Photocredit: Velvet Leaf Photography
Tis the season. The days are getting shorter, summer is winding down and we are now in the double digits when it comes to resorts and hills opening up. Some of you (a very small amount) will be embarking on a journey of becoming the elusive shred bum for a season. If it is your first season you are in for a treat. Shitty jobs, douche Bag landlords, random injuries and hotshot mega fags from Australia, NZ, and all other corners and crannies of this lovely planet are what you will find on the shit ticket end of the spectrum.
On the other end it is days you’ll need a snorkel fo, cliff sessions, fresh tracks, pow high fives and down to earth Aussies, Kiwi’s and all those other crazy foreigners are what you can expect on the brighter side of things.
Here is a little guide to give you a heads up and what to expect when you embark on your conquest of the white wonderland.
Now till Opening day… Prep work
Get your ass to save some cash. Leaving the real world of 9 to 5′s and cheap groceries is fine and dandy but make sure that shit works on paper. Unfortunately the beer store does not redeem Karma or good vibes so save up some coin…
How much?? Well if you have gear already think about how much rent and all other expenses will be for the first 2 months. If you are new and plan on buying everything from head to toe, look for early season sales. Many places offer early sales of last year’s gear. Just because it’s not this years gear doesn’t mean anything. You are going to suck ass for the first year anyways and having a $ 900 board vs. A $100 demo board won’t matter. Get over the flair and get some air.
There is also a lot of Swap programs where everyone gets together and puts on their sales hat and try and sell their Circa 94 Lamar board to some unknowing person that likes dragons and swords on their top sheet and is a fan of capped sidewalls. Watch out for shifty people and bring a friend that knows whats down.
After all the gear has been had, you are going to want to get yourself set up with a season pass. They can run from 500 bones to a couple grand. After you’ve got that figured out, have a couple grand in cash before you make the trek to your destination. This will keep you going while you look for a job and find proper housing…
Housing…. Now till Opening Day
So once you got all your swag, start looking for a place to rest your lovely head. A rule of thumb: try and find something before November because that is generally when all the foreigners come. This typically makes housing prices go up and there is a lot more competition between everyone just because of the plain fact that there are a lot of people looking for the same thing at the same time. As for the type of housing this is where you can get creative depending on how picky you are. I know people that have shared closets, couches and even snuggies.
Then there’s people that need a 100ft perimeter around them while they sleep. Think about where you land on this scale. If you are lucky enough to know someone in the area you would like to cohabitate with during the winter months ask them what they pay and how long it took them to find the place.
Your first place will most likely not be your first choice. I drifted between 2 couches for 2 to 3 months then crashed in a hostel for a bit before I found my basement suite with utilities and hot tub included, only a 10 minute walk from the gondola (Yeah!).
Check local classifieds for your destination of choice and make a mental tally of the cost of one person living in a place. Look at the details and always check a place out before signing anything. Riding 100days is great but if you’re sick 65 of those days because of the toxic mold growing under your bed, stoke factor drops. Check it out!!
Also check out room mates and their habits. If you go to an open house and the person opens the door in their boxers and everything is messy as hell expect 6am parties, random odours, stolen food and roommates bouncing rent cheques. Room mates can make or break your experience. Nothing worse then having an epic day on the hill and coming home to have all of your shit thrown in the yard with changed locks.
(Britt’s contribution: Words of wisdom and acceptance from a buddy of mine “I judge a person by their hair, and yours was always straight, clean, and appropriately styled for the occasion. You would be cool around here.” Use appropriately. )
Now prices can range from a couple hundred for a couch in some dudes basement to $1000 for a private studio suite with heated floors (and even more). Ask yourself what you want and what you don’t want. Don’t fall for gimmicks. You are there to ride not to dry hump your geo-thermal heated floor.
Extra note: Beware of couch surfers. There are many different kinds.
The Invisible couch surfer that is never there, rides as much as possible and is in bed at a decent hour. Bomb to have but don’t expect to have any conversations with them. They are always on the go.
The Raccoon couch surfer that you only seem to see in the wee hours of the night rummaging through your fridge for a tasty treat and sleeping throughout the day. Expect this creature to emanate the smell of a bar floor.
The Town Swing couch surfer. They bring people home and think that everyone is blessed with Helen Keller hearing and sight. They are usually drunk and ready to go. Expect left over condoms as a token of their gratitude. Do not confuse them with the racoons. They could pick up a mop because of their hygiene choices.
The Free Mark Emery couch surfer. A political activist at heart. A BO riddled, pot smoking individual that has the answer to every issue on the face of the planet, but can’t seem to tie their shoes or have a conversation without starting and ending every sentence with “Mannnnnnnnn..”. You can expect some very random food creations like deep fried banana or pancake battered raisins with butterscotch ice cream. Mannnn its sooo goood mannnn
Unless you are blessed with Travis Rice type balls and skills you might want to find a job to maintain your snow addiction. Do not expect to find jobs you would in a normal town. Here is a breakdown of the jobs you will find in a shred town.
Hospitality. Hotels, Hotels, Hotels!!
Why yes sir, I am very sorry your hot chocolate is too hot… Why we should of cooled it down for you… and why yes you can lash out at me because that is what I am here.
Working hospitality in a shred town has its ups and downs. The one thing that is good is you can make half decent money and maintain a living and if you are lucky to work nights or after the mountain closes that is gravy. You can ride everyday which makes it easier to handle ultra douche bags. On the other end if you are working AM’s you have to deal with epic pow days missed and ultra douche bags that say there is too much snow. If you don’t like people stay out of hospitality.
Front Desk Agent (PM’s)
Night Audit (If you can manage a fucked up sleep schedule)
Night Janitor(Again, if you can handle your sleep)
Concierge (get free shit so you can tell people how epic it is)
Front Desk Agent ((g)A(y)M’s)
Night Audit (If you can’t manage sleep)
Breakfast Attendant (Missed pow mornings)
Any 9 to 5
Food and Beverage. Feed people and get them drunk
Oh food and beverage. How people on holidays love to spend $7.50 for a bottle of beer because they can see the mountain. If you like fast pace food slanging and order taking this is right for you. The Ups, money made on tip’s, free food, and potential to work after the mountain has closed, flirty with girls/guys as your job. The Downs, dealing with Chef boyard-ouche that is a food critic and loves to have everyone in the place know how he will never be coming back here again, shitty tips, random ass grabs from Shaggy’s stunt double from Scooby-Doo and working during mountain hours.
Waiting Tables (In the PM)
Bar Tender (Typically work nights)
Server (Tips and Nights)
Housekeeping (work mornings)
Any 9-5 (Duh)
Working for the mountain.
Working for the mountain.. Duh, There is a mountain and there is many tasks that need to be done. Simple right, Dream job! Well not so much. Working for the mountain generally means you are working when the mountain is open which is generally when you want to be on the mountain. That, plus next to slave wages and bitter cold days, it can be a shitty one. The mountain always flaunts the free magnificent and majestic season pass. Working for the mountain has hook ups. Free pass, free meals when you work, discounts at local shops and cheap housing options. Expect to working with people from other countries and dealing with very nice and very rancid people.
Ski School (depending on your group)
Lifties on pow days
Ski School (shitty kids and know-it-alls)
Duh, what is that White stuff coming from the Sky?
Snow removal and winter destinations go hand in hand. If you don’t like people and you like back breaking work this is right for you. You generally make half decent money doing this as well. When it dumps all day you can be expected to work all day so don’t expect too many epic turns and expect to work early in the morning. Also your job is purely based on how much it snows. But if you are a crew leader or a snow plow driver you can sneak a couple in…
Snow Plow Driver
Manual Shoveller (aka Mexican Backhoe)
Bars and Clubs
People love to get juiced after an epic day on the hill and dance their faces off. The two go hand in hand: riding and having a good time. Working the Bar and Club scene can guarantee you days on the board and a bit of cash in your pocket. The down side is dealing with Drunky the fuck clown and all his buddies from Ed Hardy-Ville. Tips are nice and you get hook ups around town because everyone wants to know everyone that can get them past the line. If you can manage the late nights it can work out great.
Door Man (During Brawls)
With this list being put up working a shitty job in a shred town is a millions times better then bending over all week just so you can ride on the weekends when every Tom, Dick and Harry is out. Keep that in mind. Get a job to keep you there and your epic days will come.
November to January
The Magic that is the early season. Video premiers finishing up and the stoke is high. Opening day shows up and your back on your snow surfer. Now that shit makes you feel really warm and fuzzy inside. You have a ton of new friends all riding and having a good time. The apres’ starts up and you have some fun off the hill. You’re stoked about your job (regardless of how shitty it is). Everything is surreal and you tell yourself you could do it forever. Forever… Forever ever!! Forever ever??? Life is simple. I snowboard, life is good. I go to work and hang out with friends, foreign accents are so cool man!!!!! … Ohhhh if only it was.
January to March
Drama-Obama, injuries, partying too hard, figuring out who people really are, snow burnouts and the I’m over it’s. January to March is filled with epic pow days but the real life scenarios start to creep in.
Humans are hilarious and will turn winter paradise into an episode of Jerry Springer in no time. Now you are questioning… Is this winter life worth it? (Well of course you jackass) Barely making rent, having a falling out with a girl or a guy, snow dry spells that seem to last forever, foreign accents losing their appeal, being hung over and missing epic days, malnutrition from budget restraints, being sick, tourists. These are the number of things that can go wrong in paradise.
The one thing that does remain the same and keeps you semi level headed is the riding. Having those February dumps are something of magic, finding new lines daily, landing new tricks,makes it all worth while.
March to April
You weed out all the bad and are left with the good. You have a stable crew of friends that have all the similar drives and tastes. You get over most of your drama and you have a good time. Spring is right around the corner and the late season pow runs are becoming few and far between. It is getting warmer though and the layers come off. The days are longer and your body is taking in the natural light that it has missed so much throughout the winter months. Slashing slush and drinking with buds is the name of the game. Park riding at its finest and smaller crowds at the lift lines. Spring time baby!!
This is a to be continued for some. Some people make the trek back into normal life to a 9-5 life, having gotten it out of their systems. Some have just gotten a sweet, sweet taste of the winter flavour and chase the snow down south to have the Endless winter everyone always talks about. Some head for the glacier camps and stretch it out a couple more months. Others sit back and relax, hang out for the slow season and try and make it in a very inflated economy, because at the end of the day the snow is all that matters.
Whatever you do or whatever you did, it will be and was great. You will never meet anyone that regrets slumming it in a ski town, even though it may have not gone exactly as planned. If you are new to the lifestyle, have fun this coming season. Parents, teachers, friends may think it juvenile to move away from the norm to chase that wintery dream.
Whatever, just do it for yourself. You only live once, so you might as well piss some people off and have agood time doing it. Have fun and live a little ya bastards.