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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Where the sheets have no stains

    Another book on Dirtbagging

    Ski bum, dirtbag, skid, whatever you want to call it, the point is you’re someone who prioritizes skiing—that feeling, the flush of adrenaline and cold air—over everything else.

    Heather Hansman

    My first year working menial labor on the mountain I was part of a wave of rookies, bright new gapers, slightly out of place, standing around scanning tickets or bumping chairs. A lot of those people left in the spring, back to Minneapolis or St. Louis or Maine, for real jobs and relationships. We’d all moved to the Vail Valley looking for adventure, but they had just been trying on the shape of ski bumming. In the mountain town hierarchy, the gap year single season kids are the worst. They’re just above the fumbling, entitled tourists. But if you stick around for a summer, then another winter, people start to treat you differently. You do it, then you keep doing it, and your life takes on a certain arc, you’re a skier for real.

    By my second season I’d developed muscle memory in the click of buckled boots, and a quick hitch through the lift line. A new wave of first year lifties and ticket scanners rolled in with the winter, and I took on an eye-rolling sophomoric judginess, and a spiky territorialism. I didn’t want to be associated with the new girls, I wanted to draw a line around myself, to prove that I was committed, that I knew the ropes. I have always been a know-it-all but I’m sure I was particularly insufferable that winter.

    I wanted to be a diehard, a local, a dirtbag, a ski bum. I beat myself blue lapping bump lines, trying to teach myself effortlessness through effort. That should have been a sign that I’ve always been too much of a try-hard to really make it work, but after hours of hacking turns, I had a stake. This was my mountain now. I had favorite runs, I had sneaky hideouts, I had a much older ski patroller boyfriend, who made me feel legitimate, even though our relationship underlined every stereotype. Even as he helped me hone my backcountry skills and took me deeper into the mountains it was hard to shake the new girl tagalong feeling. I was constantly insecure about my rank and place. But I had a second job at a pizza place with a contingent of local barflies, who started to remember my name, and I started to recognize the terrain park crew when they came in for happy hour. I begged the old patrollers for stories and learned which hotel pools you could sneak into. There was novelty in feeling like part of the rhythm.

    A big part of skiing is commitment, in the time spent getting to know the mountain and the decision to throw yourself in. When do you become a ski bum and who counts as one? Even saying ski bum is part of the myth and the manifestation. There’s a privilege in claiming dirtbaggery.

    Powder Days: Ski Bums, Ski Towns and the Future of Chasing Snow
    Hanover Square Press

    Ski bum, dirtbag, skid, whatever you want to call it, the point is you’re someone who prioritizes skiing—that feeling, the flush of adrenaline and cold air—over everything else. Love, stability, money, or friends, there’s an adage that none of those matters on a powder day. Psychologists call that rejection of norms antisocial behavior, and that’s another common thread. Ski bums don’t play by the standard rules of society very well.

    You learn to spot the signs of dedication quickly in the mountains, because ski bumming is physical, psychological, and temporal. You can pick out the smooth locals by how they carry their skis and stand in their boots. The racers flexed forward, ready to run. It’s the people with next year’s skis, but a hat their dad got for free in the ‘80s. They’ve got meals in their pockets (PBJs and PBRs, bacon, whiskey), and a certain patina of use. It’s most visible in motion, the low-effort ease of initiating turns. It’s knowing gravity and how to bend your body to it. It helps to be obsessive because it is part practice, part love, no part rational thinking. It’s the way you chase motion, and the things you give up by living outside the rules.

    But the space for that dedication is narrowing. You have to be fulfilled by the routine and rush of the job. It isn’t a logical lifestyle to hold onto. “Who among us would think of doing it now, and who would be able to pull it off?” Historian Annie Coleman says. “It’s been a long slow march toward increasing capitalization, and in a more corporatized labor market, the space for ski bums has been narrowing. It’s racially and economically so narrow.”

    To really prioritize skiing over everything else, you often have to forego some of the kinds of things that might make you happy and satisfied in the long run, like companionship and stability. You probably have to come from a subset of financial and physical privilege to do so, and you have to be bullheaded in your dedication. There’s beauty in the mid-afternoon ridge hike, but there’s also some willful negligence. You have to be willing and able to shrink the bubble, to just focus on this. It might be easy to judge the dirtbags who carve out a life here as avoiding responsibility, but there’s something beautiful and rare about the commitment.

    Heather Hansman is the author of Powder Days: Ski Bums, Ski Towns and the Future of Chasing Snow available now from HarperCollins/Hanover Square Press.

    I have been in this State for 30 years and I am willing to admit that I am part of the problem.

    "Happiest years of my life were earning < $8.00 and hour, collecting unemployment every spring and fall, no car, no debt and no responsibilities. 1984-1990 Park City UT"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    50 miles E of Paradise
    She's like 10 years late on this topic
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    I like how she casually refers to pocket meats. Benny would be proud.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    the Dog Patch
    Quote Originally Posted by TBS View Post
    She's like 10 years late on this topic
    Name:  41O4Zi6PJcL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
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    In Search of Powder was a great book
    my head is perpetually in the clouds

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Where the sheets have no stains
    I had a much older ski patroller boyfriend
    I have been in this State for 30 years and I am willing to admit that I am part of the problem.

    "Happiest years of my life were earning < $8.00 and hour, collecting unemployment every spring and fall, no car, no debt and no responsibilities. 1984-1990 Park City UT"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Seems like a good read, just to keep it skid I ordered from a second hand book dealer in Colorado for three bucks.
    Last edited by new yabyum; 11-30-2021 at 03:48 PM. Reason: spelling

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    your vacation
    Blah blah blah
    I'll tell you how it really is
    Cuddled up w my dog just another fuck head 22 year old walking fifteen minutes to get to my cabin in the woods i squat in up some snowy trail outside of town everything I own smells like asshole since I skid 5 days a week i drink heavily steel food and smoke weed all day long while throwing shit at tourons the only girl who wanted me had the herp

    flash fwd 25 years to this afternoon I jerked off went bike riding I'm in a tshirt and shorts hanging in the desert driving a 200k rig balling while dozens of guys are working for me back in the mtns the stress level is all consuming my body is falling apart my million dollar house is a fifteen minute walk to the gondola

    Can I get a book deal?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
    >>>200 cm Black Bamboo Sidewalled DPS Lotus 120 : Best Skis Ever <<<

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2001


    Quote Originally Posted by Buster Highmen View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Buster Highmen View Post
    I'm not a ski bum; a devotee sometimes, but now I exact that supreme pleasure largely from the magazines in my dentists office between stints of extreme gardening and subrural guerilla gourmandosizings.

    But there was a time:

    The Stinky House

    Creaking open the door, the militant mildew laid it's lock on your nose.

    The dingy, northern light seeped through window, green with molds. Large indiscriminant insects hovered next to the bathtub, rubbing their squeaky viola legs together, reminiscent of used car or cheap insurance salesmen.

    The bathroom was layered with legions of dirty towels that had to be beaten into submission. The toilet was textured Jackson Pollack taupe and avocado green. More than one phonecall to Ralph talking to God about Buicks had been made on that telephone.

    The crown jewel of the installation were the mushrooms: several clusters of 4 inch long mucilaginous mycological monsters sprouting from the cracked and failing grouting that truly defined the funkiest loo ever.

    The living room was jumbled with an assortment of ripped couches, plastic milk crates, dilapidated chairs, reeking beer bottles and cigarette butts.

    The couches were consistently strewn with one dirtbag chrysalis or another, exuding a transluscent, sweaty glow, wrapped in some once glorious 800 fill portawomb, a bag of partly smoked funkweed within reach.

    It was fair game to attempt to lob a butt into the yawning maw of the unsuspecting snoozer.

    The ceiling sported an intricate celtic knot, better entertainment than the battered TV with the coat hanger antenna.

    Chunks of plaster randomnly bombarded the unaware.

    Socks of the indigent littered the scene and were burnt in secretive piles in the back yard.

    The dining room had a formica table. We had no utensils. Any "meal" involved beating each other with chunks of whatever beast was available and wrestling for the carcass.

    An old Macintosh stereo inhabited the built-in china cabinet and stacks of LPs and singles from bands like the Residents or Bush Tetras slumped in the corners.

    The kitchen was beyond dirty. Hazmat suits should have been required for the layers of festering cold cuts, rotted eggs, moldy bagels and creamcheeses.

    It could've asphixiated a Frenchman.

    It squelched any appetite, was rarely used and never cleaned except when Dean the Weirdo had a glass smashing tantrum and then only the shards of foot gashing glass were sought.

    The cabinet doors had been victims of late night doodle fests and were wrought with intricately meaningless cuniform, curlicues, cartoons and porn.

    Coupled with globs of wax, p-tex, and art projects: pickled dolls parts, hacked and reglommed army men and circuit boards that had "You Are Here-->" stenciled into them, it was home, a rainforest of new undocumented species.
    Quote Originally Posted by Buster Highmen View Post
    As we approached, we could see the silouette of a
    woman with thinning hair in a rocking chair. She
    looked like a big featherless bird in a dimestore
    orange mumu.

    We asked the old man if he knew of a cheap hotel or
    place to stay. Through rotted teeth, he laughed. Being
    reticent, Jon dumped the joy of interacting with this
    slice of Americana on me. I chuckled and did my best,
    carefully inspecting my feet.

    He continued talking, random things spewed out,
    interspersed with coherencies regarding the snow and
    dying town. Then he began to ask questions: "where're
    ya frum?", "whar ya goin?", "whuddya do?...". Then he
    said, "well...maybe..." Then his wife cut
    him off.

    Shrieking like a crow, she spat "Don't you
    dare...don't let them in.!" And she carried on at length.

    As Jon and I backed away from the door, the old woman
    leaned forward into some dim light. We had seen that
    she had been riffing something in her clawlike hands.
    Now in the light, we could see it was a wad of bills
    gripped in a row of raw knuckles.

    I stumbled out an apology to the old man and turned
    around to walk back to the bridge. But the old man
    staggered up and barked out for us to come back.

    Jon and I looked at each other indeterminant. The old
    man bellowed, we looked at the snow, then gave one
    another that resigned grudge look. We turned around to
    walk back to the trailer, fearful of the snow.

    The old woman continued to shriek and wail. The old
    man threw crumpled beer cans at her and ordered us to
    come through the dutch door. When he opened it, more
    beer cans fell out as he gripped the doorsill to keep
    from falling over.

    He was stinking drunk. The cans were Lucky Lager.
    Quote Originally Posted by Buster Highmen View Post
    I climbed the stoop and stepped through the door into
    the trailer followed by
    Jon. The smell hit hard, mixing dirty dishes with
    stale cigarettes, despair,
    spilled beer, urine and mildew. The old woman sat in
    her rocking chair,
    rhythmically squeaking and catatonically stroking a
    fistfull of bills.

    Jon and I clomped in and dropped our duffel bags. You
    could taste Twilight

    The old man's mottled stubble looked like pigskin in
    the dim light. With
    shakey, nicotine stained fingers, he offered us some
    Lucky lager and then a
    Pall Mall each. We accepted. I tried to hide my

    We cracked our beers and settled in to trying to make
    small talk. The snow
    came down in bales outside and we were thankful to be
    shielded from it. The
    old woman mumbled and squawked, rocking in her chair,
    still stroking the wad
    of bills and lurking in that phlorescent mumu and pink
    fuzzy bedroom slippers.
    Surely these were scenes cut from the color version of
    Eraserhead. With a
    tiny tuft of hair tied up on her head and a serious
    beak for a nose, I couldn't
    shake the vision of a big featherless baby bird.

    Talk ranged from weather to business to food. We were
    ravenous, but the smells
    were overwhelming. Between the old mans breath that
    stunk of rotted teeth and
    distilleries, his body odor and a pervasive reek of
    urine, the thought of food
    came and went. The old man offered us food and ordered
    the woman to serve us.
    With a volley of verbal abuse, she got up, stuffed the
    bills into her bathrobe
    pocket and shuffled into the kitchen area.

    The old man related how he was being put out of
    business by the glossy new gas
    station across the street. He was losing a price war
    in which he was sure that
    the chain store across the street was selling gas at a
    loss. He had even lost
    his own business already and was now working for
    another, but cheaper chain,
    Town Pump. He sucked at beer after beer, attempting to
    slake the bitter taste
    of corporate strangulation.

    The old woman clunked two bowls down on the table in
    the kitchen and called us
    over to eat. Jon and I rose from the broken down couch
    and stepped up to the
    kitchen table. We sat down to look into bowls of
    watery broth with a few
    veinous chunks of meat bobbing among the potatoes and
    carrots. Nearly
    tasteless, we gratefully chowed down and repeatedly
    thanked the woman and
    complimented what was the thinnest, wateriest soup
    I've ever had. Fortunately,
    Jon's quiet demeanor struck some maternal chord in the
    old gal and she sat down
    with us to bask in our company. We made abominable
    small chit chat, repeatedly
    thanked her and retired to the couch again.

    Time had passed and it was late. Jon and I were
    exhausted from being on the
    road, nodding off while the old man drank and regaled
    us with stories of mining,
    hunting and setting up businesses. The depression,
    reconstruction, the war and
    then the post war boom passed through his renderings
    of time. Now was the
    twilight of his time and he knew it and somehow all
    that desparation, sweat,
    toil and exasperation came to be focused into this
    dank and stinky trailer
    dug into a red Montana foothill.

    Finally, the old man stumbled off to the back room. In
    my blinking
    snippets of broken sleep I had really lost any grip on
    reality. Shattered
    chunks of what was real and what was dream mixed
    incomprehensibly and I was
    dizzy in exhaustion. Jon lay on the couch, I on the
    floor, almost into the
    continuum of sleep.

    Then... CRASH, thump, screams, "Goddammit, get off
    me"..."RAPIST" she
    screamed. I sat up, glazed, confused, not knowing what
    to do. More
    bumps and screams. I looked at the door to see it was
    still closed,
    but couldn't understand what the hell was going on.
    Then I heard them
    more clearly. The old man was trying to mount.

    The screams, epithets and thumps were the most heart
    rending sounds
    I had ever heard. Desolation wracked the walls of the
    trailer and echoed down
    long halls of regret. Jon and I looked at each other
    not knowing what to do,
    whether to intervene, call the cops or grab our stuff
    and race off into the
    night. It had stopped snowing.

    Then the old man grumbled and yelled, some more thumps
    and sounds of agony
    came out of the bedroom and he gave up to come out
    into the little living
    room in his tank top and boxers. He ripped open the
    case of beer and grabbed
    another can, sobbing about his life, his failures the
    futility of it all.
    Sucking on the beer, he shook with hopelessness and
    grief. I was paralyzed
    with awe and confusion. He fell from his stool and
    continued to cry.

    Finally, I was able to utter some weak consolation,
    but the old man had passed
    out and lay snoring against his stool. Jon and I
    covered him up with his
    coat and stared at each other. It was too much for
    Last edited by Buster Highmen; 11-30-2021 at 05:37 PM.
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
    >>>200 cm Black Bamboo Sidewalled DPS Lotus 120 : Best Skis Ever <<<

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Boosh View Post
    In Search of Powder was a great book
    How about 70 years late. Warren Miller was doing this in the 40s.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    your vacation
    So we all a bunch of ski bum poets?
    Is this girl an English lit professor at Dartmouth now or is she married to her hunk of a ski patrolman still living the dream?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    bucks county pa
    Buster , I enjoyed your writing and thanks for sharing the Stinky house. Took me back in time to a similar situation while up in Alaska but a much happier couple. Adventure bumming whether it is skiing surfing climbing what ever helps one develop a type of character that will help you through life. It’s something every outdoor enthusiast should do and I don’t mean with mommy and daddies credit cards but to have a little help when in dire need is a plus for sure. It creates a special spirit that embodies the mind heart and soul. I tell my niece and nephews all the time that when your done schooling take a year or more to make life an adventure not just be like most , get a job a new car payment and beat the drum to the man. Beat ur own drum and make life an adventure. It was my parents that encouraged me to live out of a backpack, ski and see the world and all it had to offer. I will tell my girls the same.

    Bunion thanks for posting this will be a good read.
    always forward but never straight

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunion 2020 View Post
    'She's not your girlfriend it's just your turn'
    “I have a responsibility to not be intimidated and bullied by low life losers who abuse what little power is granted to them as ski patrollers.”

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2005

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunion 2020 View Post
    Heh, that line caught my attention too. I had a girlfriend like that.

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