Lots of people want to be ski instructors at the Okemo Mountain Resort. Nobody gets rich doing it, but there are perks, including a free season pass and half-price meals at the Sitting Bull Bar & Lounge. Named one of the best places to work in Vermont for five years running, Okemo employs more than 400 instructors, who run “a really wide gamut,” according to Chris Saylor, the school’s director. So when a 74-year-old retiree applied for the gig a few years back, Saylor didn’t think much of it. The man skied well and had a friendly, patient demeanor. He also seemed to embody the company’s core values: safety, service, sustainability and teamwork.
At some point, Saylor scanned the former employers on the man’s resume, and a couple names stuck out right away.
Henry Kissinger… Donald Rumsfeld…
As it happened, the applicant had an illustrious background in foreign affairs. His career in government spanned five administrations and three decades. He worked hand-in-glove with six different Secretaries of State, and was a fly on the wall for every major event from the resignation of President Nixon and the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam to the Iran-Contra scandal and the downing of Pan Am 103. But Paul Bremer, who also goes by Jerry, is best remembered for the 14 months he spent in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, when he served as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Before he ran moguls, he ran Mosul. And Ramadi, Tikrit and Baghdad.
And on a recent morning in February — a day about 10 degrees too warm for gloves, with patches of brown grass peeking through the snow — he schooled Task & Purpose on the elegant mechanics of the parallel turn.
As I told him off the bat, I’m a lousy skier. My method is essentially to plummet for 20 feet or so, skid to a probationary standstill, twist and repeat, on down the mountain, poles dancing wildly behind me. I put up a brave front for my kids, but deep down I find the experience terrifying.
“I specialize in fear,” Bremer told me with a wink. “Taking it away.”
Now 76, Jerry Bremer still resembles a lost Kennedy brother, with a square jaw, thick hair, straight white teeth, and a deep tan. When he’s teaching — which he does full-time, five days a week, in season — he wears black ski pants and a regulation blue Spyder jacket bearing an embossed name tag, a badge from the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and an Okemo “Making a Difference” lapel pin.