According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, hitchhiking is the act of traveling by securing free rides from passing vehicles. The 1950s and 1960s were certainly the glory days of this thrifty style of travel. According to an article in Vox, the downfall of hitchhiking was brought by a greater percentage of the population owning vehicles, the ban of hitchhiking in many areas, and the perceived danger of the act.
There has indeed been a smear campaign in popular culture regarding hitchhiking. Movies and television will have you believe that hitchhiking is extremely dangerous. We can’t comment on that aspect and we encourage everyone to always be safe. We can, however, call it as we see it. And “thumbing” for a ride is still alive and well in mountain towns.
There are a variety of reasons you will see hitchhikers in your favorite mountain towns:
First, thru-hikers traversing mind-boggling hiking routes will often hitchhike to town to re-up on supplies. They are easy to spot given the giant backpacks and “rugged” outdoorsy appearance…and maybe smell. Second, skiers will hitch a ride back to their vehicle if their side-country or backcountry ski lap dumps them out on a road. They are even easier to spot as they will be, surprise, carrying skis. Third, mountain towns are chock-full of what locals call “J-1s”. These are foreign students who have a J-1 visa to work at ski resorts for the season. They are often seen wearing their resort uniforms.
While we can’t recommend picking strangers up on the side of the road, we can tell you that hitchhiking is still prominent in mountain towns. Perhaps the next time you see a gaggle of dirty backpackers leaning against a guard rail, you will give them the old tip of the hat.
Images from: Hitchhiking: Explore The USA For Free Facebook Page