Bill the Bird prefers flying down the slopes to soaring in the sky.
Bill, an 18-year-old Quaker parrot, has been skiing at Whitewater Ski Resort with his owner Rudy Kraus for 16 or 17 years. The pals are regulars at the hill and routinely draw a crowd of kids during breaks in the lodge.
“I’ve had adults come up and say, ‘I remember Bill from when I was a kid up at Whitewater,’ because he’s been up there so long,” says Kraus. “He’s always been swarmed. Quite often there would be 10 kids all around them. He’d be going on their shoulders.”
Kraus and Bill, who live in South Slocan, are inseparable. Kraus is semi-retired, but takes Bill along whenever he’s working. Bill is also on stage once a week at the Ymir Hotel where Kraus plays guitar.
They are at Whitewater three days a week, a routine that began one day when Bill got on Kraus’s shoulder and refused to get off. (And yes, Bill has his own season pass.)
Now when they go for a run, Bill hides in Kraus’s coat by his collarbone. Kraus estimates Bill has been to Whitewater more than 600 days.
“He likes getting out every day and doing things. He’s an adventure boy.”
Kraus and Bill have had to deal with some health problems in recent years. Kraus was once given a terminal diagnosis of Hepatitis C, and he thought Bill’s health was failing last summer due to the wildfire smoke.
But three years ago Kraus started a new medication that has put him on the mend, and Bill’s strength has since recovered enough that this weekend he didn’t want to take a break from the slopes.
That’s where they hope to be for many years to come.
“He’s the bird, he gets his way. …,” says Kraus. “If you and I could be as smart as Bill we’d be doing really well.”