There is no doubt that skiing is the ultimate form of satisfaction. Spending your days deep in the mountains, building spots through the night in the city or lapping the park on a sunny spring day is just hands down the best way to spend one's time. Off the top of my head I can't really come up with any other activities that allow for such deep forms of creative expression, endless adrenaline or good times. The act of skiing is just the tip of the iceberg though, when one immerses himself into the ski-bum lifestyle the good times are never-ending. This "send'er" way of living is 110 percent addictive. The whole damn process, from the early mornings, waking up at 730 AM, checking the snow report, getting your buddies on the line to plan out the day ahead, what zones to hit, who's pre-rolling the doobies and whatnot. The late nights bussing tables, just so you can support your degenerate ski habit, the 90 hour work weeks all fall so you can afford your season passes and pay off your car. The post shred summer trips to the lake to cool off after a hot day on the glacier. Evenings spent pounding beers, talking shit to those punk ass Lick the Cat snowboarders, because in the end, who the fuck cares? The friendships you make in the mountains, when you are the most venerable or enjoying mind altering and body shaking adrenaline rushes, go so deep that everyone else is registered as obsolete.
After you spend a few years traveling the country skiing over 200 days a year, working your ass off in the fall, you find that nothing else really matters to you but maintaining this incredible lifestyle. Skiing, at this point becomes completely who you are. It is all you know, all you care and think about and after a while, your identity. You become ski culture. It shows in how you talk, what music you listen too, the beat up car you drive. The sacrifices you make to keep this whole thing going are never ending. Spending whole summers living out of your car and winters spent in a boiler room so you can save a few hundred bucks a month. The ramen noodles, the endless slow grind at Hood in June, disappointing your family, cutting off girlfriends, lonely lonely off seasons spent working till you can't feel your feet. They are all worth it, but that goes without being said. The ones who fully commit to this shit, they live a vagabond lifestyle that very few could ever understand or lead themselves.
Not many people ever in their lives see the things that we see as skiers or experience the feelings we do. Sunsets in the backcountry, lacing up a 15 foot closeout, faceshot after faceshot, they all bring out our most primal feelings and senses of joy. Adrenaline rushes that rock you to your core and sights that would make a grown man cry, these are fantastic things to experience and separate you from every other schmuck out there. Maybe that is why as skiers we instantly become friends with one another so quickly, a subliminal "whatsup, you know whats good, you've felt the same shit I have felt" allows us to enjoy each others presence more than your average joe. The most fucked up thing about it though? It can all get taken from you in the drop of a hat.
Injuries always lurk in the back of your head. You watch your homies go down all the time, at a scary pace each winter if your crew is pushing it. It is a brutal thing to see, watching one of your best friends go down with a season ender. You see it right there, when he blows out his knee, beneath all the pain that comes moments after a travesty like this is the realization that one cannot ski for the next few weeks, months, whatever it may be. An overwhelming and mind numbing moment. It is nothing short of crushing, you realize you are completely and unequivocally FUCKED.
For some it is worse than others. A few of us can lead a relatively normal lifestyle for the time being. Distract themselves from the hole in their lives, keep on plugging away at that degree or take that desk job a little more seriously. The rest of us though, people who are completely invested in the ski bum life are left to rot on the couch. With all of our eggs in one basket, we become worthless, not contributing a damn thing to society. The bottom feeders. Even our dead-end jobs want nothing to do with us. It is a gut wrenching and painful thing to experience. You become an eye sore to your roommates, lying and recovering on the couch for endless hours can put the best of friendships to the test. While you were healthy, you were spending 15 hours a day on your feet, skiing in the morning and working at night. Your roommates enjoyed your minimal presence, living in the basement was far from a nuisance and everything was gravy. You were stoked, racking up day after day in the mountains and watching your bank account pile up while sucking up to rich tourists on the clock. Everything changes real quick though, you become the pile on the couch, smoking your discomfort away, blazing yourself into an anti-social haze.
It is an odd feeling, having everything you know pulled out from under your feet in an instant. The first few days aren't too bad. An outpouring of sympathy from your homies coupled with a massive supply of pain pills allow you to think everything will be alright in short order. A week or two in though, things start to change. People begin to forget and you are left with way too much time on your hands and a whole lot of swirling emotions and thoughts. You worked hard to build this life, all stereotypes about ski bums aside, we are a hard working bunch, putting in hours to ensure everyday will be spent lapping the best parks in the west, not a powder day missed. Insecurities you never knew you had bubble up inside. When you are on top of the world, working hard, shredding harder and partying the hardest none of these thoughts really hit you. You don't think about how much of a degenerate you really are, how you have no valuable skills in the modern world. Just an insane asinine passion for skiing and the need to fund it, working back breaking manual labor is really just a means to an end but when you're injured and don't even know how to work excel or powerpoint you truly begin to understand how worthless you are in the grand scheme of things.
Days pass slow, it occurs to you while glued to the internet that life is passing you by at a scary fast pace. Peers accomplishing things that you passed up just to take part in a relatively pointless hobby. College graduations, real jobs, all the shit you hated on begin to seem more enticing by the moment. But you are so far removed from that life, it doesn't even seem attainable. You know it is never to late to make changes but after a few years on the road chasing storms it seems impossible to backtrack. You're far from ready to give up on this game. The more you think about it, how could you ever go back to a "normal" life? The desk job, mortgage, fancy cars, everything that people you grew up with are working towards seem completely pointless after having indulged in such a satisfying lifestyle the previous few years. Regardless, for months you are spent watching through the looking glass, not sure what your next move is.
We are a confident bunch as skiers. Stomping out huge cliffs into bottomless snow and ripping thousands of feet of vertical a day makes us feel like the world is our oyster. People express their jealousy of your carefree expeditions. None of them are traveling up to Mount Baker at the drop of a hat or hitting massive handrails in Boulder. Mothafuckas wish they were you, at 21 years old living a lifestyle that people work their whole lives towards. "Someones got to do it though!" you reply with a hearty laugh. Its almost like you are retired, when your healthy you have completely beat the system, the man is not holding you down thats for sure. Nobody shows envy when you are laid up. Your confidence diminishes and your personality changes.
Frustrated by your situation you treat the people closest to you with no respect. You take things way to seriously. Remember when that bitch broke up with you in the winter? You laughed it off and went skiing every day, 6 hours of meditation, your mind completely blank, just feeling yourself, smiling at how easy a 4 disaster has gotten. Now, melted into the couch your shook with second guesses, wishing someone would take you back, tired of living fucked up, tired of living bad. You snap on your friends in drunken moments, declaring that your done with this lifestyle, but in the end this is all you have and you know it. Your confidence is down the drain, you second guess every decision and it doesn't help that your starting to rack up debt like a punk. Collection agencies blowing up your phone about those medical bills you skipped out on. Overwhelmed and stuck, trapped by a bunk ankle, knee or collarbone.
Some of you may laugh at all this, tell you to suck it up and find a new hobby. Skiing isn't life to everyone and you can't really expect many to understand. For us who are hooked though, it is a necessity to overcome. When you are crushing it, on the hill for first chair, putting in the late night shift and ripping shots at the bar you are a local legend. A huge reason people visit ski towns is to run into characters like you, reminding them that the west is still wild, that the carefree spirit is alive and well in the youth that reside in ski towns from Colorado to Oregon.
In the end the struggles that we encounter when we are down and out shape our character more than anything. The time spent on the couch will come to define you just as much as when you stomped out that hero cliff under the lift back in January. It will set you apart from the city dweller just as much as the long afternoons spent in the backcountry. Most people know in the back of their head that things can change for them in an instant, losing a job, girl whatever it is but as skiers we encounter arguably more difficult challenges nearly every winter. Getting knocked down over and over again. Having everything you have worked towards snatched from you in an instant at a young age. These are incredibly difficult events to overcome. People encounter them only a handful of times in their life but we experience these hard times quite often. Resilience, determination and the ability to overcome are traits that we improve on every day that we are on the mountain, after a hard slam, when you are turned around at a cliff band, and on the couch, struggling to recover from a long string of painful injuries. These traits will prove to toughen us up, prepare us for the "real world" almost as much as a college degree ever could. As young ski bums we are experiencing struggles, manual labor, bouts of injuries and occasional loneliness on a scale that few of our more sheltered peers ever could. But those are met with the highest of highs, with the best of people. These experiences, stemming from the passion you have for skiing, separate us and shape us into being some of the most colorful and vibrant characters that makes the ski world what it is.