WHITEFISH - Over the last 75 years, Whitefish Mountain Resort has grown and changed.
MTN News talked to Gary Cabell, who began as a ski patroller on Big Mountain in 1980, to learn what the mountain was like back then and hear about his journey to get back on the slopes.
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“Slow lifts, you know they were old and slow. A lot less people. A lot less people in Whitefish, of course. It was a small group of locals and we all skied together,” said Cabell.
Cabell moved to Whitefish in 1976 and started working as a snowcat driver but after being denied a nickel raise, he went to work at the bars downtown.
Although he continued to ski and work, it wasn’t quite enough time on the mountain.
“I got the itch I guess,” said Cabell.
So he applied to be a ski patroller.
“It’s funny, with ski patrol, you think you’re just going to ski but there’s so many other things you're responsible for,” said Cabell.
Cabell worked as a ski patroller until 1986 and then continued to work at restaurants on the mountain and in town to support himself.
He was still skiing up until about six years ago and watched the mountain transform.
“It was still just starting to get new school when I was skiing. You know the lifts with the detachable quads and moving lifts around and stuff. So that was quite a change, and now they have so many new lifts,” said Cabell.
After retiring, he still lives outside of Whitefish in a cabin with no running water.
After an unfortunate back problem, he can no longer haul water or ski.
So, the community came together for this legend and is helping fundraise to get a well put on his property.
“The plumber, I’ve known him since he was a little guy because he was a racer on the mountain. When I was ski patrol I met him, knew his mom and his dad. I guess he wanted to help out so he’s going to come hook the plumbing up,” said Cabell.
Even though he’s still recovering from his back surgery, Cabell is determined to get back on the mountain and ski the resort he shares a birthday with.
“Like I said, I haven’t been skiing in quite a while but I’ll get back out there. I told myself that. I hope next year. I hope to get my act together. Get up next year and ski a little bit more, I’ll be 75," said Cabell.