International athletes from different snow and ice disciplines gather together at one place in the pursuit of a winter sports experience unlike any other. No, this is not the Winter Olympic Games. This is Campgaw Mountain in Mahwah, New Jersey.
Twenty minutes outside New York City, this one-slope ski hill attracts outdoor enthusiasts of all backgrounds and ability levels. I am proud to call myself an employee at this one of a kind, snow lover’s paradise, as are many others my age. In fact, the entire establishment is run mostly by young adults. A typical day at the mountain includes ticket sales, equipment set up, and a lesson taught entirely by teenagers. It is not uncommon for a customer to be dissatisfied with the young and sometimes inexperienced employees, and to reach out to customer service. Often times to their dismay, there they find yet another eager seventeen year old staring up at them from behind the desk. This is part of the Campgaw charm.
My job is in the rental shop. I am in charge of distributing all the equipment necessary for a day of fun on the slopes. During my training I learned how to set skis and snowboards, translate shoe sizes to boot sizes, and most importantly please the customer by any means necessary. It all seemed easy enough and I felt that I was ready for anything. That is until the holidays snuck up on me and visitors started arriving by the busloads.
The once peaceful and organized rental shop turned into a madhouse. I had no idea the seasoned employees called Campgaw “the eighth wonder of the world” because people literally came from all over the world. The rental forms were being thrown at me with several different languages scribbled on them. The one I remember most distinctly was signed in a messy script, an illegible name that could only be deciphered as beginning with an “M”. Customers were filing into the line until it extended out the door. The kids behind the boot counter were huddled together in a panic. If we could not find this customer and move on to the next, a riot would soon break out. “What name do we call out?” we nervously asked each other. “I can’t read it. Michael? Michelle?” No one was sure. It was time for a leader to emerge, and I decided it was going to be me. I cleared my throat and being the new employee, mustered up all the confidence I had. In the heat of the moment I blurted out, “M-Maurice?” The rental shop went silent and a young petite woman stepped forward to claim the boots. “Are these the size eight and a half ski boots?”, she prompted. “Yes! Are you Maurice?” I asked hesitantly. She narrowed her eyes and looked at me from across the counter. “My name’s Monica” she uttered in the most judgmental tone I had ever heard.
Even though I may have offended Monica, that day I became a hero. I had kept the line moving and saved all of our jobs, and for the rest of the season, my co-workers at the boot counter saw me as their unofficial leader. I was the one who was willing to risk it all, embarrassment in front of approximately one hundred fifty people, for the sake of the team. After this experience, I have no problem stepping up and taking the lead because after all, the only thing worse than making a mistake is never having tried at all.