Do they respect the ski bum? Do they envy the ski bum? Do they appreciate our presence, or do they want us gone? Are they intimidated by us on the hill? Or do they enjoy our vibe, dedication, and local knowledge?
This is an innately interesting topic. Ski bums create and establish the local vibe, real world working people come up on weekends and holidays and fund our addictions.
Without one, the other cannot exist? This may not be obvious, but I think it’s true. What is obvious, is that there would be no ski resorts nor ski towns without the weekend/holiday warriors. They have the money, buy the day tickets, stay in the hotels, buy food at the restaurants, purchase the gasoline, and put the money in our tip jars.
What isn’t as obvious is whether or not we need ski bums. This is where I’d really love to open the discussion. I’m very curious what the USA thinks about the ski bum and our level of usefulness. This is something that, contrary to Ayn Rand’s beliefs, has to be decided by committee.
In some places being a ski bum is respected. For example: in European countries, being a skiing professional such as a ski patrol or ski instructor is a respectable occupation. These ski bums are paid well, appreciated, and even celebrated. I don’t think that opinion is shared here in the good ole US of A. When I personally opted out of grad school for ski bumming my family was much less than ecstatic about my decision. Ski bums in America seem to often be revered as exactly that…bums.
What defines the American ski bum?
There are so many types of ski bums that I shouldn’t even try to categorize them…but I will anyway.
The straight from high school ski bum who moves out to a ski town directly from high school.
The overeducated ski bum who moves to a ski town immediately after college or grad school (Hell, Squaw Valley Pro Ski Patrol currently has employees with BAs and graduate degrees from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, and even lowly Stanfurd. One is literally a rocket scientist, no bs.)
The burnt-out ski bum who moves to a ski town after working in a cubicle for X amount of years and realizes it’s not for them.
The temporary ski bum who moves to a ski town between schools, jobs, girl/boyfriends.
The one season ski bum who knows they are going back to the real world but doesn’t wanna miss out on the experience.
The local ski bum who actually grew up in the ski town that they are bumming in and has never been able to get out.
The lifer ski bum who came up a long time ago and will ski bum until his knees and hips give out (and once they do, he will still stay in the ski town and talk about how rad they were back in the day).
What truly defines the ski bum is the willingness to give up money, glory, girls (if you’re a guy), night life, societal acceptance, and almost all forms of security for the opportunity to never miss a powder day.
But, of course, there are even exceptions to these decisive conditions above. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it’s arguably the coolest thing that can happen to any skier…it’s called: The Big Pro Skier.
The Big Pro Skier does have money, glory, girls, night life, societal acceptance, and security. The Big Pro Skier even gives back to society by being in movies and performing stunts that entertain and awe the real world skiers. The real world skiers grow to love and admire these Big Pro Skiers and even invite them to their Christmas and Brit Milah parties.
Big Pro Skier Shane McConkey warranting his existence.
What is it about the ski bum that captures our interest so severely? I think it’s a question that simply leads to more questions like the ones asked in the opening paragraph. I’d love to hear your answers on these question as I’m truly not brave enough to assume how the USA would answer them all.