Jul 1, 2011 | Marmot, Summer 2011

Chris Dennis: In Profile

When it comes to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, the Dennis family of Royston gets around. You name it, one of the Dennises has likely done it - from cashier to KidZone, liftie to retail, call centre operator to heavy-duty mechanic apprentice.

Adam, now 29, is in his third year of an apprenticeship for heavy duty mechanic at the Resort. Adam began working at Mount Washington as a parking lot attendant, then lift operator (liftie).

He has worked with the summer trail crew and as a lift supervisor. He is enjoying his apprenticeship with the maintenance crew.

Erin, 27, worked in the General Store and was a summer lift operator. In 2010, the Olympic year, she worked at the central reservations call centre.

Nicole, 25, spent a season working as a cashier in KidZone when she was in Grade 10, but has since moved on.

At the centre of this family of alpine enthusiasts is mother Chris Dennis, the retail supervisor at Altitude Sports.

When the family moved to the Comox Valley from southern Alberta 17 years ago, Dennis helped her sister make wedding dresses. She owned a coffee shop in Fanny Bay for a few years, then worked at Bryan’s clothing store in Driftwood Mall before that store fell victim to the recession.

Her friend, Koya Hansen, was already working at the Resort in 2001 when Dennis joined her at the KidZone. When a maternity leave replacement job opened in the store, Dennis applied and was hired. When the woman returned a year later, the Resort kept Dennis on staff “and the rest is kind of history.”

She loves working with all the young people who are employed at the Resort during the winter and summer seasons.

“I get to meet so many amazing young people,” she says. “There are a few that stand out through the years, and they come back” to visit.

One young man worked for her for a couple of years, then returned to the Resort to get married. Another young couple, now working on building projects in Cuba, checks in with her every once in awhile too.

The real beauty of her job, says Dennis, is she has three distinct roles: a summer job, operating a gift shop (Altitude’s summer face) and selling lift tickets to families; an autumn job, receiving stock and merchandising; and a winter job “selling all the stuff we received,” she says.

“I love the change,” she says. “There are not too many jobs you can have where you can have three different changes. And they’re complete changes,” she says.

Dennis is always ahead of everyone else by at least one season. Every second year she goes to Denver, Colo. for a rep clothing show; she goes to a B.C. rep show in Vancouver on the other years.

“I’m making appointments now to go see the summer line (for 2012),” she says.

When she’s not working up the mountain, Dennis loves to garden at the home she shares with her sister and brother-in-law in Royston. She has recently taken up quilting, too, and likes to spend time with Toby, a young West Highland terrier.

And, true to form, Dennis is already looking ahead – to the birth of her first grandchild in September, to daughter Erin, now living in Cold Lake, Alta. And she already knows what colours to buy.

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