The 2013 Ski Town Survival Guide: Live There Now!

Published on 10/31/2012

By Andrew Behrendt

Ski Town USA Survival Guide

You’ve finally decided to live the dream! You quit your shitty job (or amicably walked away from a good one), packed up your car and decided to live in God’s territory full-time. Who cares if you’ll be making $8/hour shoveling snow from the lifts, or kissing up to the rich and not-so-famous as a bellman in a fancy hotel? You will live only minutes from the slopes! Who hasn’t wanted to live in Jackson, or Telluride, or Whistler? This is the best decision ever! Isn’t it?

The truth is that living in a ski town can be as hard as it is exhilarating. (If it were easy to do, then everyone would be doing it.) Professional ambitions (if you have such things) are hard – if not impossible – to fulfill, you’re constantly shoveling and gearing up and gearing down (well, hopefully), and the cost of living might make Mitt Romney blush. If you’re a guy, girls are hard to come by. If you’re a girl, there are too many guys. If you love culture, there are no museums. And if you hate the words ‘dude,’ ‘brah’ and ‘gnarly,’ then you’re in deep deep trouble. But if you have the right tools and determination, attitude and social skills, planning and sheer ballsiness, then surviving in a ski town can be not only pleasant but perfect, and living the dream can be as easy as strapping in. Now, the only thing left is for it to snow!


Get To Know Your Local Bartender


Even if you don’t drink, get to know what people do around town, where they work, what services they offer. Ski towns tend to barter more than Craigslist, and service-for-service trades can save you a lot of money in the end, and open up some wild unexpected doors in the process. Spanish lessons for massage? Dog-sitting for bindings? Whiskey shots for shoveling your car off in the morning? Whatever…


Work To Ride

Employee ski townThe ideal job in a ski town is one that actually allows you to ski. A pass, powder-friendly hours, and storage should be a must, while on-mountain discounts, free tuning, and even lessons can be a plus. Adapt to survive: there are hundreds of qualified lawyers, marketing reps or business majors working in hotels, restaurants and gear shops. Teachers teach skiing. Alcoholics bartend. Find where you can best use your skill set locally, or find ways to work remotely and set your own hours. The point is that if you wanted to miss every good powder day because of work, you could have stayed where you were.

Gear Up

Gear up

Don’t be the only local lagging behind because her skis won’t float on a powder day, or the bro ripping the park in a long tee having to go in because he’s cold. Gear up for the winter, all of winter, and hope that it’s as cold and snowy as you’ve prepared for. Think base layers, outerwear, technical gear, and make sure you have it all before it’s too late. It just so happens that Active Junky might be able to help… Shop for winter


Ski With Locals

Ski with localsYou may think you know the mountain well, but somebody out there skiing right now knows it better. Get in with the locals for the secret stash not even the secret knew about, the backcuts and hike-ups and “safety zones” that get you the deepest pow, the highest cliffs or the best place to try something you don’t think you can actually do. And then, when you actually do it, they can be there to help tell people about it.



Find Your Steeze

Ski Bum

I don’t exactly mean in style, though having a steezy neon one-piece can always come in handy. I mean be who you want to be, do what you want to do, and make sure you have some fun doing it. Don’t forget why you’ve moved to such a small town in the first place. Many people even take the chance to reinvent themselves on the mountain, to change from Chuck that strange-looking accountant guy to Chuck who rips and tried that back flip off that cliff. Be yourself. There are enough of all the others.


Couple Up

Couple upAre you single? Would you like a loving man or woman in your life to help keep you warm at night, or have you been searching for a special someone? Been feeling a little lonely recently? Well call now, and you will receive one night in a ski town, where quick hellos turn into drunken shots faster than last-call buses turn into sixteen dudes (who all tried and failed to bring home a girl) singing for no reason. Just always remember, it is a small town, and though you might not remember what you did last night, others will.


Prepare For Change

Ski town hotel

Show me a ski town that isn’t changing and I’ll show you a ski town that probably sucks. The undeniable truth is that all the good ones are only going to get ritzier, flashier, and subsequently more expensive. It is part of the sport, and part of what fuels our ability to live here. Hotels will sprout up, favorite dives will be replaced by pricey wine bars, and cheap eats will become few and far between, but with all that come new lifts, better snowmaking, and more overall infrastructure that allows us to ride. So deal with it.


Stay For Summer

Skitown SummerAt the end of every winter, most ski towns clear out dramatically, a yawning hole left by all the young seasonal workers who have moved on because their beloved snow is gone. And it is wonderful! The old mountain adage “Come for winter, stay for summer” is truer than most would think. What were once simple ski trails become an interweaving landscape of gorgeous hiking trails, single-track routes, fishing holes, camping spots, kayak runs, climbing walls, paragliding launches, bonfire locales, and the same great small town atmosphere of winter but with half the bros. On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t stay for summer. No, summers here really suck. I swear…

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