Should You Work For Vail Resorts?

Vail's Blue Sky Basin

Or: Why I Worked for Vail (and Why You Should Work For Vail Resorts Too)

guest contribution from a ski town friend. They wanted to remain anonymous. But for those of you considering a season as a ski bum, with Vail Resorts in Vail or elsewhere, I hope the perspective’s helpful!

Although there seems to be a lack of snow nationwide, the 2016-2017 Ski season is about to kick off. Some resorts, such as Arapahoe Basin, are unbelievably already in full swing. People, just like you and me, from all over the world are therefore looking for ways to get their very own taste of some champagne powder – without paying $1000 for a season pass. Or maybe you’re like I was and have never skied or boarded before but are ready to give it your best shot. Either way, there’s an alternative to buying a pass.

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A Day in the Life

[ed. note: ski town content is finally resuming, courtesy of a friend in Vail. He’s a great writer and a better ski bum than I. His writing will run alongside my travel content as we move towards a more diverse magazine. Hope you all are enjoying your winters!]

Wham!  A slap of the snooze button and a groan, I’m awake at 5am.  Time to video chat with the now ex-girlfriend in Bulgaria, it’s already 2pm there.  After a shower and a quick breakfast I’m out the door by 6, just enough time to walk to work for my 6:15 shift.

I breath in the crisp Rocky Mountain air and start walking through 6 inches of fresh snow, thinking to myself – ‘Damn, too bad I’m not cruising this fresh powder instead of serving breakfast to tourists. . .’

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Soon after I get to work I devise a plan to get out early. Sure enough, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Working fast and talking faster, I’m out the door by 8.  Smell ya later, it’s time for some much needed snowboarding.  I’m heading back home and a friend, let’s call him T, excitedly calls me and asks if I’m going to shred the gnar.  Fuck ya.  Back home by 8:30.  A quick snack and the addition of some very warm socks later and it’s time to head to the village.  We meet up at Gondola One and by the looks of things, we’re among the first skiers on the mountain.  Hells Yes.

Excitement builds as we are comfortably lifted up the mountain in the padded and heated gondola.  Gloves, goggles, face mask, powder skirt and a pounding heart.  The trees are laden with fresh snow, and in some places, ice; a real winter wonderland.  The doors open, we strap in and off we go.  Cruising thick stacks of fresh snow, running my fingers through it as I’m rocketing down the mountain parallel to the ground.  I catch air and boom! A shot of cold champagne powder slams into my face, nearly choking me. In the ski world this is called a face shot.  In this town if you’re not taking fresh snow to the dome, it’s not a powder day.

If you’ve ever surfed before, riding fresh powder is very similar, however, I ironically think that snowboarding is much more fluid.  The waves are moving and pushing beneath you, exerting their force on you, but with snowboarding everything just flows.  It doesn’t matter how you move your board, it’s like sliding down whipped cream.  And the best part is that wiping out is fun.  Ever jumped into a pile of waist deep snow?  Might as well be falling onto a pile of feathers.  These are the days when you drop cliffs and try crazy tricks.

The deep snow also has a very surreal calming effect.  Sound is dampened and being surrounded by an entire world of white allows you to drift into a totally different plane of reality.  It’s just you, the mountain, and your board.  In some ways snowboarding has been one of the most spiritual experiences of my life (the exception, by far, being DMT).

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T and I meet up at the bottom of the lift, giant, stupid grins spread across our faces.  A fist bump later and we’re traveling up the mountain again, this time on an open chair lift, cold air on our faces, shouting playful encouragement at the skiers below us.  T looks over at me; ‘safety meeting?’  ‘You know it.’  We cruise into the trees, find a nice smoke shack to post up in and spark a bowl.  Taking full advantage of legal marijuana has been one of my favorite parts about living in Colorado.  At times I smoke too much – Ha!  But blazing up on the mountain (among other things) is always recommended.  I always feel a bit more connected to my board and the mountain after inhaling a bit of ganja and usually end up pushing myself just because I’ll get into sketchier situations, say ‘fuck it, let’s do this’ and flow through them.

T and I do a few more runs, zipping through the trees and traversing most of the front side of the mountain.  But soon enough, the munchies kick in and it’s time for the classic chicken & bean burrito at La Cantina, a very ski bum budget friendly Mexican bar not far from the slopes.

Then it’s time for the 10 minute walk home, a game of zombies with the roommate and a freshly cooked meal before getting ready to wake up and do it all over again.

 

This is my life.

I’m very excited to share it with you.  Stories of adventure, drugs, danger, love and life decisions.  Battles with depression and coming of age.  The joys and turmoils of a fast paced life.  The behind the scenes of what it really means to be a ski bum.  Of letting go and allowing life to take you where you need to go – whether it’s dropping out of college to follow your dreams or opening your heart to another human being.

I live, work and play in the resort town of Vail, Colorado, where everything revolves around the snow.  Whether it’s good or bad drastically affects the tourism business and can mean the difference between a lucrative season or going out of business.  For example, I-70 – the interstate that connects Vail to the rest of the world – causes millions of dollars in losses every time it is shut down.  That being said, living in a resort town allows you to make amazing money with very little experience; really, only the skill of being able to talk to people is required.  It also means 5 star meals and fresh seafood in the middle of the Rockies.  And, working for the company Vail Resorts means that you have the opportunity to snowboard 7 days a week for FREE.  Really can’t beat that.  Stay tuned.

 

– C

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Like it, love it, hate it? Tell me what to write about next in the comments below.

Ski Video Sunday: Scenes from the Burton U.S. Open

Burton US Open 2015 Vail

The Burton U.S. Open just wrapped up in Vail last night.

I attended some of the events, but for the most part found that I would rather be on the mountain instead of standing around watching other people have fun. The riders threw down some incredible stuff though. Below are a few highlights, although my personal highlight of the event was riding Chair 6 over the Golden Peak Terrain Park and getting to watch dozens of the world’s best snowboarders playing together. That was cool.

These videos are pretty cool too I guess.

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Switching From Snowboarding to Skiing

After 15 years spent snowboarding, I made the switch to skis last month. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not turning in my board, but living in a ski town like Vail, I felt like I had no excuse not to know both disciplines.

(This reasoning tends to elicit a nervous nod and a quick change of subject from other, less ambidextrous Vail locals).

Like many boys my age, I chose to learn snowboarding because I grew up in the ‘90s, and snowboarding was the “cool” thing to do. Many enthusiast publications across the ski world thought that snowboarding would completely supplant skiing, a sport which was beginning to seem old and stodgy in the ‘90s. As a young boy growing up in Colorado, snowboarding was all that I wanted to do. Even though my father and my sister skied, the thought of trying to join them never once entered my mind. They tried to snowboard with me once: my sister took down an entire family with one sweeping turn; my stepmother bruised her tailbone so bad she never set foot on a ski mountain again. I was left as the only snowboarder in the family.

Since then, there has been quite the renaissance in skiing, thanks in part to the advent of terrain-park skiing (freeskiing), plus technological advancements which have made the sport of downhill skiing easier. Most recent estimates put today’s population split somewhere near 65 percent skiers and 35 percent snowboarders.

For myself, skiing has just always seemed like a more versatile sport. Skiers are more equipped for backcountry, mountaineering, and cross-country expeditions. If I wanted to expand my outdoors toolbox, learning to ski seemed like the next logical step.

Young skier, old skis

I learned to ski at Beaver Creek, Colorado on my stepfather’s skis: a pair of ancient Elan PSX Detonators. They were 188 centimeters long. These skis, at least 15 years old, were part of the reason people snowboarded so much in the late ‘90s and early aughts. They were awkward.

Nonetheless, they were free. I can put up with some physical discomfort if it saves me some fiscal discomfort.

Actually, there was really nothing wrong with the Elan skis. Their edge was fine, and they were fast enough after I gave them a quick wax in my garage. They’re totally solid skis, except that they’re a bit longer than is fashionable today. Beginners are generally advised to start with shorter skis, as it makes turning easier. But when it comes right down to it, skis are skis. They invent new styles every few years so they can keep selling you new gear.

Learning to ski

I fell a lot.

I fell a lot less while learning to ski than I did while learning to snowboard. Learning to snowboard hurts. Learning to ski is just a little awkward. The difference is huge. The learning curve is much more front-loaded on a snowboard, while learning to ski is a more gradual process. You can feel somewhat comfortable on skis by the end of your first day; it will take three days or so before a snowboarder starts to inherently understand the way his board is working.

Differences between snowboarding and skiing

As one might expect, the hardest part of switching from snowboarding to skiing is getting used to moving both feet independently of one another. On a snowboard both feet are firmly connected to the same object, while on skis you have full control of two separate legs. This is very disconcerting at first, and I ended up with my legs splayed in opposite directions more times than I would like to count. Not pleasant on the old hip flexors, learning to ski.

While snowboarders fall much more often in general, skiers have a much greater potential for serious injury due to the way a skier’s body can get twisted out of shape. A snowboard keeps the rider’s body aligned on a plane, which helps reduce the severity of crashes.

Luckily skiers are generally more controlled than snowboarders: a good skier will rarely crash. Snowboarders tend to be a little more playful, and thus end up with a face full of snow a lot more often. I noticed this dichotomy even in my own behavior: after five days on skis, I can now deal with black diamond terrain, but I am less likely to push myself or play around the way I will on a snowboard. For now, at least, I am content simply to cruise on skis. It could very well be the novelty just hasn’t worn off yet.

Lessons Learned from Switching From Snowboarding to Skiing

  • Chairlifts are way easier on skis.
  • Ski poles are just as awesome as you thought they might be.
  • Snowboarders are kind of annoying when you’re skiing.
  • There is a reason everyone bitches about ski boots so much.

Switching from snowboarding to skiing was surprisingly easy. Although I spent an hour or two spinning, falling, and bruising my ego, by the end of a half-day, I was confident and somewhat speedy on the greens.

It was not that easy when I learned to snowboard.

I think switching disciplines is overall easier than starting from scratch. As a transitioning snowboarder, I already knew how to read snow conditions and feel, as well as the mechanics of turning and stopping on an edge; I wasn’t intimidated by the mountain or the chairlifts. My basic knowledge of the environment allowed me to focus purely on form and technique, which was hugely helpful.

Now, with roughly around twenty hours on skis under my belt, I can ski black diamond terrain and medium-sized moguls without falling. I’m not the most stylish skier on the mountain, but I am improving rapidly and feel happy every day I can get out there and improve on my technique. For someone who had gotten very good at snowboarding to the point I was running laps all day on the double-black Chair 10, picking up skiing has revitalized my interest and sense of play on the mountain.

The Best Ski Weather Website in the World

Open Snow Prediction

Website Wednesday: OpenSnow.com

Trying to decipher how the weather forecast will affect your favorite ski mountain can be an exercise in frustration. Whether it’s the local news reducing an extremely varied geographic area down to the single phrase “Snow in the high country,” or an official snow report which doesn’t seem to match up to the conditions on the mountain, it seems almost impossible to get accurate weather data for ski mountains. This seems counter-intuitive, as weather is perhaps the single most important factor in determining when you want to go skiing, and where you should go.

OpenSnow.com is the best ski weather website I have ever come across.

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