PHOTO BY BRADLY J. BONER
The Evolution of a Ski Bum
// interview By Maggie Theodora
The summer after he graduated with a degree in history from Davidson College, in his home state of North Carolina, Reed Finlay worked on a dude ranch in Montana. At the end of that season, many of his co-workers were moving to Colorado to work at ski areas. “I liked the idea of working at a ski area, but I thought Colorado was too cliché,” Finlay says. “I decided I wanted to go to Wyoming.” Finlay got a job as a liftie working the Apres Vous chair at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR), although, since this was 1992, it was still called the Jackson Hole Ski Corp. “I didn’t come here with any kind of plan,” Finlay says. He’s now in his twenty-ninth year working at JHMR (fifteen of which have been on ski patrol), married to the managing editor of the Jackson Hole News&Guide, and raising a son, Kershaw, eight.
What jobs have you had at JHMR?
RF: I was a liftie for five years, then a foreman, and, since 2005, a ski patroller.
What about in the summer?
RF: I led scenic river trips in Grand Teton National Park for Barker Ewing for twenty-five years. When JHMR founded a summer mountain patrol, I moved to that.
Was there a specific point when you realized Jackson would be the place where you would build your life?
RF: The more I lived here, the more I realized that it was a bigger version of where I grew up in western North Carolina.
You must have grown up in a very small town then?
RF:Arden, outside of Asheville—but I don’t mean bigger in terms of people, but in terms of mountains and space and outdoor activities.
Did you ever think about leaving the valley?
RF: When I first moved here, I left for a summer to work in an outdoor-education program in Virginia, but as soon as I got there, I was like, “I want to come back to Jackson.”
How did you meet your wife, Rebecca?
RF:We met at a New Year’s Eve party in 1999. Soon after that, a mutual friend asked me if I wanted to go skiing in [Grand Teton National Park], and she brought Rebecca along. We got married five years later.
Was the wedding here?
RF:No. We got married at Chico Hot Springs, in Montana. I could think of some places here I’d like to have had a wedding, but they’re off the beaten path and maybe all of our guests could not have gotten to them. Chico was easy.
Did you guys know you wanted to raise kids here?
RF: We knew that we really enjoyed living here and weren’t thinking about leaving, so it was more like, “If we decide to have kids, they’re going to raised here.”
What is your favorite part of being a Jackson Hole family?
RF:The whole valley is a playground, and you can go to any corner and make your own adventure, from walking the back alleys of town looking at funky architecture to pulling over on Little Greys River Road and finding our own swimming hole. It’s so easy to be creative finding new things to do here. JH
I like the smell of the Wildflower Trail—that sappy smell of subalpine forest. And, of course, it does have great wildflowers. And then there’s the classic hike from the top of the [JHMR] tram down into Grand Teton National Park and Granite Canyon. My favorite biking trail, the Hoback Trail, has been closed the past couple of summers because of construction, but it should be open again this summer. It’sa cross-country trail.