In most modern societies, being a ski bum is looked down upon, and many people don’t entirely endorse it or hope their kids take that path in life. With all justification, this is a good thing. True Ski Bumming is hard, requires many strategies, and at times challenges who you are. But at the same time, this challenge makes you stronger and enables you to develop skills, knowledge, and the ability to overcome other challenges life will inevitably throw your way.
When ski bumming, the priority is, or at least should be, to ski. That is stating the obvious, I know, but with that said, ski bums do whatever it takes to make that happen. In this, the goal in many ski bumming lifestyles is to aim high and ski as much powder and deep snow as possible because for many ski bums, this is the end of and be all of skiing, and who can argue against that?
This prioritization mechanism will translate and stay with the ski bum throughout his life. If he so chooses to go back into the real world, he/she will have the advanced ability to prioritize important things in his life, say jobs, family, spouses, kids, etc., and find a way to spend as much time dedicated to that.
Veteran Ski Bum and SnowBrains Co-Founder Miles Clark skiing bottomless powder in Japan, showing how prioritizing skiing in your life pays off.
Being a ski bum, you learn a unique way of earning and investing your money. As mentioned above, skiing should be your priority, and thus, utilizing your money and resources to pursue skiing is crucial. Thus your economic strategy has to be such that you don’t spend money on the things most people do. Food and basic shelter are the first draws from your resources, and outside of that, skiing and pursuing skiing should be the majority of the remainder of your resources. In this, no fancy cars, clothes, big bar tabs from nights of partying, etc.
Furthermore, the true ski bum works excessively hard from May to November to take a good portion of the winter off and pursue skiing. Thus his monetary resources must be strategized to survive and to keep skiing. Even now, working in a corporate job, I have set up a deal with my company to work every Saturday until December, to take off January and part of February to chase pow around the world, once again the ski bum mentality in me.
My brother tells a story of getting kicked out of an upper-scale restaurant while ski bumming in Vail for sneaking in and eating food off plates left by patrons; economics of need and accessibility. A ski bum measures success not in the amount of money in one’s bank account but rather days on the mountain/skin track.
Dedication and Commitment
To get the most out of ski bumming and have the most fun experience, one must commit to lifestyles on all levels. In addition, the level of dedication must remain high no matter what bumps in the road are experienced (low snow year, injury, running out of money, etc.). This ability to commit and stay dedicated will serve the ski bum well down the road in life. Marriage essentially is one enormous dedication and commitment, right? Furthermore, the corporate world promotes and praises people with full-on company dedication and commitment, and I would say ski bums would fit in well in such a position.
Finally, being a big ski bum, you are typically progressing big in your preferred area of skiing. Whether you’re going big in the park, dropping massive cliffs, or setting 3000ft ascents via a skin track, commitment and confidence in yourself are vital. Standing on top of a line looking down at a feature, you have to commit to making it and have the confidence that you will make it. The slightest bit of hesitation in this situation will get you in some big-time trouble; just f**ing send it. In life, if you are committed to your decisions and commitment to something, go for it with no hesitation. In the end, this will benefit you in a big way.
Use of Resources and Simple Living
Being a ski bum requires you to use all available resources to stay alive and keep skiing. Additionally, dedication to a simple lifestyle is key in making the most out of your ski bumming experience. In this, the ski bum becomes an expert in research. This is because they must have a complete understanding of all the resources to make life easier and simpler. Even in my corporate job in the cluster that is Orange County, CA, I still ride my bike and/or public transit 90% of the time.
I am not a ski bum currently. I am financially stable and have a nice truck that is paid off, but the simple lifestyle instilled in me while ski bumming has remained in my life and makes the most sense to me thus, it is how I set my life up. I may have inherited some of this as well. My father, an OG ski bum, lived in a storage unit in Aspen, CO, from 1970-72, cooked on a homemade BBQ grill, and showered at a car wash for 25-cents twice a week (the real-life Aspen Extreme.) He went on to be a successful businessman, father, and entrepreneur. Thus the dedication to simple living and making the most out of your resources will, in most cases, benefit your life in the long run. Additionally, once you step outside the ski bum lifestyle, you can look back with a sense of appreciation for what you have and what you’re living.
Risk vs. Reward is a concept that most people face daily and, in the bigger perspective, shapes the long-term outcome of life in many ways. From a young age, most people develop the skill of risk assessment. This starts with trying to steal cookies from the cookie jar when mom’s back is turned to sneaking booze out of the house in high school. A ski bum develops a heightened sense of risk vs. reward because, typically, they are taking bigger risks in all aspects of life in hopes of greater returns.
The lifestyle itself is one considerable risk, forgoing career and everyday life to pursue the reward of skiing every day. Therefore the ski bum must be calculated and educated in their risk assessment and have the mental ability to overcome fears on the fly and come out with the reward. This is transposed into other aspects of life and, in the long term, for the ski bum. They will be better prepared to assess many different situations for risk and determine what the ultimate reward is and if it is obtainable. Therefore again, the ski bum lifestyle instills important lifelong values.