Step # 1: Choosing a location
The biggest factor that you should think about when choosing a mountain is the terrain. If you’re a park rat, then you should choose a place that is built for exactly that. There are mountains (Park City for example) where 90% of the mountain is one big park, but if you’re into steep cliffs, powder, easy rollers, or back country, then be assured that there is a mountain that has been built especially for you.
Another thing that divides the interests of the people is how corporate vs how laid back the mountain is. At the big wig places, such as Vail, you get the perks of having a huge community full of more people than you will ever have the time to meet. At these corporate places the lifts are almost always top notch fast tracks with covers the protect your balls from the wind as you traverse these sprawling mountain domains. On the other hand, corporations treat employees like dirt and even more so since you are a dispensable ski bum. Corporate owned places also don’t give out free beer, free rentals, free kitchen slop, or really free anything like the smaller family owned places will. At the smaller resorts you have a chance to meet and remeet people all the time. This is why I am a fan of the “fuck corporations” ideology and would highly recommend choosing something that is more off the beaten track.
Step # 2: Finding a place to live
Make sure you have a place to crash for when you get there. If you are truly rugged, then you can just bring a warm bag to sleep in and clear out a spot in the forest to sleep. I knew a guy that lived in an igloo for the winter and he turned out the be mostly sane after I got to know him. To do this you would need some tough winter gear and a bit of igloo construction skills which can all be found online. I would recommend finding a place to crash before you get there. You could go on couchsurfing.com or craigslist and finding a place to crash for just a bit while you get set up in the new city. Once you have had time to meet people on the mountain and you have made some solid friendships then you can start couch surfing through the social network. Trust me, this works. I wound up couch surfing at different people’s houses for almost two months before I found my own place to live. Depending on others for a place to sleep wasn’t always the most reliable thing and I did find myself without a place to sleep once or twice throughout the two months, but it was more fun than what you might expect. It gave me access to a deeper part of the lives of the people that work on the mountain where by I was able to make great friends with kind and giving people. When there is a mountain party it is assumed that there will be at least 5 people crashing and you had better be sure that you are one of the 5. When I eventually did get my own place I was sure to have a party where I could give back to all my friends that had helped me throughout my time as a bum.
You will need to find a place to live and if you have been going without a home for a good amount of time then you should know the workings of the mountain and be able to pick for yourself the best of the best. I ended up getting a basement just below the entrance of the mountain and would hitch hike to work reliably every day. Keep an eye out for houses that are home to only people that live on the mountain. These houses are a focal point for social activity and often are some of the cheapest and most fun places to live. If your not forced into living anywhere you can generally find a good spot for cheap so long as your not living in a corporate owned town like the one in Vail.
Step # 3: Go Pro
Now that you have the first two steps down there isn’t much more to do than to enjoy the mountain. Be sure to explore every inch of the terrain including places you have to hike to. You are going to want to be the master of your domain and while there will always be that guy that has been riding the slopes since before you were born, you can still become worthy of the title of expert. Honestly, if you’re not worthy of the title of expert by the time you’re done with the season then your next journey should be to a cave in the woods where you can sit and rethink your life. Your time on the slopes will be one of the greatest time of your life. Be sure to get out to all the parties, make sure to talk to everyone, and be willing to stretch your comfort zones. Riding pow is an exhilarating experience that can push the most basic of instincts right to the limit. Get out there and get hurt. If you wind up without a scratch by the end of the season then you had better get to that cave and start thinking because getting hurt is part of the game.