Love is in the air

Ski chair­lift speed dat­ing comes to Wis­con­sin

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Front Page - Rick Bar­rett Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - 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.

MICHAEL SEARS / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Chris­tine Mor­ris (left) and her hus­band, Christo­pher Mor­ris, met at Wil­mot Moun­tain ski hill near Wil­mot and are on the ski pa­trol to­gether there.

MICHAEL SEARS / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Christo­pher and Chris­tine Mor­ris met at Wil­mot Moun­tain ski hill 35 years ago and have been mar­ried 32 years.

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