they could ski the best snow in the West by updating each other on a daily basis. Gloria had also used her graphic arts to create employee IDs for Josh that allowed him to jump-seat on virtually every major airline. Just like the good old days, Josh and Bert were cutting a fat hog in the ass: free travel, free lodging, (Bert got reimbursed for all of his expenses), and the money to pay for their tickets and gear without depleting a limited funds stash.
By early March they had each logged over a hundred days. As they rode the tram at Jackson Hole, Josh looked out the window toward three feet of fresh on the Hobacks. "Hey dude, I got some bad news this morning." Bert, fearing his ski partner had lost another job, stepped up to the plate. "What's up?" "I gotta log twenty hours of flight time by next week to get the company their projected quarterly tax write-off on the Lear." "Bummer, dude. France?" Bert asked, as the smile spread wide across his face. "Sorry, man, it ain't like that", Josh replied, not giving up any positive emotion.
"So what?" "France takes too long, it's gotta be twenty hours on the nose. So it's Whistler, Valdez, Fernie, Colorado, then back to Tahoe" Josh said, squirming with glee as he uttered the words while pulling a pilot's cap out from under his parka."You're right seat.", he said, indicating that Bert would be co-pilot. In the crowded tram they elbowed their way to high fives, blurting expletives, and causing general discomfort for a few whose telephone pole stances were set off-balance by the uncontained ecstasy of the newly transformed executives of DUDE, Inc.
As Ted steered the H2O chopper up the Valley of the Tusk, Dean Cummings turned from the front seat and looked at Bert and Josh with an inquisitive scrutiny. He clicked his mike on and asked, "Don't I know you guys from somewhere?" "Yeah, we met at the Vegas trade show", Bert replied. "Yeah, that's right, you guys altered photo credits and scammed a ton of swag. Everybody in Vegas was talking about you guys this year. I heard the magazines wanted to take your pictures and get a story. TGR wanted an interview. Where were you?"
In unison, as smiles spread across their faces, they replied, "Working."
This little piece of work earned the writer a free lift ticket to the ski area of his choice. If you would like to ski for FREE, like the guys in this story, just click writer@SkiBumNews.com and pitch us with a story idea about one of your ski trips.
HOME SKI TIPS NEWS WANT ADS SKI AREA LINKS GREAT SKIER LINKS SKI CLUBS RACING 2000+ SKI LINKS ADVERTISING SEARCH ENGINE EMPLOYMENT