By Brad Fauber
BASYE -- Hayden Miller first started going to Bryce Resort when he was 5 years old, and he remembers watching the ski instructors who were giving him lessons at the time and thinking how cool it would be to work on the slopes of Bryce Mountain.
Five years ago, Miller, a graduate of Stonewall Jackson High School, jumped at the opportunity to join the staff at Bryce Resort. He was playing in an adult soccer league at the time, and one of his friends was working at the Bryce Resort Zipline Adventure. Miller eagerly joined up, and for three years he spent most of the hot summer days zipping through the trees that line the slope of Bryce Mountain.
Nowadays, Miller's responsibilities at Bryce Resort encompass so much more.
"Anything out on the mountain, I do it," said Miller, who is now 21 years old.
He's not kidding. During the winter months, Miller, who is working towards earning his EMT certification, works as part of the resort's ski patrol team. He holds a similar responsibility in the summer months as well -- since Bryce Resort introduced its chair-lift accessible mountain bike park last summer, there is just as much likelihood of a downhill accident in the summer as there is in the winter.
Miller's duties with mountain patrol in the summer go beyond just the safety measures, however. Sure, he's tasked with the standard injury prevention jobs, like making sure the various bike trails that are carved into the side of Bryce Mountain are free of debris. But his job also enabled to work one-on-one with a mountain bike trail designer from Gravity Logic, the company that helped put together the trails at Bryce Resort.
And Miller is a certified TerraMethod level 2 mountain bike instructor, which means he gets to spend plenty of time teaching inexperienced riders how to handle the various obstacles along the resort's biking trails.
Not a bad gig for a guy looking to make some extra cash while attending classes at Lord Fairfax Community College.
"I think it's kind of cool because people come here and vacation and without jobs like ours their vacation couldn't happen. They pay to do what we get to do," Miller said.
Miller's role at Bryce Resort encompasses many responsibilities, but whatever he isn't in charge of -- mainly the money aspects of the various mountain operations and other office duties -- his girlfriend, Brittney Jackson, handles.
Like Miller, the 20-year-old Jackson began coming to Bryce Resort when she was young. When Jackson, a Strasburg resident and current James Madison University student, was 8 years old she began hanging out on the slopes alongside her father, who was on the ski patrol team at the time.
When the time eventually came that Jackson was old enough to work at age 14, she took a job as a ski instructor and she's been working at Bryce Resort ever since.
"It's just kind of been a part of my lifestyle now," said Jackson, who is also the pool manager at the resort and orchestrates various summer camps alongside fellow Strasburg grad Ashley Showalter. "My family is actually moving out here. This has just kind of been our place, I guess."
Jackson, who still does some ski instruction for children during the winter months, tends to have a heavier workload in the summer these days with classes at JMU -- where she is studying health science and pre-physician assistant -- taking up much of her time in the fall, winter and spring.
Jackson said her job can vary on any given day. Sometimes she's attending the pool, where she's also a lifeguard, and other times she's conducting some variety of summer camp.
No matter what she's doing, though, it generally involves working with children.
"I really like working with these kids because a lot of them are inside a lot, their parents work, stuff like that. They go outside and they're like, 'Oh my gosh, I didn't realize how much stuff was out here,'" Jackson said. "It's really cool to take them and give them a different perspective.
"I know what I liked when I was that age and what I looked up to, and I hope that I can be that person that I looked up to when I was that age."
Jackson said she will eventually start looking for a job that is more in line with her current field of study, but she is enjoying her time at Bryce Resort too much to give it up just yet.
"I definitely think I could be doing a job that's relevant to my major or that makes a little bit more money, but I like to think that I get paid in the benefits here of being in a really good community. Everybody's friendly here, you know a lot of people," Jackson said. "... I would choose to be here over anywhere else."
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org