Charles Agar: A ski bum takes stock at Christmas
Grand County, Colorado
The holidays are a time for reflection, but for me that usually comes out something like David Byrne of the Talking Heads: “You may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?'”
I’m a ski bum. I look out my rented condo window on a snowy Continental Divide mountainscape, and while I’m scraping by with a freelance career, I measure my days in thousands of feet skied and mouthfuls of fresh powder. How did I get here?
When you’re in your late teens or 20s and tell your parents that your goal in life is to work as little as possible and follow a strict schedule of daily recreation, they might sic a motivational speaker on you.
But tell them you’re going to be a ski bum for a season, and they’ll be proud.
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Ski-bumming is an accepted rationale for fooling around, and it’s become its own pigeonhole, something like grad school or a stint in the Peace Corps.
I did it. After college, with dreams of someday winning a Pulitzer, I dragged my resume to magazines, newspapers and publishing houses in Manhattan. But I found out I was barely qualified to deliver the papers much less write for them, so I skedaddled for a season in Vail.
I landed a job over negotiations in an apres-ski hot tub and started work as a carpenter the following day, learning skills that would keep me from starving for the next 10 years.
I also caught the tail end of the ski season at Vail, then stuck around to whitewater kayak and mountain bike, and in the process I fell in love with the Rockies.
But I’d also applied to grad school back East (because it was there), and was almost disappointed in the spring when I got the letter of acceptance and a scholarship.
I reluctantly left the mountains for the flatlands and, though I would go on to travel and do plenty more drifting on the cheap, I left the ski bum life behind for good, I thought.
Work, however, landed me back in the Rockies, first in Aspen and now following my girlfriend to “The Icebox of the Nation.”
And with my 20s a distant blur in the rear-view mirror and 40 approaching like a Berthoud Pass hairpin while my brakes are locked in a skid, my ski bum life is something completely different today.
I still love to rip it, and six inches of snow sets into motion an avalanche of excuses to get out on the hill, but living in a mountain town is no longer about a vague indifference to employment, avoiding any serious relationships and a life easily summed up in a cliff-hucking YouTube clip.
I count my ski bum blessings today ” and so far there has been great snow and many epic days with friends to be thankful for ” but I’m also grateful that I escaped those early ski bum days with some brain cells intact, no embarrassing tattoos, and a few goals in life.
I wish all of you Fraser Valley ski bums a Merry Christmas and many powder days to come. See you on the hill.
Contact Charles Agar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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