Opinion » Alta States

Yohann Sheetz — going the extra distance


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But it was obvious too that the young Quebecois was doing more than simply taking care of the guests' skis. You see, Yohann clearly understood what "high-touch" was all about. Whatever his clients needed — or wanted — the young valet would deliver.

"A funny thing happened to me soon after I arrived in Whistler," explains Yohann. "I was stopped on the hill one day by a member of the Speed Police. I didn't think I'd done anything wrong, but the guy who stopped me explained that I had scared a beginner by riding too close to him. 'And if you scare a beginner,' he said, 'chances are he won't come back. And that hurts all of us. Instead, you should be helping people like him to fall in love with skiing! Our future depends on it.'" Yohann is quiet for a breath. Then he goes on. "What he said really stuck with me, you know. I decided from that moment on, that I would always interact in that way with my clients." Another pause. "And I've never wavered on that point."

Which explains why he did what he did a few weeks later when a guest approached him with a singular request. "He asked me if I knew how to wax skis. And if so, would I be interested in waxing his family's boards? Well, my dad had taught me how to work on my own skis years ago, so I told the guest I'd be happy to do it."

Although Yohann didn't know it at the time, his affirmative response was about to open a whole new world of possibilities for the young go-getter. "That was, literally, the start of my tuning business," he tells me. "For the next year, 1998, I approached the general manager at the Listel and asked him if it would be okay if I started an old school hand-tuning and waxing service for his guests. He was totally enthusiastic about the idea. He told me: 'Since my guests are talking so highly about the fantastic standard of service you offer on a friendly basis, let's get started tomorrow! I will back you up.'"

That arrangement remained in place until 2010. And his business — the eponymously titled Underground Tuning (it was actually located in the hotel's underground parking) — thrived. But hand-tuning guests' skis wasn't the only thing keeping Sheetz busy. "All my pro snowboard friends were living in Whistler now," he explains. "And I quickly realized that if I invested a little money in some cameras and film, I could still ride with them — and provide them with a much-needed service too." So that's what he did. "I worked a lot with (former Canadian Team standout) Guillaume Brochu and other freerider friends," he continues. "My job was to produce freelance footage for the guys — stuff that they could use to promote their sponsors' gear and such." He laughs. "I gave a lot more than I ever received back," he admits. "But I really believed in what I was doing. So that was okay."


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