Who is your ski town bartender?
You’re a good skier. You’re a loyal patron to the mountain’s local watering hole. Just as much as the next guy, you deserve a free brew from time to time right..? Wrong. It doesn’t matter who you are. It matters who’s serving you. You want local prices? Better find a Bro.
The Bro is the archetype, the quintessential ski town bartender. You’ll find him/her working the busiest apres and late night shifts at local mountain hotspots that have yet to be swallowed by the town’s resident corporate machine. A privately owned small bar/restaurant with a warm vibe and a chill air, adorned with decades of memorabilia and the ghosts of a thousand epic powder days and nights. If the walls of this place could talk… Well, The Bro might as well be those walls. The Bro knows who’s who and what’s what. They’ve seen it all and then some. Despite years at the grind The Bro is upbeat and genuine in disposition. Quick on his feet, quick to crack a joke, a smile, or a whip, and quick to size up anyone who walks through the door. But the best thing about The Bro is, he’s the owner’s bro too. The Bro can draw a crowd, has no enemies, and has plenty of leverage with the establishment. Therefore, The Bro has plenty of Promo (A.K.A. Bromo). Get on The Bro’s good side and you’re in. Let the discount beer flow like a river in a rainstorm. But remember! Nothing is free in this world. Take advantage of The Bro’s generosity for too long and he may eventually become “Not Your Bro.”
The “Not your bro”:
This guy is not your bro. He may feign interest in what you have to say. He may even smile and laugh at your jokes. He’ll usually serve you drinks. That is his job after all. Four shots of Fireball? $40.00 Thank you very much. This guy is not your bro. Oddly enough you’ll find “Not Your Bro” working many of the same shifts and bars as “The Bro” but this guy is not your bro. Not Your Bro will often have his back turned to the bar and the music cranked up just loud enough for you to wonder if he can or can’t hear you while he is actually ignoring the shit out of you. While Not Your Bro doesn’t always provide the best service, in some bizarre loophole of psychology, Not Your Bro usually gets tipped just as well as The Bro. Most patrons are inexplicably compelled to offer recompense for whatever inconvenience or offense they have obviously hoisted upon Not Your Bro. Avoid this trap. Not Your Bro’s distant and irritable demeanor has nothing to do with you. He’s just pissed off that he is loosing a few hundred bucks on the game everyone else in the bar is cheering over. Not your bro will never buy you a drink, never give you a high five, or wave back in the lift line, but don’t worry about it. He’s not your bro.
The Coyote Ugly:
She has a sweet heart but an armory that puts a Spartan phalanx to shame. In a role reversal of sorts she’s a city girl with a fiery spirit who relocated to the mountains for a little fresh air and fair competition. She will spark your interest, inspire your devotion, and distort your perception. She will charge you full price for drinks and you will be happy to pay it and then some. A muse, a mermaid, a unicorn in a ski town. Don’t get your hopes up. Her dreams are bigger than your reality and her future alike. She probably already has a “boyfriend.” No, she definitely has a boyfriend who is radder than you. It’s a fucking ski town… dude. Shoot for the friend zone and you may be able to garnish some favor, maybe a little relationship advice, and yes, if you’re lucky, a free shot. But that’s not what you’re looking for in this scenario. Eyes up here buddy!
The Mountain Mama:
One of the nicest bartenders in the known universe, The Mountain Mama is the mother hen to an entire nursery of overserved hillside habituals. You’ll generally find her working the lazy shifts at your low rent local’s bar. You’ll know her by her easy smile, sincere eye’s, and endless patience with a handful of loyal, long-term ski town winos. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” You get the idea. She’s a caretaker with a heart of gold. Gain her sympathy and you’ve found shelter from the storm. Lost your job? Got your pass pulled? Missed an epic powder day because a snowplow totaled your parked car? Mother hen will take you in. But odds are, if you’re relying on the Mountain Mama for a free drink here and there, softening your bar tab is the least of your worries.
The “Pro” is not a bartender. The Pro is a sponsored skier/rider who happens to work at a bar. They are only bartending nights so they can ski days. They don’t really care about customer satisfaction or establishing a clientele. They probably don’t even know how to make half the drinks on the specials menu, but people never order that shit anyway so who cares. They’ve got some winter sports cred and that probably helped them land the job, but they are not a bartender so don’t expect any bro deals. The only people who get bro deals from The Pro are other Pros… and hot chicks. Don’t waste your time.
Your classy, classic, career bartender. There are more of this breed in a ski town than you might guess at first. You can find them working cush bartending gigs at posh hotels or upscale mountain bistros. (see destination resort skiing…) Drink prices are high and the atmosphere is a little stuffier than your typical apres joint, but don’t underestimate the potential. These bartenders take pride in their work and rely on an entirely different category of resort drinkers for their primary income. Even if you don’t fit the scene at one of these bars, show the bartender a little respect and an appreciation for their craft and you might be surprised at how well you are treated. Like The Bro, these pros have clout and if you play your cards right they can hook you up when it counts. A bro deal at a classy joint can offer a nice polish to certain social situations on the right occasion. The Professional knows this and will play along with you when the time is right.
The Decidedly Unprofessional:
Usually a barback covering for a bartender who’s late for a shift… on a powder day… because of car trouble… If you’re lucky, the bar is packed and the decidedly unprofessional is deep in the weeds. They are overwhelmed, frazzled, stressed out, and they will do anything to move on from a situation that is taking longer than it should while other patrons are calling orders out left and right. If they don’t flat out forget to charge you, there is a good chance they will pour you a freebee just because your order got screwed up. Don’t feel bad when this happens. It’s a learning process for them.
The Corporate has his/her hands tied. Don’t expect any deals. You’ll find The Corporate at most of the on mountain establishments. Pop up bars, mid-mountain lodges, restaurants owned and operated by the ski resort. Sadly, most corporately owned establishments are in the practice of neutering the shit out of their employees on all fronts. No trust, no responsibility, no accountability. The Corporate means well, but he took this job because he needs it and he’s not about to risk it for a tip of the hat from the likes of you. Don’t pressure the corporate for bro deals. Even if he wants to, he can’t and won’t help you.
The Burnout is basically the “Pro” five to ten years down the road. They are still bartending to ski but they’ve outgrown their sense of youthful arrogance and bravado. By now they wrote all of the drinks on the specials menu and can probably make or fake just about any oddball shot, cocktail, or martini that you or your smart phone can throw at them. They still don’t give a shit. They’ll carry on a conversation with a preferred guest while an impatient server or transient customer glares with urgent eyes. They are masters of their own attention and in their mind they have nothing to gain or lose from your opinion. If you can understand this about the burnout and acquiesce to the cadence of their condition while gaining their trust, you may, just may have found the holy après of ski beer grails. This cup never runs dry.
** The burnout is likely a future Professional. Stay in their good grace.
[Image credit: Shutterstock]