Category Archives: Snowboarding

How to be a ski bum

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.

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A skibum in the purest sense of the word

Mover to the mountain 4 weeks ago, and have been able to get on the generosity of mountain people high and low. First it was finding the first couch to sleep on, then it was finding gear, now it’s about all the simple things that each person has to offer. You see, most people have gifts inside spring wrapped just waiting for someone to come along and unwrap them. Is it not the giver who owes thanks because the receiver revived? Today most people are too caught up in their own ways to understand people around them and figure out what kind of gifts can be shared. Most people find it to be a release to finally find a person who is will to accept their sincerity as a person. Really, it’s all about talking to other people to find out what their stories are and where they come from and maintaining that focus on that person even after your basic needs have been filled. It’s about the art of seduction.

Mountain rules are different from anywhere else. We have an entire team of pothead lifties and enough snow to make pot stations all over the mountain. It’s not as if we don’t care about the rules, its more that the rules don’t apply to us. Just the other day, during our start of the day meeting, it reeked of weed. The guy that’s in charge of the lifties made a special appearance and gave a speech where he did not tell us not to smoke, rather he told us not to get caught. One of the greatest speeches I have heard in my life.

The mountain is in Utah and with that comes many people who live a life by the book. No drugs, no sex, and no fun. Just kidding on that last part. On the contrary they can be lots of fun as well as easy to deal with. I have already gotten myself into many a religious conversation in which we try and persuade each other of something neither of us is going to believe in (this has been one of my favorite pastimes for a while now).

I have started to embrace my inner roguishness and have begun the seduction of someone who is already in a relationship. I figure that most people already expect me to pull something amoral like that and now that I am actively engaged in it makes everything seem smoother and fit nicer. Could cause a firestorm with me taking on all the old time lifties that have each other backs on the mountain. This would be a fight that I could not win, although I might be able to make off with the treasure before anyone is aware. I should say that I find it nice to have a challenge for a seduction. It’s exciting this way.

Friday night currently and I thought that I had a party lined up, but now I can’t find the address and I saved the contact under the wrong number and will have to wait until I see him on the mountain in order to get his info for a second time. I almost gave up on the night and resigned myself to studying something that could prove to be super valuable in terms of learning but not what I am looking for out of a Friday night. We will still see where the night will bring.

Every night for me is a challenge to find a place to sleep. Over the past week, I have been able to bounce from house to house. What has been really awesome has been learning everyone’s inner lives. They take me into their home and share with me their lifestyle. If I had a house to go to every night I would leave before things even got interesting. I would gladly pay for my currently lifestyle if only there were some way to make things dependable. Instead, when I have nowhere to go I wander the city, moving from coffee shop to coffee shop hoping that something might work itself out. I really do love my lifestyle and hope to be persuasive to anyone reading that has got the skill and the balls to pack up and move in somewhat of the same direction. I have told you it’s rough, in the future I will focus on the reward.

 

Towering above mountain, cast in shadow, eyes red

The demon named weakness calls you out of your bed

He says choose quickly, the fate of many rests in your small hands

To fight now and to forever or to lay down under my command

 

So soft and so sweet do his words lay into your mind

As if there is truth in relaxation. To sleep is divine

So tempting and sweet does deep darkness seem to be

Here we are shackled, in sleep we are free

 

Once we were stardust and to that we are bound

Any purpose beyond the wave is something I have not yet found

So easy it would be, to let go of the fight

Surrender to the pleasantness and become one with the light

 

But something inside you that will not let go

You try to control it but still it says no

This force it controls you and it says no time for rest

Bigger and better and you bang on your chest

 

Screaming at the demon we know only through fear

Screaming I will fight on and on hind legs you rear

You charge strain ahead ignoring the pain

You charge straight ahead with eyes set aflame

 

Now troubled our demon who cannot understand

He thinks that what drives you can be under his command

But you and I know better how this story will be told

The demon is you and the lesson: be bold

 

The Life of a Lifty

There isn’t much to being a lifty. You have to groom the loading and unloading zones where customers enter and exit the lift, which is done with a small snow rake that helps push the snow around in order to get things even and level for everybody. If someone falls off the lift or is having trouble getting on, then it’s the lefties job to stop or slow the lift for smooth operations. The one other thing that lifties are responsible for is closing and opening of the lift. So, what I am really trying to say is that it is one of the easiest jobs anyone other than a computer is responsible for. It’s the part that is not in the job description that really makes the kicker.

Today I got about 5 runs down the mountain while I was working. These runs take me deep into the powder country where I dodge trees as I make my way down some of the sickest stuff I have ever hit. Powder language new to me and I am working on learning how to speak in this strange dialect so that I can resend it to my readers through the interwebs. (stay tuned here for more!)

I have notices that there is a progression of moods that happen throughout the day. In the morning I am usually better than your average groggy mofo who just woke up and is ready to get bent by the slightest challenge that comes at him in the morning hours. I am more the guy that is rocking out to his ipod on the bus in the morning just trying to trick my brain into waking up. It’s the late morning/early afternoon part of the day that really grinds my gears. It feels like there is nothing worthwhile going, and no way to make things interesting. At this part of the day I am forcing myself to talk to people with manors that take true grit to get off the tongue. I am also taking runs down the groomed trails just wasting my time. It was when afternoon hit that things really started to get ramped up.

I had a desire to hit Lefties Canyon today which is a bit of a hike from the top of the lift I operate. After I got my boots strapped in and cut left of the groomed trails it becomes a time of weaving through trees in fresh powder deep enough make you lean back less you get caught up to your waste in white, sticky, wet, snow. There was a moment where I was sliding along, not going fast, just seeing how long my glide would last before I would have to start pushing by foot. I took a slow moment to realize how little effort I had to spend in order to move. I hardly even need to try and stay standing up. It was at this moment that I noticed all the trees rolling by and the wind blowing through the forest. It was so much peace that I had to laugh. Astonished with the bliss that I had found I took my time carving through the canyon and from that moment on my day/life got much better.

Now I write from a coffee shop. I have made far less money than I could have if I decided to work at a job that makes money. Instead I trade cash for the feeling that is had after hanging out on a mountain all day. We could try and put a price on this feeling and short term it wouldn’t be all that valuable. It’s after this feeling gets embedded into the soul and when the feeling is not something of a passing moment but a way of life. I am new to this lifty business but if I were to put a price on the embedding of that feeling I would then have to shoot myself for defiling such a serine moment with something as tragic and boring as economics. Instead I will remain hopelessly star struck and completely in awe of the little bit of heaven that I have found and will continue working on making it a permanent part of my life.