How to be a dirtbag.
The ski bum culture is on the fringe of acceptable lifestyles: accepted by those in the know and rejected by just about everyone else. Entire lifetimes have been spent figuring out the perfect arrangement of real-life obligations and a ceaseless gravity-fed addiction to wild and deep skiing. It’s an art and a way of life.
But skiing is the easy part; the rest is a tossup wherein individuals will do whatever it takes to keep up the lifestyle, spending years chasing the high from that first over-the-head face-shot or season spent hillside. Once you decide to take the first step, follow these guidelines.
Step 1: Move Somewhere
Pick a Western location within close proximity to world-class skiing and go there now. Since you’re reading this, you probably landed in Bozeman: we consider that a wise decision and an excellent first step.
Step 2: Secure Funding
This one is tricky. Often, it’s the thing that scares away rookie bums and would-be lifers. While you really only need to make enough money for a season pass, having a little bit extra on-hand will help out with things like food and beer when you need a cave to hide in again until the lifts start turning.
Step 3: Find a Job
If you’ve got money, skip this step. If not, you will need to seek out employment that starts after the lifts stop or is flexible enough to allow for powder-day emergencies (otherwise known as “sick days”). If a powder clause doesn’t exist, never return and promptly move on to the next available position—you won’t take this kind of discrimination.
Step 4: Transportation
If you still need money, sell your vehicle (unless you live in it) to continue working as little as possible. With four fewer balding tires to worry about you will now need help getting around. The bus would be the smart and conscientious decision—but a ski bum is neither of those things and will not want to be “tied down” to a schedule. This leaves hitchhiking: walk/bike to Rouse and raise a thumb. Getting back home is even easier.
Step 5: Housing
Landlords are wary of anyone who wears flat-brimmed hats or flannel, mentions skiing in the walk-through, or directly asks if the closet could be used as a bedroom. Upon placement, move all of your friends into closets to save on rent. If you haven’t sold your vehicle, living inside it would be the next best option.
Step 6: Significant Other
Find one before you fully indulge. Ski bumming is hard, like coal mining and working on the railroad, and you’ll need help. A bum duo is much stronger then a lone wolf, and you won’t find a mate while seasonally poor without time for non-ski-bum-related activities.
Step 7: Stay Connected
Your mother is convinced you are gone with the wind—and she’s correct. Your family believes that you’ll come around when the snow melts in the springtime and you will find a good job, buy a house, and marry a nice girl. While none of that is true, call home often and let your family know that all is well. You’re living the dream and can spare a few minutes out of your selfish existence to ease their concerns.
Step 8: Socialize
Spend at least two solid hours at the Griz each day to put down some solid roots. Afterward, retire to a Bozeman watering hole such as the Eagles, the Cat’s Paw, or the Haufbrau, which feature low-cost beers and occasional free entertainment. Here, other ski bums will simmer in the cumulative musk of old leather gloves, dirty Carhartts, and sweaty beards.
Step 9: Be Punctual
Not to your job, or any real obligations—but to the ski hill. Check the weather forecast nightly and set an alarm to check the snow report early every morning. With powder on the ground, you’ll want to be in line well before 9am. Without powder, you’ll have more time to sleep off your hangover and arrive at a cool 10:30—just in time to get on the Ridge. Showing up is the most respectable thing a ski bum can do—so you better be there.
Step 10: Enjoy
You’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where you are. When the powder is deep, ski the shit out of it with absolutely no regard for anything else. Fall off cliffs, envelop yourself in deep turns, explore every inch of your home terrain, and hone your skills. Become the best possible skier that you have ever been. You made the decision to enjoy your time on this earth and not waste away—this is your reward
It’s that easy—do it now. When you finally give in, get that real job, and are forced to become a weekend warrior, you’ll look back on those recklessly deep powder days with fondness, knowing that you fully appreciated it all. And then when you look back with fondness and decide that real jobs aren’t all that great, start over with step 1. We’ll see you up there.