It’s Kes, back with Meet the Mountain Monday! It’s a joy to introduce you to Pajarito Mountain’s Lift Ops Supervisor, Ian Gillette.
I first met him as a fellow Lifty during the 2023 winter season. Although we shared the same job title, he clearly knew his way around the lifts. Brody Gibbons, the Lift Ops Supervisor at the time, had a lot of trust in Ian. Of course, it helps that the two “worked” together for years before Ian stepped foot on our mountain, their friendship fostered by the team-building power of World of Warcraft.
When Brody stepped down from his role on the mountain, he carefully coaxed Ian into taking over his job. Though reluctant at first, I’m happy to see Ian thrive in his new role.
To celebrate this passing of the torch, I asked Ian a few questions about his time at Pajarito.
“You want to write one about me?! Oh snap, I feel so famous.”
How many years have you worked with Pajarito?
“I first started working at Pajarito in February of 2016. Brody always talked this place up, about how this mountain was a super chill and relaxing place to hang out. Before I had even moved to New Mexico, I knew that I wanted to work outdoors, so this just seemed like the right thing to do, not to mention they needed the help.”
Where are you from? What made you move here?
“I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. The city was always around me, with too much noise and things going on. It was annoying to find a good hike, a place to just be in the woods, to be alone without having to drive for hours. Then, on top of that, I had to worry about running into some crazy person.
I had known Brody and friends from years prior of gaming with them, so the sudden jump to moving out here didn’t even seem like a terrible thing. Having such cool outdoors, like the canyons always at the ready, is one of the biggest bonuses that came with moving here. Plus, the LAN parties are the best!”
What do you love about Pajarito?
The thing I love the most about Pajarito, which is also the best part of my job, is just being able to be on the mountain and enjoy what so many people and years of effort have culminated. The crowds that gather to have fun and enjoy the mountain, the different kinds of people that you get to meet, they’re always interesting and make me ready for the next week and season to bring in new people. We create fun and, as long as we can all get in on it, then the fun will keep going for however long we want it to.
What’s your favorite part about snowboarding here at Pajarito?
Snowboarding here at Pajarito has been a really special thing for me. I feel so prepared for all the seemingly “harder than other mountains” slopes that we have. It’s opened a whole new door for me to meet new people and have new experiences, and that gives me hope.
What makes this mountain unique?
One thing that I believe makes Pajarito so special is the views into town and the feeling of serenity on such an aggressive hill. This place seems to be hidden, even from the people who frequent other mountains nearby, or live in the valley not far from Los Alamos. It has that empty feeling on one run, then you find the crowds just one slope over. That is probably a contributing factor to why so many people come back – no lines and dedicated people to make the fun happen for everyone.
Do you have a special spot on the mountain? What’s it like for you to be there?
My special place on the mountain seems to be wherever I am at the moment. Though, depending on the season, I can think of a couple.
In the winter, there is no greater feeling for me than getting off Chair #4, strapping my feet in, and heading straight to Porcupine Park and Bob’s Bowl. It feels like a whole different mountain on that run: the tall trees on either side blocking the view of any other lift or slopes, the way you can cut through the trees so seamlessly while getting air off the jeep trails. That definitely puts me in my happy place.
Which lift is your favorite to work at? Why?
My favorite lift to operate and work at is definitely the Beginner Lift. Being at what feels like the gateway to the mountain is a cool feeling . . . minus all the wind. Though it gets a lot of traffic, that just means you can help people who look uneasy, or reassure them through any difficulties they seem to be having. Seeing how fast some people can progress is really inspiring for me to go out and do the exact same thing – whether someone is shredding in the terrain park or there’s just some kid who put skis on for the first time, and, in an hour, is already better than half the people on the hill.
What’s one memory you’ll always have from working here?
There are so many memories I have of working at this place with all my friends that it’s hard to choose one over another. Then again, there is one that will trump all the rest. Last winter we had this one freak snowstorm days before we had to work on the ramps.
Nick, Sam, Kes and I were working on ramps when we talked jokingly about taking one of the hardest runs on the way down, since I had never done a double black before. Of course, I was all for the idea.
When we got to the top of Breathless it was time to send it and stop thinking. That ride down started a bit rough, but then it just clicked. With all of that powder (almost 13 inches!) it was the most fun I had ever had. I think everyone should be able to experience that feeling.
(From left to right) Nick, Kes, Ian, and Brody catch up during Summerfest.
A big thank you to Ian for answering my questions with such excitement and heart! Be sure to say hi to this tall, bearded goofball next time you find yourself on this wonderful mountain.
Your friendly Paja Photographer,