By Peter Madsen
For our second Winter Dew Tour installment of the Alli Guide to Cheap Living, we sat down with Marcus Kruszewski, a laid-back snowboard dude who works at the Matterhorn Inn, the comfy, relic-filled lodge we rested our exhausted selves after each day on the mountain. We liked this 19-year-old snowboarder as soon as we met him. He's the type of guy who'll serve the night's last beer before waking to serve the morning's first breakfast. At the bottom of everything he's a dude working at his family's inn and living on the cheap -- all for the sake of riding Mount Snow as much as he possibly can. More than a snow rat, the Stratford, Connecticut, loc set up an impromptu rail jam during the weekend. As we found out, when a grip of elite snowboarders and skiers are staying at your own inn, it doesn't take much beyond a nudge and whisper to get things going. Below, Marcus talks about his day-to-day at the inn, the state of women’s snowboarding (as he sees it) and his plans for spending this summer in New York City. (Oh, Marcus sent us snap-shots of his weekend at the inn. Click on each individual photo for captions.)
So how did you end up in West Dover, Vermont? For the snowboarding?
It was. I graduated high school. It was like I could go to college and do something I didn't want to do, or I could go rip and have some crazy experiences doing something, you know? The Winter Dew Tour was a definite experience, you know, with all these people coming in. Just working here, we had all these famous people: Tanner Hall, Jamie Anderson, Chanelle Sladics--
-- The Wells brothers.
All those kids, dude. They all kill it! I don't think we'd be meeting these people if we weren't working here.
What was it like working at the inn during the Winter Dew Tour? I mean, you were working, what, 20-hour days?
It all depends. You get a nap in here and there. You just got to put in your time. We have a pretty good operation here. Me and my cousin Andrew work with our uncle Joe and aunt Londa. We have some other people who came in. But everybody is putting in extra hours. So the more hours you put in, the more you're awake, the more experiences you're going to have. Do you know what I'm saying? I mean, we met all these famous people, coaches. The guys from Swix Wax were waxing in the basement. That never happens here.
Toward the end of high school, did you come up here over winter break and hang out with your family and go snowboarding?
To tell you the truth, during my senior year I was spending more time here than I was spending in school. I'd always take an extra day off--either a Friday or a Monday--and come up here. I don't know how I graduated! But I got through it.
What are your responsibilities at the inn? You tend bar, serve breakfast. Do you do housekeeping?
I do everything except clean rooms. I do anything from fixing basic electrical work, to plunging toilets, to hanging Christmas lights. I pretty much do everything, but not by myself, though. I have a lot of knowledge and I've always been good with my hands. So every time something goes wrong, I've got a solution for it.
Would you recommend working at an inn during the winter for people just wanting to snowboard and ski and keep it on the cheap?
Yes and no. It depends on what kind of inn you're working for. It's pretty good for me because I work for my uncle. My room and board is factored into my salary, plus my tips.
A couple nights I saw you crashing on the couch in the lobby.
That's because we had a lot of people staying here, so we really didn't have many places to sleep. A couple nights I got off work at midnight and I would work on our jib course for a couple hours before I got up to serve people breakfast around six in the morning. It was just easier to sleep on the couch. You know, wake up, brush your teeth, change your shirt, and start serving. Later I'd get some time off and either take a nap or go up to the mountain. If you put your hours in at the right time, you'll have more time off.
You said before how you go riding on the middle days of the week. What kind of stuff do you like? Park? Backcountry? Because you put on that rail jam, I assume you're fond of features.
Uh-huh. If it's snowing and there's a good amount of it, we usually just ride some powder. But other than that, it's all park. All day every day -- well, not every day. We do have a snow machine we got at SNOWatHOME.com. You gotta put that in there because we're trying to get down with those guys.
We saved our money from the bar and the restaurant, my uncle helped out, and we bought it. It makes snow.
Do you have a favorite feature?
I like the natural features. [For the rail jam] I tried to make a tree-jib by bending it over, but it uprooted. I like to make the features. We had some boxes that were originally supposed to be set up. There used to be a snowmobile bridge behind the Matterhorn. But we broke it down and saved all the good wood and we built two boxes. You know, we bought the plastic for the top, got some screws, and put it all together. So that was the original thing. But we ended up doing three rails that we borrowed. Those were some pretty big features.
Yeah, dude. Those were huge. The up-rail was enormous.
I mean, I'm good, but I'm not that good.
Have you boardslid it yet?
I haven't even hit it yet, to tell you the truth!
It seems like it would be pretty easy to get pitched on. By the end of it you're ten feet up.
We didn't even know we were going to have that feature until three nights before. We were supposed to have the two boxes. As it turns we just got these rails, so we popped 'em in there and they looked good.
What did you think of the huge features in the Slopestyle course? There was that huge cannon, which is a pretty gnarly take on skateboarding's idea of a pole jam.
I think that thing was insane. But I really didn't see the Slopestyle course that much. I saw the big booters at the bottom, though. That Nike 6.0 rail was pretty gnarly. But I really didn't watch too much of it. I tried to catch it on TV, but I was working during most of it. I made it to the mountain Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Did you ride? Which event did you check out?
I rode on Thursday. I caught the Women's Snowboard Slopestyle Final. I think it was amazing. I just want to say that two of those girls are staying at our place: Chanelle Sladics and Jamie Anderson. They killed it. They were throwing some shit I wasn't expecting. They were going big.
What do you think of women's snowboarding right now?
To tell you the truth, I really had no interest in women's snowboarding until I met the women's snowboarders and actually saw how big they go. They're progressing, and one day they're going to be throwing the same stuff the guys are throwing: 10s, backside 10s, all that stuff. Anything the big dogs throw.
Do you think there is gender divide in snowboarding?
I think when people look at women snowboarders, they think they're not as superior as the men snowboarders.
Do you think that attitude is still found in snowboarding?
I think so, yeah. There's a lot of ignorant people--not to sound like a dick or anything. But I see [women riders] here each morning, drinking their protein shakes. They're eating their oatmeal. I think they're just going to keep progressing.
Are you planning on working through the summer at the Matterhorn Inn?
My cousin Andrew has a property down in Wilmington, Vermont, so we're working on fixing that up over the summer. I might actually be doing some electrical work in New York City. I'd be doing anything from re-wiring apartments and putting lights in.
Dang. What part of town are you planning to move to?
The guy I know who's doing it down there lives on the East Side.
Manhattan, dude: that's not exactly cheap livin'.
Well who knows. Maybe my buddy can put me up. I figure it's a new experience, so why not try it? So long as you break even you're good.
Do you think you'll miss the great outdoors?
I'll want to make it up here a couple times a month, no matter what. During the summer we're out working on [our rail jam course]. We put wood chips down so it's not lumpy, and we knock down trees so the entry is wider. You should have seen it the first year we did it. Now there are no stumps coming up anywhere. During summer I also like to fish a lot, do paintball. We ride quads and stuff. I consider my love for Volkswagens a sport. I go to shows. My favorite car is the one I have: an 86 GTI -- it's a hatch-back. It's Tornado Red, which is super bright. But there's really not that much stuff to do up here in the summer.
What are you talking about? You just mentioned a bunch of things. You can't do hardly any of that in New York City!
In New York it's just going to be like a working spree. I'll have a couple days off here and there, but really I just want to work as much as I can in the summer so I can ride in the winter.
Seems like you got it figured out. Keep shredding!