How to Become a Ski Bum in 5 Easy Steps:

Miles Clark | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
whistler ski bum
Ski bumming has it’s perks. photo: milesclark/

This is my personal view of how to become a ski bum.  Obviously, there a few ways to pull off the ski bum thing.  In my experience, the elements listed below are key to making it happen.  I’m certainly eager to hear how others have made it work.


#1.  Get Rid of Your Car

Cars are expensive and unnecessary to a real ski bum.  If you wanna be a ski bum, you need to get rid of that gas guzzling, money burning, stress inducing, metal nightmare that society demands you financially handcuff yourself to.  Gas is expensive, insurance is expensive, repairs are expensive, maintenance is expensive, registration is expensive, speeding tickets are expensive, and god forbid you actually get in an accident…  Get rid of your car straight away, figure out local and long range public transportation, learn about free ski resort shuttles, coordinate rides from friends, and hitchhike.  Also, selling your car could easily pay for an entire ski bum season.

Ski bum freedom. skier: miles clark. photo: mark virgin
Ski bum freedom. skier: miles clark. photo: mark virgin

#2.  Do NOT Work During Winter

The whole point to being a ski bum is to ski during the winter not to work during winter.  I’ve known way too many people trying to ski bum who get jobs as lifties, ski instructors, patrollers, waiters, bartenders, bus boys, or rental shop workers and end up working during the daytime, missing out on skiing.  If you’re missing skiing to work, you’re missing the point.  Ski bum, not ski worker.  Granted, many people figure out how to work after skiing each day and it works for them and that’s great.  But, you’re going to be tired after skiing from 9am until 4pm then working from 5pm until 12am.  A real ski bum doesn’t work during winter.

I know, I know, you’re asking how do you NOT work during winter.  It’s simple:  bust your ass during the summer.  Get a summer job fishing, fire fighting, doing construction, trail building, bartending, waiting tables, oil rig grunting, guiding, teaching sailing lessons, whatever, and save up money.  It’s not too hard to do if you avoid:  bars, restaurants, concerts, girlfriends, and travel.  The best summer jobs are the ones where you don’t pay rent, live somewhere where you can’t spend money, and you work every single day (ie guiding, trail building, fire fighting, fishing).  You can survive 6 months in a mountain town skiing everyday on $5,000 if you bum hard enough.  Spend you summer working hard, saving money, training your body, and thinking of winter.  Six months of work followed by six months of ski bumming.  Perfect.

Ski bum Valhalla. skier: miles clark photo: zach paley
Ski bum Valhalla. skier: miles clark photo: zach paley

#3.  Live On $10 Per Day

During winter, live on $10 per day.  Pay for your season pass up front and get it at the early bird rate.  Pay for your 5 or 6 months of winter rent up front.  Then live on $10 per day.  It’s quite easy.  You spend money at the grocery store and that’s it.  No bars, no restaurants, no significant travel, no live music, just skiing everyday.  You’ll have to throw your buddies some gas money here and there as well, but you’re a bum and you know how to keep it to a minimum.

Everyone loves a ski bum. skier: miles clark. photo: tom tomkinson
Everyone loves a ski bum. skier: miles clark. photo: tom tomkinson

#4.  Live With Other Ski Bums

This is simple, easy, and necessary.  As a ski bum or potential ski bum, you should know other ski bums.  Get together with these guys and gals and organize getting a place in your preferred ski town near your selected ski resort.  Ski bums will pinch pennies with you, share rooms with you, ski with you all day everyday, and most importantly: support your choice of lifestyle.  It’s key to have other ski bums around to ward off the imminent feelings of insecurity that your mom, your girlfriend (soon to be your ex-girlfriend if you start ski bumming) your television, and the real world will constantly be pushing upon you.

Go. For. It. photo: miles clark
Go. For. It. photo: miles clark

#5.  Freakin’ Go For It

Nobody ever got anywhere without going for it.  This is the absolute largest factor in becoming a ski bum.  If you really want something in life you need to go for it all out.  I repeat:  “go for it all out.”  The details will always work them self out.  I repeat:  “the details always work themselves out.”  Now, get rid of your car, quit your job, save up some money, call up some ski bums, and move to a mountain town as soon as you can.

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29 thoughts on “How to Become a Ski Bum in 5 Easy Steps:

  1. Nearly forgot:

    6) hitchhike everywhere
    7) buddy up with people in hostels (stay occasionally to break up the monotony of hardcore bumming) so have ski bum mates and people to go ski touring with at end of season

    p.s. when I camp, I don’t have a vehicle. I just find a spot where no snow has fallen (place with a canopy doorway, under bridge etc) if that isn’t possible I dig out a square in the snow (rarely have to do this as I generally find somewhere where snow isn’t covering the ground (impossible to sleep on snow unless you have lots of layers or expensive equipment which is too burdensome/unaffordable when you are a mobile ski bum). This proves to be an adventure in itself (no time for boredom). This is extreme and not bearable for most bums (even in -15 to -20 I have done this – thankfully not often). The freedom is the ultimate rush and less financial stress this way :)))

  2. How to be a hardcore skibum

    1) Buy early bird pass
    2) buy early plain ticket (best for cheapest)
    2) Get a tent/winter sleeping setup (if like me you are super cheap then two sleeping bags and a blanket as a mat with some iron shake warmers in socks and pants)
    3) Go to foodbanks, community dinners and dumpster dive for free food
    4) Panhandle for 10-20 bucks a day for beer, extra food, iron shake warmers, toiletries, shower and laundry (last two arnt that important…but save you hostile encounters in public places). Be honest with the sign. Its their choice to give so you arnt exploiting anyone…as long as the sign is honest!

  3. I like the thought and the spirit. Yet it assumes a ski bum value-system that has nothing to do with skiing. Get rid of your car? Really? Being a ski bum with a car is far more “ski bum”. The article tried to make the poor, disoriented, devil-may-care profile attractive. Not the ski bums I know. It’s an art, not a penitence. Let’s see more articles about how skiers live a lifestyle with positive values.

    Live with other ski bums? How about find a wife who likes to live with a ski bum if he’s happy. This is the life.

  4. Been living in Tahoe for 41 years and ski almost every day during the winter and have for the whole time except when I was in the military for a bit which I stayed in for 20 years in the Guard. I collect UI every winter, been married 37 years and own a business that I only work in the summer. I also have the trademark “TAHOE SKI BUM™”

  5. whats the best ski town for fresh pow cheap housing and low crowds?? lot to ask i know haha

    1. damn man you will get bored after a while…you want a multi resort pass unless you are amazing with the chicas (in a cock fest…yeah right) to keep you occupied!!! once you have experienced a multi resort pass, you will never look back!!! live in a mobile unit of some kind and roam!!!

  6. I was a ski bum during a great winter in CO. I often wished I’s never left. Left the house with $1,000 a few necessities and a general idea of where I wanted to be. I stayed through spring and it was outstanding. I’m busting my tail working IT with a long range goal of moving to the Rockies permanently in ~10 years. With money to leave plenty of playtime…

    1. Get back to the mountains when you’re ready, Rico. Maybe you can do some of that IT remotely from a ski town?

  7. And…. start one of the best websites on the world wide web.

    I am regularly jealous of you Miles, keep up the good life!

  8. Great read Miles, and wonderful life style if you can pull it off. Afraid I am still a working stiff, ski bum wanna be. Will act like a ski bum this week at Mary Jane. Happy Turns to you.

  9. How to be a skier with a 50k ski budget

    1) Get a real job, be really good at it, only work 4-5 months, if that. Actually run some sort of internet news website about skiing. It is good to use your brain.

    2) Buy a place in ski town, rent it out to above average dirt bag ski bums. Like university grads with PhD., med students, hardcore skiers.

    3) Don’t tell anyone what you do in the summer or how you earn income. Do not get a job in winter.

    4) Buy a cheap dirt bag car, even if you own a nice vehicle. Drive dirt bag car, Subaru’s are best. Have roof box for 15 pairs of skis. Plan to drive 18 – 22 hrs by yourself to get to a snow storm. Mammoth to Bralorne, BC is an acceptable solo ski trip. Squaw Valley to Haines is an acceptable ski trip. (46 hrs + in good driving conditions).

    4) Learn to live like a ski bum. It isn’t cool to flash your money.

    5A) Skiing really starts in North America in September. If you can’t find solid pow, your doing something wrong.

    5B) Winter pow is easily do able in North America in October via walking. Go some where warm, meet lots of girls, you will be in short supply of them for the next few months. You get the point.

    5C) November is training season. Smash as many resort laps as possible. 20 days minimum.

    5) December is ski touring time in the Monashee Mountains in British Columbia. Stay at ski lodges for 2-3 weeks and spend 1-2 weeks resort skiing at Revelstoke

    6) Go to Japan for January. It is call JaPOW for a reason.

    7) Go to wherever has snow for February and good stability. Snow season is hit or miss and February is always a toss us. February is full of holidays. Go ski touring on weekends and when grounds are large.

    8) Go back to your home resort or ski town for a few weeks in March.

    9) Head to Alaska around mid to end of March. Take sleds and ski big lines. Use your 13k heli budget when the sky is clear. Find random friend that owns a plane, get rides to top of mountain ranges.

    10) End of April or early May, head to the Rocky Mountains to do some ski touring around Banff, Alberta, or high in Colorado, or the Alps (Cham, Verbier, Zermatt).

    11) Late May and early June is mega glacier season. Get high and keep getting higher. Starts happen at 1am, 2am 3 am.

    12) June is the time where you do 14’k plus peaks. Ski off Denali or Mount Logan in North America. Weather dependent.

    13) July – October is when you work. You still need 10+ days a month. Timing is everything. Figure out how to ride your bike another 50 days.

  10. Learn how to work from home. Go to school and get a degree in the IT business so you have a job that earns yourself enough money to pay your basic bills, yes, that includes your car and allows you to work a few hrs in am and pm.

    Then learn another trade and work your fucking ass off in the summer so when it starts snowing, you have enough extra money to travel, chase pow, live off your IT job and be able to do whatever you want!

    It’s not rocket science but you may have to wait a little while and work hard.

  11. Great article, get ahold of a copy of my book and see how I did it and set a World Record at the same time. You can also check out “ ” to read about my world record and read about my final numbers. If you are a true ski bum, or even an avid snow enthusiast, goal setter, etc., you will love both the book and the world record read… Ski it up, Rainer

  12. are trust-funders ski bums?
    Miles has it down, but I’ll add: while you’re good, always pay it forward, give rides to hitchhikers, help people augered in the snow, be positive about conditions, buy guys a beer. One day your ski pals will be there to help.

  13. You forgot to mention one of the most important sources of revenue for being a true ski bum, sell weed.

    If you ditch your car, where u gonna have unprotected spontaneous sex and sleep??

  14. During the ski season of 2012, I was a tropical ski bum, as I live on Maui, Hawaii. That season, I was able to ski 104 different western USA/Canada nordic/alpine ski resorts. Vail was #16, Sun Valley #50, Squaw was #100, and Kirkwood was #104. The adventure was so awesome, I will attempt it again the winter of 2015.

  15. Or move to Alta. LIve in up in LCC, work nights as a busser, get housed, fed, and a free pass, and even make a few bucks. And ski everyday(163 in a row last year!)

  16. Got #s 1-4 down already this year – but due to an ongoing medical issue (GI issue) my days this season have been fewer than I need for my soul and are an ongoing problem that hopefully I will be getting some answers to at my next Drs appointment. however the dream lives on !! the season isn’t over yet –

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