New book explores Bum ski culture

Decades later she has dedicated her life to seasonal jobs in mountain towns and even after writing an entire book on the subject, Heather Hansman can’t quite put her finger on the main appeal of being a ski freak. “Why does something so intangible become something we are obsessed with?” »In his new book Powder days: ski enthusiasts, ski towns and the future of snow hunting, the Seattle-based writer ruminates on the fibers that weave together a lifetime of pursuit of “snow, freedom and savagery”.

Hansman traveled to Beaver Creek, near Vail, from her childhood in Massachusetts, working in customer services at an elite resort just so she could ski for free every day. In Powder days, it traces how the rugged and rebellious old guard of seaside resorts like Jackson Hole or Aspen defined levels of freshness, literally crossing borders in search of perfect lines. For seasoned skiers, nothing can match the adrenaline rush of a turn in powder snow.

But as much as she recognizes the “indulgent and immature, selfishly exclusive” aspects of ski bum culture, she has also discovered how ski towns are shaped by economic and racial disparities, and how a stew of addiction, uprooting and dying. exposure to death can affect mental health. “Ski resorts are obviously not reality, but they are also like compressed slices of reality,” she says. The social housing shortage may have felt like a quirk of the remote mountainous enclave when it was highlighted in, say, the cult classic of 1993. extreme aspen, but today all of America can understand what happens when every apartment in the city is converted to vacation rentals and low-paid workers have nowhere to live.

Of all of Hansman’s idiosyncratic ski resort profiles in Powder days– the streetcar line to Jackson Hole, the treacherous North Ridge of Bridger Bowl – none are in the Pacific Northwest, where she has lived for the past eight years (although Crystal is mentioned). Considering our lack of real ski towns, there are fewer ski enthusiasts throwing pizza or four people living in a room in a
inn at the foot of the slopes; Still, there are plenty of obsessives sleeping in Washington state parking lots. “There is such a part of American narrative fantasy in all of this, about ‘Go west, where the mountains are bigger,’ she says. “You have exactly that in the Cascades. Skiing has changed in the days of remote office work, but chasing powder still isn’t easy. According to Hansman, “It’s about living the dream, but it’s not always a dream. “

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