Love is in the air
Ski chairlift speed dating comes to Wisconsin
Suspended high above a ski hill in the frigid cold, wearing darkened goggles and a helmet, may not seem like the setting to meet the love of your life.
But it’s happened, and ski chairlift speed dating is coming to Wisconsin this winter.
Somewhat like speed-dating events where singles meet for a series of timed dates at a restaurant or bar, chairlift dates last only a few minutes, sitting side by side on the double-seat lift.
If the conversation goes well, and sparks fly, the newly minted couple skis down the slope together
and carries on with their date.
If not, they go separate ways and get back in the chairlift line to meet someone else.
Hurt feelings from a chilly separation?
“I suppose there’s that chance, but I feel that rejection is simply a way of freeing you to meet somebody who’s more aligned with your interests,” said Courtney Smallbeck, spokeswoman for “It’s Just Lunch,” a dating service that’s helping run the first chairlift dating event at Wilmot Mountain near Kenosha.
“I don’t think people get terribly emotionally involved in a relationship they’ve only had for five minutes, but you never know,” Smallbeck said.
Chairlift speed dating has been done at ski resorts in Colorado and Minnesota, but Wisconsin skiers say it’s still a novelty here.
Singles who sign up for the events are paired ahead of time, on paper, by professional matchmakers who assess their interests and compatibility.
They meet in person for the first time at the ski hill chairlift.
“It’s like a very short first date. Do you want to see this person again? Do you want to get to know them better? Those are the questions you’re trying to answer,” Smallbeck said. “The great thing is, if that person doesn’t like you, then you can find somebody who does by getting back in line.”
Finding love in the snow seems to work for some folks.
Thirty-five years ago at Wilmot Mountain, Christine Morris met the man who would become her husband and the father of their four children.
She and Christopher were on ski patrol together, working at the hill, assisting novices and skiers injured on the slopes.
“I was determined to find someone who had the same passion for skiing I had. And you learn a lot about someone when you’re out together in the cold,” Christine said.
Their relationship snowballed, and now married for 32 years they’re still on the ski patrol at Wilmot, about 15 minutes from their home in northern Illinois.
One night, Christine said, she helped carry a woman off the hill who was injured in a fall. It was New Year’s Eve and the woman was on a blind date with a guy she just met at Wilmot.
“She went to the hospital. That’s how they ended up spending New Year’s Eve. But it was the cutest story because he stayed with her the entire time. I thought, ‘Dude, you’re awesome,’ ” Christine recalled.
‘This amazing person sitting beside me’
Last winter, Kelsey Panczyk of suburban
Chicago met her true love on the chairlift at Wilmot.
It was her first time skiing, ever, and she was struggling to get on and off the lift without taking an embarrassing tumble.
“This kind guy approached me and asked if I could use some help. Looking back now, I’m glad my apparent lack of knowledge got me where it did,” Panczyk said in an email sent to Wilmot.
“He accompanied me up the lift while walking me through basic things with gentle eyes and a sweet smile. The annoyance I was feeling towards my friends who were already up the lift had dissipated, and I was infatuated with this amazing person sitting beside me. Once we got to the top, my friends poked fun at the fact that only I would find a guy on my first ski lift. But I didn’t mind,” Panczyk wrote.
“After a long day of laughing and falling and learning, I felt like I just wanted to be around him more. I invited him to grab coffee and we talked about how strange coincidences can bring people together, and we shyly looked at each other and then away. I remember this day like it was just yesterday.
“We exchanged numbers and even bigger smiles when we realized we were only an hour from one another back home. … It’s been almost a year, and I will always be thankful for Wilmot Mountain for being the place where I found my love.”
From age 21 to 70
Wilmot’s chairlift dating event is scheduled for Feb. 10. It’s for singles between the ages of 21 and 70, with participants paired together by age groups.
Privacy is protected by the matchmaking service, and you don’t have to reveal your last name to anyone you meet on the chairlift unless you want to.
Still, it could be an awkward first date if the lift gets stuck and you’re suspended in the air next to someone for an hour.
“I guess you’d really get to know that person by the end of the experience. It would make a good headline: Strangers jump on chairlift, exit married,” Smallbeck said.
‘A great time’
Afton Alps in Hastings, Minnesota, has had chairlift speed dating, marriage proposals on the hill, engagement parties and weddings.
About 100 people show up for the dating events that last roughly 90 minutes, giving everyone a couple of chances to meet someone they like on the lift.
Afterward, everyone’s invited for a party at the ski lodge bar. A local salon comes and helps the singles with their “helmet hair.”
“The whole thing is based on fun and lightheartedness. I haven’t had anyone come back and say they’ve found the love of their life, but what I did have was a lot of really happy people who had a great time,” said Afton Alps spokeswoman Pamela Hoye.
“It’s just a few minutes on a chairlift, so it’s low risk. And you’re wearing a helmet and goggles. All of the intimidation factors are eliminated,” Hoye said.
Unless you’re especially brave, it’s probably a good idea to have some knowledge of skiing before you sign up for chairlift dating.
“Sometimes the hardest part is exiting the lift ... to me, that’s the most nerve-wracking part of skiing,” Smallbeck said.
“But empathy is a beautiful quality. So if you struggle, and your partner is helpful, that’s a good quality to have in someone.”
Wilmot’s chairlift dating event is scheduled for Feb. 10. It’s for singles between the ages of 21 and 70, with participants paired together by age groups. Privacy is protected by the matchmaking service, and you don’t have to reveal your last name to anyone you meet on the chairlift unless you want to.
Christine Morris (left) and her husband, Christopher Morris, met at Wilmot Mountain ski hill near Wilmot and are on the ski patrol together there.
Christopher and Christine Morris met at Wilmot Mountain ski hill 35 years ago and have been married 32 years.