On April 11, 2023

Monkeying around with Hairball at Killington

By Karen D. Lorentz

When you find yourself talking to a monkey and answering his questions, you know that there’s still a “kid” in you even if you are a senior!

And that makes it easy to understand why kids gravitate to this puppet named Hairball. 

It jokes around with them, often asking if they have a banana for it. 

It loves to get smiles from all ages, too. That includes seeing a child who doesn’t look happy.

“If I see someone crying, I yell over to them and start up a conversation. I ask them if they have been skiing and things like that. Then if they seem to like me, I might go up to them and give them a high five or fist bump. They stop crying because they forgot what was bothering them. I like to see them smile. It makes me feel good to see them feel better,” Hairball explained.

“I wave and have fun talking to kids. People remember my voice, too. They say it’s nice and childlike. Maybe that’s why kids like me so much,” it added.

Hairball gives lots of high fives and fist bumps, occasionally goes snowboarding, and loves to sit on its mom’s shoulder. It likes to “monkey” around. 

That includes greeting arrivals at Ramshead where  “Mom” Laurie Canterbury is often stationed as an ambassador.

Hairball is a puppet with hair that sticks straight up, hence the name. It sports a colorful headband that matches Canterbury’s, who makes them. She has several as the kids notice if they wear one two days in a row, she said.

And kids do notice Hairball. One family that spent a week at Killington and much money on the vacation that included kids in ski school reported back that all the 6-year-old could talk about for the following week was “the monkey!”

Hairball interacts with adults, too.

“If my mom greets people arriving on a bus, I like to go with her and talk to them. Laurie’s gotten pretty good talking for me with her lips closed. One time a lady asked her if she went to ventriloquist school. That was nice,” said the monkey. 

“Sometimes adults who met me when they were kids growing up skiing at Killington call out ‘Hi Hairball.’ It’s fun to be remembered.”

Hairball has an older brother who looks older because it was out in wet weather. Canterbury uses that Hairball for iffy weather because “I don’t want my hair to get wet and matted down. She grooms me with a soft brush to keep me handsome,” Hairball added.

Hairball also has a younger brother named is Hairy Garcia. It’s a tie-dyed monkey in a beaded vest and wire rim glasses. It attends Easter events and the Dazed and Defrosted festival. It likes to see Canterbury give out tattoo stickers that kids and adults put on their faces. 

How Hairball came to be

Laurie Canterbury is from Palmer, Massachusetts, and learned to ski on a small local hill in her teens. She joined the high school ski club and remembers her first ski trip was to Killington where she “fell in love” with the mountain. 

Canterbury became a busy RN, and in 1996 joined the Killington Ambassadors, finding it “nice to work in a recreational environment when you have a demanding job. It was a nice change that helped one face challenging work,” the now-retired Canterbury noted.

In the late 1990s when there wasn’t much snow on the ground one Thanksgiving, Canterbury was assigned to help out at the Ramshead Children’s Center as the kids couldn’t go out to ski. She brought a monkey puppet with her to entertain the kids and named it Hairball.

Hairball became a regular way to interact with guests for Canterbury, who enjoys helping people and getting kids and adults to smile.

“I might give guests a compliment from Hairball like ‘nice jacket’,” she said of her special way of sharingthe joy of the sport and Killington. 

“The best part about working with Hairball is seeing him turn off tears. I stand back and he’ll yell out in his high-pitched voice and say ‘hi’ and ask questions to redirect a child’s attention, so they don’t think about what they are crying about. Usually, he can get a smile. If they respond to him, then we move closer, and Hairball will do a fist bump or high five with them.”

Ski area mascots usually don’t talk so Hairball’s ability to talk gets kids interacting with it is special.

“Even adults interact and smile when they see him, and all ages will high five Hairball. Very few people won’t interact with him,” Canterbury added.

Having found myself looking Hairball in the eye and answering its questions, and having watched him with children, I can see how it’s a very special ambassador, bringing a measure of fun and joy to the mountain experience!

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