I never thought I’d be so obsessed with skiing that I would base my entire life around having the freedom to ski absolutely everyday, but that’s what happened. I never would have thought I’d be a waiter, caterer, part-time landscaper, and half-assed freelance writer all at the same time, but that’s what I do. My college degree isn’t doing me much good, but I haven’t missed a powder day for 11 years and counting. Shit jobs have given me the freedom to ski as much as I can, live in an incredible place, and still make a living, sort of.
This series will attempt to profile some of the best and worst shit jobs in a ski town. Don’t get me wrong, in no way do I intend to bash professions like these, they are a means to an end, the axis upon which our mountain lives spin. Without jobs like these, how would you ski over 100 days a season and still be employed?
Part 3: Unemployment Collecting Seasonal Worker
Collecting unemployment may not sound like much of a job, but if you work a shit seasonal job for the purpose of getting laid off so you can collect unemployment all winter, then you know it can be damn hard work. Mountain towns offer myriad seasonal summer employment opportunities. Carpentry, landscaping, window washing, roofing, painting, excavation, asphalt maintenance, you name it and it’s probably a job that you can find a way to get laid off from. These types of positions are ideal for ski bums because this type of work typically takes place during the warmer months of the year, lets say from sometime in April ‘til around the beginning of November.
The hardest part of collecting unemployment all winter is busting your ass working a job that probably involves physical labor and is monotonous as hell all summer. Sure the manual labor is great to keep you buffed during the summer months, but most of the jobs listed above involve pretty much the same thing day in and day out, except for carpentry, maybe.
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The key to being able to collect unemployment all winter is having a boss who will lay you off. In California, where I live, you can’t collect unemployment if you quit a job or get fired, you need to be laid off to be eligible. Generally, if you’re getting laid off for the winter, that means you are likely to be rehired the following summer, so finding work at the end of the season shouldn’t be a worry.
Applying for your unemployment benefits is pretty simple and can generally be taken care of online in about 30 minutes. You might have to wait a couple weeks for the first check to arrive, but once it does you are effectively getting paid to go skiing. The maximum benefit amount per week in the state of California is $400, which adds up to around $1600 a month for doing absolutely nothing. The process has been made even easier now that they issue you a debit card and automatically deposit the payments into the account. You don’t even have to pick up a check or put it the bank!
Once your unemployment payments are rolling in, you’ve got nothing to do but ski and hang out afterwards. You can ski all day, every day; you’ve got nowhere to be and nothing to worry about. The mental agony of mowing the same 80 lawns every week all summer just melts away. When you’re done shredding you don’t have to go to some shit job and spend the whole night on your feet, you can go home and rest up for the next day, sip some beers, pull some tubes, maybe watch a little TV.
Your stress level is at an all-time low. Other than keeping your fridge stocked with beer and frozen pizzas, all you need to worry about is running out of weed or which one of bros has your lighter again, but you put a sticker on it, so you’ll probably find it. Sure, your parents think you’re a “drain on the system,” but it’s your money and you’re crushing it this winter, right?
Life on easy street is pretty easy, but don’t get me wrong, collecting unemployment all winter can be fraught with peril if you don’t play your cards right. Every two weeks you’ve got to check your mail, then fill out and send back the form to the unemployment office. In a haze of powder days, bingers, and beers, this can actually pose a bit of a problem. You’ve got no reason to go to the post office other than to pick up the most recent issue of Powder, and that only comes once a month and the last issue is sometime in February.
You’ve also got to use your imagination to keep coming up with places that you were “looking for work.” You may end up going through every one of your friends that manages something to get them to pretend you looked for work at their place of employment.
When you leave town to chase a storm or go to that backcountry lodge in BC, you’ve got to convince one of your stoner friends to check your mail, forge your signature, and send the form back in for you. Who knows if that’ll actually happen when your friends can’t even remember to give you back your lighter? A single missed unemployment form and all of the sudden you’re cut off for not being “available to accept work.”
The potential for boredom is also very real. Believe it or not, you could find the end of the Internet, and it won’t take long to realize how much TV actually sucks, except for the Daily Show. You might also need to buy some new slippers and maybe a nice pair of “house pants” for the hardcore lounging that will ensue. Luckily, you’ll have plenty of time to work on your POV edits. …
All of that free time in the evenings could really open up your schedule for extracurricular activities like drinking, video games, and recreational drug use. This usually isn’t a problem, until you start missing powder days because you were up all night playing Halo with your roommates, or you’re “too hung over.” Next thing you know the bar in town has a stool with your name on it, or you achieve true local status with your first DUI.
All that said, working a shit job all summer so you can collect unemployment all winter might just be the golden ticket, that is, if you can handle the responsibility.
Waiting tables, teaching beginner skiers, collecting seasonal unemployment—these jobs provide a means to an end. Swallow your dignity and embrace reality. After all, you can’t pay the rent with powder days and sunsets.