In 1995, armed with a fresh diploma from UC Davis, I set upon a serious career in finance in the Bay Area. So serious, in fact, that my first stop was selling retail loans in super markets for Wells Fargo.
In the meantime, several of my closest friends who chose the 5-year plan at UC Berkeley had decided that upon finishing up school in December, they were going to move to Tahoe and spend the winter at my very best friend’s family lakefront home. On paper there was no greater opportunity for a 22-year old; to live rent free in among the finest homes on the shores of Lake Tahoe, rent free, with my best friends in the world while working at a ski resort. But I was committed to getting my career started and didn’t have time for such frivolity.
A few months into this job with Wells Fargo, I was asked to help out at a struggling branch in Vallejo, soon thereafter to become the first city in the US to declare bankruptcy. As it turned out this particular branch, inside a Safeway, was the only in the area that stayed open beyond 5:00 AND cash welfare checks. Needless to say, the prospects for selling home equity lines and money market accounts were not strong. On Halloween, in a fit of self-pity for missing out on a party is San Francisco after having been stuck cashing checks, I dialed up a close friend named Zeke Straw for whom I had worked as a part-time ski instructor with through college.
Zeke and the Ski School Director, Bobby Reader, quickly offered me a full-time position teaching skiing at Northstar and shortly thereafter I cashed my last welfare check and headed to Tahoe for what I assumed would be a one-winter pause before resuming a career path in San Francisco.
The winter of 1995-96 played out according to the script above and was among the joyous times of my life. Having met an exceptional group of new friends in addition to the group with whom I was living, there was no choice but to extend this experience for another winter. The interim summer offered employment in the golf shop at the Resort at Squaw Creek where I met no fewer than ten of the people I still work with today.
A second winter in Tahoe was an enhanced version of the first with the added bonus of developing some skill for teaching others to ski and the beginnings of pride in such work. The following summer found me in Australia for winter in the Southern Hemisphere teaching and training under leaders in the Austrian school of skiing. A third winter in Tahoe followed where I achieved skiing’s highest teaching certification and spent considerably less time picking up kids off the snow and more racing around the mountain with some very skilled students.
Around this time I made contact with Northstar’s Marketing Department and was offered a full-time position that saved me from a failing off-season career in construction. With full time work, and the hand of a special woman also in the Marketing Department, Tahoe became my permanent home as daydreams of that finance career faded.
The arrival of East West Partners shortly after the millennium to fulfill the vision and potential for Northstar began a series of events that created a terrific life and career. As I look towards my 20th winter in Tahoe with three young kids who now love to ski, it is amazing to think back upon all of the small choices that could have created an entirely different path.