Anyone see the Ski Bums?


Lift lines have all but closed around the country. Only a handful of resorts remain open in North America. The last of the backcountry stashes are being poached. Snow is disappearing and so are the ski bums. So everyone is on the same page, according to Sports a ski bum is a slang term for a skiing enthusiast who works his/her way on the ski resorts for free skiing time. This definition gives only a glimpse of what people who choose this lifestyle really are. Those of us that live in mountain towns understand this way of life is much more than that. It’s a life following their passion. Ski bums sacrifice everything to do what they love. Most see it as lowly dirt bags who want a free ride to ski and party. Don’t get me wrong sometimes this is true, but for the most part to me it seems more about living the life they want.

Image taken by Janine -

Image taken by Janine –

They tend to room together, eat lots of ramen noodles and basically live a cheaply as possible. All funds go towards skiing. Winter, snow, and skiing all day are the only things that matter. Doesn’t sound to bad to me, but the problem is this way of life is not sustainable. Unfortunately, even ski bums have to enter back into the main stream from time to time to re-up on their savings.  This ensures that by next winter they can spend their days chasing the pow instead of looking at it out the window as they work. But, where do they go? Believe it or not even the elusive, unpredictable ski bum has developed patterns.

The Rotation
As more resorts become year round adventure destinations, this has presented quite the opportunity for this culture. Now, no relocation is necessary! When summer hits they simple trade in their position working the lift line for a position at the zip line. Even if the resort frequented in the winter doesn’t offer summer activities another readily available position is to become a guide. The mountains offer a wide array of jobs that allow the ski bum (a.k.a. adrenaline junkie) to make a couple of bucks and continue the endless quest for adventure. For example many opt for positions as a mountain biking guide, rafting guide or trekking guide. These allow for small “fixes” that will hold them over until next season.

Manual Labor
So this puts to rest the stereotype that ski bums are lazy.  Many in this arena opt for positions breaking trail, construction or landscaping. These are fairly easy jobs to get that are steady throughout the summer months. Not only do they pay well, but they also require physical activity which gives the ski bum a leg up on condition for next season.

Living the Dream

Valle Nevado Ski Resort in Chile - Image taken by Jose Hidalgo -

Valle Nevado Ski Resort in Chile – Image taken by Jose Hidalgo –

For those lucky few, there is one job that sticks out high above the rest. Only a select few will ever be able pull this one off. It’s known as “Living the Dream.” Most have never experienced it and some refer to it as the unicorn…they simply don’t believe it exists, but it is real. The ultimate life for a ski bum is to be able to follow the snow. Once winter is over in the Northern Hemisphere its time to move south! Landing a gig like this is pretty challenging since jobs in the Southern Hemisphere are hard to come by, don’t pay as well and usually require connections in the industry. To the ski/snowboard culture these positions are definitely worth the effort though. Endless days of flowing down a slope covered in white are the reward!

After a closer look into the life or psyche of the ski bum you begin to appreciate them a little more. One realizes that they are living the American Dream, doing what they want and living the life they want to follow their passion. They are willing to make sacrifices on things that normal society can’t understand in order to finance their way of living. Hats of to you ski bums! And like Matthew McConaughey says….

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