Meet Team Targhee: Cartwheel
If you’ve been skiing the resort the past decade, you’ve probably been greeted at the bottom of a lift by this character of a human at one point or another. It’s folks like him that have helped give Targhee that down-to-earth feel over the last 50 plus years of operation. We sat down with this Targhee veteran to learn more about his story and time at Grand Targhee. As per usual, our conversation with him did not disappoint.
Q: For the record, let us get your name and what you do here at Grand Targhee. An introduction if you will.
A: “My real name is Joshua Ryan Huett. Everyone calls me Cartwheel up here. I’m from Florida. I never saw snow until I came out here. My first winter here, we got a ton of snow, and I’ve been here ever since. I Did about 9 years on lift operations before I got on lift maintenance which was my dream job. I put my time in on lift ops and gradually worked my way into maintenance. At the end of this year, I’ll be going on 6 years on lift maintenance. I’ve been up at here at Targhee for like 13 or 14 years. Not a lot of people can say that.”
Q: Why Targhee, did you just pick a spot on the map?
A: “There was a group of maybe 25 of us that came from this river in southeast Tennessee called the Ocoee. After one summer, all of us came out here, and kind of took this place over. There was probably 5 or 6 in lift ops, a couple in food and beverage, a couple here, a couple there. There’s probably 5 or 6 still left from that original group.”
Q: What was that first winter like?
A: “I’d never even seen snow. I applied for the job, and Carol gave me a callback and said the job was mine if I wanted it. I drove across the states, still had never seen snow. I saw a little in Colorado and made my first snowball, but it wasn’t anything compared to the snow out here.”
Q: And snowboarding, how far have your skills come over the last dozen-plus years?
A: “My nickname Cartwheel came from the river, and once I came out here, it stuck with me as well because I had no idea how to stop. I had no idea how to snowboard. My first two weeks were just miserable. You can ask the lift maintenance guys. I showed up here in a pair of tennis shoes, cotton socks, and pants. I was not ready for the winter. I was saying I hate this place; I don’t like snowboarding, I’m leaving. Then one day my very first year, about 3 weeks into the season we got 14” of that graupel that’s like the dip and dots ice cream. I was by myself; I wasn’t with any of my friends, which took some pressure off because everyone wanted to go fast. I was on Shoshone, and nobody was on Shoshone. It’s a powder day, so everyone is on Dreamcatcher, Blackfoot, or Sac. I remember it was like a light switch just turning on, and it just clicked. I had this perfect speed. I wasn’t going fast or slow; I was just going at the perfect speed. The nose stayed up. I was able to make my turns. By the end of the day, I farmed probably 15 runs. I’ll never forget that day because once it clicked, I was just like oh my gosh, this is just like writing your signature in the snow.”
Q: You’ve been here long enough where you got to bump elbows with some Targhee legends. What were those first couple winters as a liftie like working with and for Slim and Carol? Did they rub off on you?
A: “They totally did. Old man Slim used to call me Tumbleweed. Slim was just an awesome older gentleman, a super cool Cowboy who would give you the shirt off his back for sure. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met and know from my years as a lift operator. It’s funny because if you chat your guests up, they chat you up, and it kind of makes the day go by faster. There are a lot worse places to be than checking tickets in the lift line talking to people. If you have good vibe, people will see that and feed off that.
Q: How’d you make the jump from lifts operations to lift maintenance?
A: “After a few years year here, I was like I either need to commit to full-time year-round or I’m not going to have a place to stay. I just stayed and worked through the summer. I landscaped with Joe Calder for a couple of summers and did lift ops in the winters. I was still poking my fingers at the lift maintenance guys. I was like, ‘Hey, hire me on. I want to do this.’ I ended up taking a lead role and came in the mornings to start helping the lift maintenance guys out to open the lifts, clear them of rime ice and get them spinning. I was like, ‘Hey, give me a chance, let me prove you wrong.’ I could see they needed help, and I was down to help.”
Q: You’re obviously still enjoying it. What is a day in the life for you guys on lift maintenance? What’s work like for you guys?
A: “Depends on the season. Everyone has an offseason around here and so everybody else’s off-season is our 110% go season. It’s a lot of grease and stuff involved. Lots of random stuff. All summer we work on the outer lifts because during the offseason we work on Dreamcatcher and Shoshone because those two lifts run during the summer. During that offseason, we get those to where they will run all summer. We will have a little bit of maintenance to do on those, but we let them run all summer while we work on Sac and Blackfoot. In the fall after summer operations have shut down, we’ll go back to Shoshone and Dreamcatcher to get everything 100%. In theory, it is working as hard as you can spring, summer, fall to where these lifts will run every day all day for the winter. Because you really don’t want to be working on these lifts when it’s super cold, windy, snowy, or rainy out, and have to take your gloves off to try and put a tiny little screw in something. Everything is gone over with a fine-tooth comb, that’s for sure.”
Q: Speaking of lifts, are you guys excited for the new Peaked Chair?
A: “Yeah, we are pretty excited about the new one. It’s going to be cool. Six pack, everything is going to be super heavy, and it’s going to be way far away from the base, so it will be real remote. It will be cool and interesting to see. It’s going to be like skiing two mountains instead of one.”
Q: What keeps you coming back year after year?
A: “If I didn’t work at Targhee, I don’t know what I would do. I’d probably straight up leave the valley. I want to be up here; I want to work up here. Sure, I could make more money, but I have a lot of fun at my job.”
Q: How do we keep the Targhee vibe alive? How do we make this a feel-good place?
A: “If you pass somebody, at least just smile, say what’s up. If you see a family unloading their van and it’s a mom and dad, and they got 4 kids. If you’re not doing anything, run over there real quick and be like, hey, let me help you. Whether you are a guest or an employee, I would just say that we are all here for the same reason. Just keep it chill, just hang out. It’s only skiing when it comes down to it. Treat everyone how you’d want to be treated.”
Well said Cartwheel. Thank you for helping keep that Targhee Vibe alive and well. See you on the slopes.