7 Reasons to Quit Your Job & Become A Ski Bum:

D’Arcy McLeish | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
Yum. Photo – Reuben Krabbe
Yum. Photo – Reuben Krabbe/Last Frontier Heliskiing

This great article is brought to us by D’Arcy McLeish via Last Frontier HeliSkiing.

Ok, so maybe I’m longing for winter a little. First, it’s been hot here. So hot, in fact, that much of the province is under an extreme fire danger rating. Second, all I seem to see on social media these days are reports and videos of people shredding never ending deep pow in South America and New Zealand. So I’m in the mood to ski. That deep seated, powder addiction has crept back to the surface of my consciousness. Because of that, I thought I would feed that fire a little for anyone contemplating a life in the mountains, away from their office job, where they can ski every day.

Aside from maybe living near the ocean, nothing compares to a life in the mountains. Photo - George Rosset
Aside from maybe living near the ocean, nothing compares to a life in the mountains. Photo – George Rosset/Last Frontier Heliskiing

So in no particular order, here are 7 reasons to quit your job and become a ski bum:

7. It beats working for a living: Yep. It sure does. Even if you end up in one of the less glamorous jobs in a ski town to make ends meet, just knowing that on any given day, you can head to the lift and go shred a few laps, makes everything seem a little better than what you’re doing right now.

6. It’ll make all your friends jealous: Every time it snows and you’re out there getting faceshots, your friends back home will be settling into another day staring at a computer screen. Sure, they might be earning 6 figures and you’ll be slogging it out as a night cleaner for $10/hour, but when it snows, they are the ones that will wish they had quit their jobs.

5. Too much reason is a bad thing: Ya, it might be wiser to work in a job that allows you to buy a home and raise a family, but is it really? Why do that when you can live in a van, shred pow every day and live in the moment? I’ve seen lots of kids raised by ski bums and most of them turn out pretty good. So stop being so REASONABLE. Live a little. You like to ski? Then ski, every day.

4. Kinda self explanatory:

Really, this list could have been just this picture. This is the reason to be a ski bum. Photo - Dave Silver
Really, this list could have been just this picture. This is the reason to be a ski bum. That and it’s one of the perks of working for a heliskiing company Photo – Dave Silver/Last Frontier Heliskiing

3. You get to be that person your friends talk about: So maybe I’m tooting my own horn a little, but I like it when people say: ‘wow, you have an awesome life, getting to live here and ski every day.’ Yep. I do. It’s not without sacrifice, though. I’m poor, in debt but I love where I live, and so will you. And when you do visit your folks and see your old friends, all of them will secretly be envious of the choices you’ve made, ’cause you’ll have more street cred than you thought possible. So ya, they’ll talk about you, but because they probably want a little of what you have.

2. Who knows where life will take you?: The thing is, by staying stagnant…in that comfortable place, going to that comfortable job…well you kinda know what’s going to happen. Being a ski bum is about taking a chance on something that on the surface, probably isn’t going to work out. But it will work out, my friend. Be sure of that. A life in the mountains is one lived deliberately, with intention. And nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to being able to wake up on a storm day knowing you’ll be in the lift line, ready to shred.

1. You get to ski, every day: When is that not worth making a change for? Riddle me that, Batman. All those times you daydream of waist deep turns while you’re sitting there, smacking away in the concrete jungle at your ergonomic keyboard; all those days will blend into one if you aren’t careful. So don’t dream about it, do it. Now. Split from the program, buy a van and drive to the mountains. There’s always room for one more.

Be safe, ski hard.

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21 thoughts on “7 Reasons to Quit Your Job & Become A Ski Bum:

  1. Wished I would’ve ! Instead got a real job and Joined the National Ski Patrol for 48yrs (part time volunteer) So I guess maybe i was 25% ski bum?

  2. I did it for nearly 30 years, I lived in Bend had a full time job in restaurant management and coached H.S. kids for 15 of those years. Jackson Hole for two winters as a cook, and ski rental tech. I worked Mt. Hood Meadows for several years as a lift op. Williamette Pass, Mt. Ashland, Hoodoo, Mt Bailey, if they would let me work for them at some point I did. I have sold tickets, skis, hats, burgers, beer, set gates, and miles of snow fence, I have loaded thousands of butts, caught three ‘hangers’ and performed chair evacuations, I have done avalanche control, and de iced chairlift towers…whatever I could do to get my pass and live that dream. If you really apply yourself you can have your cake and eat it too but there are sacrifices. In my opinion the benefits outweighed them exponentially as through the years, I have gained so many friends and memories. It is a great ride and while I have slowed down a bit, still every day that goes by I smile broad thinking back on those days. I could have gone to college but instead I chose to live out my dreams and in doing so have had a truly unforgettable time and have experienced what most people only dream of. I write for this great website because of my love for the sport and what it has given me. It’s my way of giving back to a vocation that has been my first love since I was 16. It can be rough making ends meet as a ‘ski bum’ but if you really dedicate yourself, it can be the most rewarding decision you could make at a young age.

  3. I worked a regular job AND skied every day. For years! You CAN do both! I was poor with or without skiing but I was content. So there ya go….

  4. Six years ago when I was 22 I moved took my savings and moved to the Alps to be a ski/climbing bum. I still think about it almost every day. I live in the Tahoe area and have a respectable job in public safety that allows me to make ends meet and also ski/bike/play more than any of my college friends with 9-5 jobs. Before I moved to the alps, I went on a forum and asked about people who had done what I was about to do, below are the responses I received and saved after all this time:


    The logic went along the lines of “if you don’t do it now, you’ll get a job, responsibilities, family, whatever, and it just will get harder and harder and you’ll never do it. Then you’ll regret it later.” You are very unlikely to regret being a ski bum for a year or two (or more).

    DON’T waste your youth in the pursuit of money. Invest your vitality in rich experiences which call to your heart. Live the dream! Sacrificing your desires for the banality of worldy position is death. Don’t settle down until you feel the need for structure to coat with your free flowing will. A lively will is the power to make reality a construct of your heart’s eye.

    This may all sound weird, but if you ignore my words, you will be cursed to remember them once you’ve become middle-aged and wondering why you didn’t make the most of life when you were strongest.

    I’m serious as a heart attack.

    I went to a junior college for a couple of years, then ski bummed for four years in Mammoth before finishing my BA. I would not trade those four years for anything.

    If your heart is telling you to be a ski bum, you should listen to it. If you find a lifestyle and job that you love, you’ll never have to work another day in your life. You’ll never know if you’re meant to live the mountain lifestyle until you try it. May as well do it while you’re young and life is still simple. Besides, if you are meant to live in the mountains, your chances of finding a girlfriend with the same “heart calling” are much better if you meet her in the mountains.
    Bummed in whistler after college for 2 years, went back to the real world to finish school been miserable ever since. lets hope il be a bum next season for at leats 15 years!

    So yeah, I’m a huge advocate of the skibum thing. Do it right. Go where its good. Don’t pick up a drug habit. Make note of the ‘lifers’ who are doing it right and are happy, and those stuck in a rut, talking about how rad they were in 1991. I made a lot of good, lifelong friends from my first 2 years in The Fort, and most of use are still getting after it one way ar another.
    Good luck, have fun and remember: Its about the skiing (or riding).
    “Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
    When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
    – Pow Te Ching
    The bum thing is definitely the way to go. There is so much more to it then just the ski aspect, you will know what I’m talking about at some point down the road. Tell your folks not to worry-it will lead to exactly what you were looking for all along. As for me every year has been better then the year before it, and if I could do it all over I wouldn’t change a thing.
    I left after college. Moved to Aspen, still here.

    I have a good life, own a home, have a wife, ski 70+ days a year, travel to exotic places, have great friends all over the world.

    My advise would be to follow your heart and don’t restrict yourself to “entering the real world”. you may find that the “real world” is in a ski town!!!!
    I got a high draft lottery number after my first year in college(1971). Knowing that I wouldn’t be drafted and have to go to ‘Nam, I decided to take a year off to ski bum. I returned to school seasonally in the mid-seventies but never quite got to the finish line diploma-wise. I am about to begin my
    37th winter as a ski bum of sorts. I have a roof over my head and rental property that I own in Co. and a house and some vacant land in Utah. I just can’t get it out of my system. No regrets, whatsoever.150 days a year on snow for the last 36 years, hoping for many more seasons if my body holds up. Lots of great memories,friends, and travels to all corners of the earth to ski. Just do it!
    I quit school after meandering through for two years and moved out to CO for, as I told my father at the time, just one year to sort things out and be a ski bum … four years later I went back to school with the intent of going right back out to the mountains the day I finished. At least that was the plan until I met my wife.

    I don’t regret for a second taking the time to ski bum – it made me who I am today. I also don’t regret not going back to the life after finishing school … although I do miss the 100+ days a year. That said, I don’t miss the weekly grocery shopping list that read; bag of potatoes, ketchup.

    When my boys are older if they want to do the same I’ll say to them what my father said to me – “if you’re going to doing something then do it well. Don’t just be a bum”.

    I may not be a ski bum in a ski town, but I’ll be a ski bum for the rest of my life no matter where I live.

    My other saying is “it all makes sense once you are on the mountain” and it will.
    I taught English in Japan (JET Program) for a couple years, getting 30-40 ski days in each year. (Not great skiing, mind you, but skiing nevertheless.) I was also able to save a lot of money, make a few trips to Thailand and the Philippines, and eventually travel around the world for a year straight when I was finished. Dedicated ski bumming for a year or two would have been incredible, but I’m happy with the path I chose. (Note: Travelling–not vacationing–can be as addictive as skiing.)

    In any case, I definitely recommend taking a year or more off before beginning your career. You probably won’t have such an opportunity again.

    I don’t know what you want out of life, but whatever it is, dreaming big is your best shot.
    I believe that 90% of life is showing up. It’s just like hucking a cliff, just sack up…and do it. There’s plenty of time for “real world” jobs later. Do what you enjoy and the rest will follow. Just my .02.
    It’s ironic, I made the decision to come to Tahoe after college using the opposite logic – I feared if I went right into the “real world” I would never get out, find a girl and settle down and that would be the end of it. Thus I decided to ski bum, figuring I have my degree and can always get a real job later. But now that I’ve been in Tahoe for a couple years, I completely understand why you would have thought that you’d never return
    So I’m sticking with the “get a ski-related job that still looks good on a resume” plan for now….
    Actually I did neither, I became a wandering mystic when I dropped out of college, which is a decision I can’t deny the value of, however, in retrospect, I wish I’d thought of becoming a ski bum. It would have been a lot easier, and more fun I expect, although I wouldn’t have learned the mysteries of the universe as quickly, or in the same way at least.

    I bummed after college. In retrospect, not long enough. Oh well. Do it and you will not regret the decision. Once you start working or go to graduate school, it becomes harder and harder to remove yourself from this lifestyle.
    I was a travel bum for years, work for a year or so, quit, travel for a few months. Come back get another job. Do it again. Its much harder to be a bum later in life. People almost expect it when your in your 20’s.
    On the other hand if your studies can land you a job where you make truckloads of money and can retire at 30 and ski the rest of your life I’d say try that.
    On my second year of bumming. No regrets and it has slowly helped me figure out what I want to do after it all. I have a ton of friends that got “real jobs” after school and always tell me how jealous they are of me, but i rarely feel the same towards them except when I look at bank statements. Plus, i think it looks better to do what you want after school then find a job you want rather than getting a job and quitting it in a short amount of time to bum. IMO I love reading other people’s stories about their ski bum careers BTW.
    Dude, I’m bumming it right now. Graduated from Florida State University (yes, Florida) in June, bartended in Greece for a couple months, traveled all around Turkey and the middle east, now here I am in Whistler, waiting tables and praying for snow.

    Now (right after college) is your time to do what you’ve always wanted to. If you don’t have college loans/debt holding you back than why not. In the past few months I’ve done so many things that I have only dreamed of doing. It’s all possible, I believe that 90% of life is showing up. It’s just like hucking a cliff, just sack up…and do it. There’s plenty of time for “real world” jobs later. Do what you enjoy and the rest will follow. Just my .02.

    When your old and dying are you going to wish you had worked more when you were young?

  5. I’ve done it and it was the most enjoyable thing of my life. We weren’t put on this earth to work 9-5 and live comfortable lives that society has brought us to believe as being “what we need to do”! Ski ski ski !! And drink beer !

  6. Its called sarcasm… try to be ‘super’ not ‘supper’ cool.

    Blair… little envious here… free rent in the summer..way to keep it real

  7. quote of the year ” You like to ski? Then ski, every day ” thank you , in that one phrase you,ve summed up the meaning of life , do what makes you happy 🙂
    ps: surfing is heaps cheaper no lift passes to buy , though after awhile in the back of your mind a yeti starts chanting more and more and more pow pow pow pow pow pow pow , next thing your booking flights and grinning from ear to ear sitting on that chair lift , ummm and while i,m on here also seeking sugar mummy snow bunny to ski with , will clean ski chalet and spa ,cook dinner ,chop fire wood , open wine bottles etc 🙂 will wax snow board and ski,s and even fit chains to the beama for trips in town

  8. It’s very possible to make decent money in the ski bum lifestyle, and you will become a ripping skier ! Like any athletic endeavor the more you do it the better you get , duh . Don’t need a sponsorship to do that .
    I don’t feel guilty one tiny little bit when I’m ripping knee deep powder .

  9. Why not move to a ski town and work at a “real” job? Most good companies understand why you moved there. You will probably enjoy skiing pow with your boss before work on big days…no need to be a bum when u can have it all

  10. Of doing what the author suggests… you are better off plodding along in life working at your boring job, living a boring life.
    You cant become a ski bum and you havent because its too risky and represents everything your parents didnt want you to become.

    It is too expensive to live in mountain towns and every thing is way more expensive. You will go deeper in debt on having two to three, part-time minimum wage jobs. The best jobs are already filled by others who have been around so much longer.

    Random drukeneness and alcohol abuse will be an issue at any given time during the season and you will eventually need to get into expensive counselling therapy after many brushes with the law, dui’s, public drunkeness, mayhem, etc. Use of illicit drugs and questionable decisions pertaining to sex partners or lack thereof will be part of your new life. You will have the new experience of std’s.

    Besides you spent all that borrowed money on that relatively worthless college degree and now have to pay it back let alone the guilt you will experience after abandoning your urban dreams.

    You will not become a ripping skier, sponsored by equipment manufacturers nor be featured in action snowsports movies. The closest thing to a movie will be your lame gopro pov footage.

    So ignore what the auhor states,, ski bumming is not for you otherwise you’d have done it already.

    1. This response is better than the actual article/post. Sure its 2am and im a bit drunk in my ski bum summer home/tent but it actually made me lol.

    2. hahaha sounds like you are reasoning way too much bud!! I happen to live i a ski town, started as a ski town and now work an industry job and make good money. Ski towns ALL started with mining and forestry type industries so there are always good jobs out there.

      “Guilt from abandoning your urban dreams” is probably one of the funniest things I have ever read. There is literally no such thing when you trade the ‘dreams’ that everyone told you that you should have for living with a rad group of people in the mountains who absolutely love life

      Seems like you are wrapped up in your desk job and are kicking yourself for not saying fuck it and heading out for the pow. Oh, and there’s tonnes of mountain biking in the summer too.

      Have a good life! You made me very happy, and even more sure of the choice to lead a friggin AWESOME life away from the city. Good day!

    3. You should stay wherever you are. Doing whatever you’re doing. Ski bumming sucks, tell your friends.

    4. I’m sure this was written by a ski bum who didn’t want competition for first tracks or mountain town jobs. Nice try

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