A Pair of Skis and a Pickup Truck

By Beacon Staff

Almost every day, I get a lot of interesting questions. One that I am most often asked is, “Do you think someone today can be a ski bum as you were by living in the parking lots of ski resorts?”

My answer, “of course.”

There is a balance between skiing and working. But I have said it for the last 20 years, “Any job that you have in a city you can do at a ski resort. Quit your job and head for the ski resort of your choice and go for it.”

The only suggestion I would make is to purchase a van of some kind to sleep and live in, instead of the kind of trailer Ward Baker and I lived in.

The answer to the question of how we got on the ski lifts every day the way we did will go to our graves with us. It is certainly a lot more difficult than it used to be because of electronic surveillance so bite the bullet and spend enough time during the summer working to raise money to buy a pass.

However, there’s something to be very careful of. Never, repeat, never have an inside heat source of any kind that burns gasoline or propane so you don’t die of asphyxiation before you even get to use your precious pass. My suggestion is to buy a 20-degree-below-zero arctic sleeping bag at an Army Surplus and you won’t have a problem.

The coldest night that Ward and I slept through in our small trailer was 32 below zero and our only problem was warming up our boots with our feet on the bus ride to the chairlifts on Baldy.

Even back then, Sun Valley provided a free bus that we could ride to the River Run single chairlift. One of our goals was to ride a chairlift all day, seven days a week until the snow melted in the spring.

The mountain manager here at the Yellowstone Club was born in Aspen and his father worked on the Aspen Ski Patrol for 40 years.

What is wrong with a career like that? To be the first one on the lift every morning and checking out the runs for potential problems before any guests are even out of bed. At 7 a.m. you are probably trying to fight traffic, looking right into a brilliant sunrise and listening to the latest snow report on the car radio.

Here is the story of a friend who really figured it out by snaring the perfect job and lifestyle. I’ll call him Tom. He worked for a company called Vans to Vail and picked me up at my house in Vail one morning at 6:30 for a trip to the airport in Denver. He was very polite and by the time he had picked up the other nine passengers at nine different locations almost an hour had passed. On the trip, I found out that he was saving his money for a piece of land near a Midwestern college of his choice. Almost all of the 10 passengers tipped him five or ten dollars each after he told his story. He would get the same size tips on the trip back to Vail. He averaged about $125 a day in tips. As soon as his shift ended, he was able to get on the chairlift for three hours of skiing. After finishing skiing he stopped by the athletic club for a hot shower and a change of clothes. After leaving the gym he went home.

Home for Tom was a small pickup truck with a bonnet on the back, a mattress and a warm sleeping bag. Tucked under his mattress is the last day’s $125.

Skiing every day and banking that kind of money, not including his salary for driving, what is not to like? Your parents might not approve, but who knows where a winter or two such as this will lead?

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