What's rusty, stinky, never quite big enough, and worth its weight in gold? The coveted ski locker at the base of your home mountain.

My ski locker is a narrow, rust-bottomed thing in a dank-smelling room at the foot of Whistler Blackcomb. It’s not really “mine”—a rental currently costs $500 Canadian per year—but I’ve had the code to the locker room door and the combination to #16 for nearly 20 years. 

That’s longer than I’ve been married. Longer than I lived in my childhood home. My steel ski locker doesn’t show up in my dreams at night like those other life markers, but still: Locker #16 is an elemental part of my winter days. It is also unfancy, dented, and ill-suited for the task at hand. Doesn’t matter. I don’t plan on giving it up. Ever.

At RED Resort, in Rossland, B.C., the wait list to rent one of 725 plywood lockers for $149 Canadian per year is six pages long, with a current wait time of eight years. Rumors circulate in Red’s Rafters Lounge of locker rights being left to heirs in passholders’ wills—and apparently that’s not just après-ski beer talking. “If somebody no longer wants the locker, generally he’ll pass it to somebody in the family, or a friend” says Nicole Briggs, Red’s Marketing Manager. “Because once they give it up, it’s gone. The lockers are a hot commodity.”

Here’s why: Season-long ski lockers are the antidote to schlepping—and schlepping is otherwise inseparable from the ski experience. You know what I’m talking about. The skis, the boots, the poles. Helmets, goggles and gloves. All that gear—and all your family’s gear—has to somehow get from where it normally lives to the base of the chairlift and back again. Often while you tromp around in ski boots.

Or, there’s the secret menu item you might not even know exists: A members’ locker room, steps from the lifts of the hill you most often ski. As a breed, they vary widely. At Northstar’s Platinum Club, pro athlete-sized lockers with frosted glass doors contain built-in boot and glove dryers for the whole family. Skis are stored separately, with a dedicated valet. A full-time concierge keeps the club stocked with fresh baked treats and swanky sunscreen. Yes, it’s a windowless basement, but one that’s furnished with leatherette benches, stylish couches, original artwork, charging stations, and TVs. The annual family fee of $3,200 also includes on-mountain luncheons, equipment demos, and ski tunes.

At Squaw Valley’s Members Locker Room, the 1,200 wooden lockers are only 11 inches wide and require a degree in engineering to retrofit for today’s gear, but that’s beside the point. “It’s a good community and a rich culture,” says facility manager Mark Ewing. The locker room boasts 3,000 members (and resident canine mascot, Lundy) who gather for barbecues on the back deck and Super Bowl Games in the central lounge. “You actually make friends in this locker room,” says Shelley Horwitz, a widowed mother of teen twins who now celebrates holidays with other families she met there. “It’s really sweet.”

Our Whistler locker room (the husband thinks it’s his now, too) is frankly not that nice. The culture is resolutely non-collegial, in spite of our persistent hellos to all. The décor: Rubber floor, wooden benches, and standard-issue high school lockers. Stashing two sets of adult gear inside is a precision puzzle. A well-placed shoulder is required to get the door closed. Opening it can be like tripping a spring-loaded booby trap. And last year, resort staff added an “improvement”: An interior shelf perfectly positioned for condensation coming off the gear above to drip directly into the boots below.

But it doesn’t matter. The lifts up our favorite mountain are steps away. Our ski days are schlepless. You see, a season pass is one thing, but a seasonal ski locker is another thing altogether. So maybe it’s time for a will. Because there’s definitely a wait list for #16. And I don’t plan on giving it up. Ever.

Susan Reifer Ryan stows her gear in her prized Whistler locker, the combination to which you’ll have to pry from her cold, dead hands. From the September 2018 issue of SKI Magazine.

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