“I wanted to let you know that I’m leaving. My last day of work will be Oct. 25.”
With those words, I officially became a ski bum.
At the time, I worked in a consulting firm back east as a graphic artist. At 25 years old, I made a good amount of money.
But I also worked 70 hours a week, sometimes working until 2 a.m. in the morning on presentations.
I felt so tired, I didn’t even care I had money. All I wanted to do when I left work was eat dinner and go to bed. In fact, I was miserable.
Skiing became my passion in college. As soon as I slid down a hill for the first time, I became hooked. That passion only grew as I took frequent ski trips to Vermont. While there, I met a guy my age who worked at the lodge.
“It’s great, because I work from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and ski every morning. I think I skied at least 100 days last year.”
“Wow, that sounds amazing. I wish I had the courage to just chuck it all and go be a ski bum.”
What held me back was my parent’s expectations. They helped pay for my college education and a practical degree in business. What would they say?
Still, the idea of working in a ski town stayed with me. A bad break-up with a boyfriend finally led me to seize the moment. Something my boyfriend said struck a nerve with me.
“I’ve dreamed of being an overseas journalist. I want to live my dream. Don’t you have dreams of your own?”
I didn’t want to sit in a cube staring at a computer screen for the rest of my life. The mountains beckoned to me. Being young and single, now was the time to do something crazy.
I got a job at Mammoth Mountain in California. They hired me a for a retail job in the ski shop, sight unseen. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since it paid minimum wage.
Giving away all my furniture, I took only what fit into the back of my car. Staying with a friend the night before I left, I tossed and turned. Was I making a huge mistake?
But as soon as I left Washington, DC and headed west, I felt free. Crossing through Kansas into Colorado, my heart sang. I loved the mountains and I would be living amidst the big mountains of the Sierra.
That winter I scraped by on my meager wages, but I never felt happier. Not only did I ski every day off, but we actually got ski breaks during work! During the lulls, we got to go out skiing for 2 hours. I practically skipped to my locker, changing my clothes as fast as I could.
And I learned to ski really big mountains.
“Leslie, come with us, we’re going up Chair 23!”
Up we went, far above timberline. My friends took me out above a cornice, effortlessly dropping in. My heart pounded, I felt like I could barely breathe.
“I don’t know, this looks scary.”
“It’s ok, just make a couple of turns, you’ll be ok” my friend Jeff cheered me on.
And I did. I skied chutes and bowls so steep I could reach across and touch my hand to the slope above me.
We skied with abandon and glee that winter, hitting jumps, getting air. We would fly down the hill at such breakneck speed, I thought at times I might break my neck.
I somehow managed to get by, eating lots of Ramen noodles, potatoes and frozen vegetables. Living paycheck to paycheck, I had no savings.
And I never felt happier.
Life has changed a bit, but there’s still that ski bum inside of me. It’s why I still cling to my ski instructor job even though I now work full-time.
Because nothing’s better than a day filled with whoops and hollers on the ski slopes.