I have been lucky enough to keep in touch with some of my old college buddies from good old Albany, NY. One friend in particular, Chad Roth, has been out to Utah to ski and visit a number of times in the last 7 or 8 years. Chad has always been intrigued by the lifestyle here and in particular our unique language. He told me several years ago he was going to write a Ski Bum Dictionary.
Well he did one better than that. He wrote up a whole review of our life.
Word by Chad Roth:
I recently set out on an expedition from my headquarters in NYC to Salt Lake City to learn about the sub-culture society that is commonly referred to as the Ski-Bum. To do this, it was necessary to submerge myself into this lifestyle, if only for a limited period of time. I quickly learned that these non-natives, to Salt Lake City, have a very unique economy, language, socialization and combat. This briefing will explore these topics and more.
As mentioned I went about my research by submersing myself in this lifestyle. To do this, I had to live among them. This may seem like a daunting burden, but I was able to enlist the assistance of Daryn Edmunds a New York transplant who has gone thru a broad spectrum of the Ski-Bum lifestyle over the past 8 years, from waiter to professional free-skier to slum lord/ real estate agent. I was able to secure a room in Daryn’s house which he shares with 4 other people, mainly ski-bums. With Daryn as my guide I was well positioned to study the ski-bum culture from the inside.
From my studies it was clear to me that most ski-bums live below the poverty level and could qualify for government assistance if they weren’t too busy skiing to apply for it. Ski-bums tend to get low-paying jobs near the ski mountains that provide flexibility in schedule so that they can maximize their skiing. The majority of their income, beyond housing, is spent on skiing. It’s fair to say that a disproportionate amount of their income goes to ski passes and gear. This does however create a tight community of people who truly help each other out whenever possible. If there is fresh powder, it is not possible. This bartering of favors seems to work well. I’ve personally taken part in a couple of ‘moves’, where I have helped ski-bums move to new housing. Ski-bums seem to move a lot, but can’t afford to hire movers or even rent a u-haul. This and other communal activities help to maintain this tight knit group of people.
Here we tried to stick to the vernacular that belongs solely to the ski bum as opposed to general skiing terms.
Beater (noun): One who does not ski well; usually referring to a tourist. Meant to refer to someone who ‘beats-off’. You need to watch out for the beaters on the mountain.
Bird, The (proper noun): slang for Snowbird. We’ll be skiing at The Bird today.
Bumming (verb): The act of being a ski bum. I’ve been bumming for 4 years at the Bird.
Burly (adj): Used to describe something as tough or difficult. It can be used to describe a snow conditions or even a piece of gear. My gloves are so burly, they never rip.
Epic (adj): One of the most over used words by ski bums. Describes something that is very good / amazing / awesome, but unique and rare at the same time. The unique and rare part is fading fast as this word is used all too much. Today’s snow was epic!
Gnarly (adj): Used to describing something as difficult or technical. That big jump is gnarly.
Hollywood Line (noun): Route down the mountain that gives you the most amount of amount of visibility and spectators; usually under a ski lift. Everyone on the lift was watching the skier on the Hollywood line.
Jibber (noun): see “Park Rat”
Nukin (verb): To ski or ride very fast. You were nuking in that last run.
Park Rat (noun): Someone who spends way too much time in the terrain park. Typically they can do lots of tricks on skis, but can’t really ski all that well. See “Jibber”
Pow or Pow Pow (noun): Fresh powder / snow. There is 3 feet of new pow pow in Little Cottonwood Canyon this morning.
Send (verb): To launch with a high level of energy. Past Tense: Sent . I sent it off that double.
Tram Deck (proper noun): The area just outside of the Snowbird tram.
Ski-bums are social beast. They tend to congregate in public areas as they lack the means for other alternatives. Some of the places they meet include the Tram Deck, where one can bring their own beer and food. Another popular hang-out for Ski Bums is Target. This economically-chic retailer is a one stop shop for food, basic non-skiing supplies and home of the coveted ‘hot moms’, who are often found there as well.
The combat between ski-bums is fairly simple. It is a competition of who can perform the greatest feats on skis. Sometimes this can also demonstrate a lack of good sense and judgment. More formalized combat occurs at sanctioned free riding contest but don’t be fooled, it is a battle field out there, and combat goes on every day of the week. When it’s no longer ski season they will take to bikes, rock climbing, etc… to demonstrate their levels of superiority to their peers.