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WHAT’S RUSTY, STINKY, NEVER QUITE BIG ENOUGH, AND WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD? THE COV­ETED SKI LOCKER AT THE BASE OF YOUR HOME MOUN­TAIN.

SKI - - GEAR GUIDE - By Su­san Reifer Ryan Su­san Reifer Ryan stows her gear in her prized Whistler locker, the com­bi­na­tion to which you’ll have to pry from her cold, dead hands.

The most cov­eted item at many ski re­sorts is a stinky, cramped locker at the base of the moun­tain. Our writer waxes po­etic about her most-prized pos­ses­sion at her home hill.

My ski locker is a nar­row, rust-bot­tomed thing in a dank-smelling room at the foot of Whistler Black­comb. It’s not re­ally “mine”—a rental cur­rently costs $500 Cana­dian per year—but I’ve had the code to the locker room door and the com­bi­na­tion to #16 for nearly 20 years.

That’s longer than I’ve been mar­ried. Longer than I lived in my child­hood home. My steel ski locker doesn’t show up in my dreams at night like those other life mark­ers, but still: Locker #16 is an el­e­men­tal part of my win­ter days. It is also un­fancy, dented, and ill-suited for the task at hand. Doesn’t mat­ter. I don’t plan on giv­ing it up. Ever. I def­i­nitely am not alone. At Red Re­sort, in Ross­land, B.C., the wait list to rent one of 725 ply­wood lock­ers for $149 Cana­dian per year is six pages long, with a cur­rent wait time of eight years. Ru­mors cir­cu­late in Red’s Rafters Lounge of locker rights be­ing left to heirs in passh­old­ers’ wills—and ap­par­ently that’s not just après-ski beer talk­ing. “If some­body no longer wants the locker, gen­er­ally he’ll pass it to some­body in the fam­ily, or a friend” says Ni­cole Briggs, Red’s Mar­ket­ing Man­ager. “Be­cause once they give it up, it’s gone. The lock­ers are a hot com­mod­ity.”

Here’s why: Sea­son-long ski lock­ers are the an­ti­dote to schlep­ping— and schlep­ping is other­wise in­sep­a­ra­ble from the ski ex­pe­ri­ence. You know what I’m talk­ing about. The skis, the boots, the poles. Hel­mets, gog­gles and gloves. All that gear—and all your fam­ily’s gear—has to some­how get from where it nor­mally lives to the base of the chair­lift and back again. Of­ten while you tromp around in ski boots.

Or, there’s the se­cret menu item you might not even know ex­ists: A mem­bers’ locker room, steps from the lifts of the hill you most of­ten ski.

As a breed, they vary widely. At North­star’s Plat­inum Club, pro ath­lete-sized lock­ers with frosted glass doors con­tain built-in boot and glove dry­ers for the whole fam­ily. Skis are stored sep­a­rately, with a ded­i­cated valet. A full-time concierge keeps the club stocked with fresh- baked treats and swanky sun­screen. Yes, it’s a win­dow­less base­ment, but one that’s fur­nished with leatherette benches, stylish couches, orig­i­nal art­work, charg­ing sta­tions, and TVs. The an­nual fam­ily fee of $3,200 also in­cludes on-moun­tain lun­cheons, equip­ment demos, and ski tunes.

At Squaw Val­ley’s Mem­bers Locker Room, the 1,200 wooden lock­ers are only 11 inches wide and re­quire a de­gree in engi­neer­ing to retro­fit for to­day’s gear, but that’s be­side the point. “It’s a good com­mu­nity and a rich cul­ture,” says fa­cil­ity man­ager Mark Ewing. The locker room boasts 3,000 mem­bers (and res­i­dent ca­nine mas­cot, Lundy) who gather for bar­be­cues on the back deck and Su­per Bowl Games in the cen­tral lounge. “You ac­tu­ally make friends in this locker room,” says Shel­ley Hor­witz, a wid­owed mother of teen twins who now cel­e­brates hol­i­days with other fam­i­lies she met there. “It’s re­ally sweet.”

Our Whistler locker room (the hus­band thinks it’s his now, too) is frankly not that nice. The cul­ture is res­o­lutely non-col­le­gial, in spite of our per­sis­tent hel­los to all. The dé­cor: Rub­ber floor, wooden benches, and stan­dard-is­sue high school lock­ers. Stash­ing two sets of adult gear in­side is a pre­ci­sion puz­zle. A well-placed shoul­der is re­quired to get the door closed. Open­ing it can be like trip­ping a spring-loaded booby trap. And last year, re­sort staff added an “im­prove­ment”: An in­te­rior shelf per­fectly po­si­tioned for con­den­sa­tion com­ing off the gear above to drip di­rectly into the boots be­low.

But it doesn’t mat­ter. The lifts up our fa­vorite moun­tain are steps away. Our ski days are schle­p­less. You see, a sea­son pass is one thing, but a sea­sonal ski locker is an­other thing al­to­gether. So maybe it’s time for a will. Be­cause there’s def­i­nitely a wait list for #16. And I don’t plan on giv­ing it up. Ever.

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