The American ski bum may be melting away from mountain towns. Jeremy Evans, a snowboarder at Kirkwood Mountain Resort, spent several years interviewing America's ski bums only to find the traditional slope icon vanishing from the ski resort landscape.
Evans' 256-paged book--In Search of Powder: A Story of America's Disappearing Ski Bums--was released in early November and is now in its second print run. He set out to chronicle the life of ski bums, but instead found them a dwindling breed due to big corporate resorts, high-priced real estate, and an imported international workforce.
"It was going to start out as a bunch of stories about ski bums," Evans told OnTheSnow. "As I did more research, I discovered a trend. It was a difficult book to write because once the trend developed, I had to listen to my journalist heart."
Every ski town has a cadre of local ski bums. But the central tenet of being a traditional ski bum requires a brain-dead job that pays just enough to ski every day, drink, drug up, and grab sex - pretty much in that order - without thought for the future. Used to be that you could recognize them in the lift line by their duct-taped clothing that smelled of rank beer and pot. But the counter-culture look moved into mountain fashion, minus the tape and stench, and the bum changed.
"A lot of people have the look, but they might be tourists from Dallas," said Evans. "Those who really are bums give up on the lifestyle sooner than they used to. Young Americans come to the resorts now with their exit strategy in place."
Seasonal resort work will always appeal to those who want to escape the 9-to-5 life, even on a temporary basis. But Evans finds the demographics changing. "Ski bums will always be fueled by recent college or high school grads, always young 20-somethings," said Evans. "But they can be alive and well in any age group now as people retire early and go back to ski resorts to work. We're in a gray area now on how we define a ski bum. Maybe we need a new term now."
Evans sees some of the smaller resorts across the West as remaining potential habitat for the ski bum, although employment at many is limited. "The problem with the little ones is they're competing with the big boys," said Evans. "I want the little ones to survive, but stats say otherwise."
To research his book, Evans lived the ski bum life for several years. But the sad truth about ski bums is that if they want their own families with kids, the ski bum lifestyle gets tossed aside like an empty beer bottle. "When I was writing the book, I was living the lifestyle, but now I have a child seat in the back of my car and will be lucky to ride 30 days this year," mused Evans.
In Search of Powder: A Story of America's Disappearing Ski Bums" with an introduction by Glen Plake, is published by University of Nebraska Press. It costs $16.95 and is available at Amazon.