On February 7, 2024

Perfecting the life of a ‘ski bum’

When I first moved to Killington in the early 2000s, I was able to skin right out my door and into the woods. I mean, literally. On a snowy day, I could put my skis on the walkway, make a couple strides through the parking area and then climb a plowed berm into the woods where I could just explore for hours. A decade later, I had to walk maybe a quarter mile to the trailhead and could skin up the mountain from there. Another decade, and now I had to walk 1/2 mile with my skis over my shoulder to make the same trailhead. And now, I have to actually get in my car if I don’t want to start my skin with a 30 degree ascent.

Is it weird that my life has moved away from the resort as I have gotten older? When I first moved here in my early 20s, I was involved in everything the resort had to offer. In the beginning, I taught skiing. I was on snow everyday, all day and it was glorious. We started Telemarking and snowboarding just so that we weren’t skiing. We bought skins to get out on the mountain at night, after Happy Hour, of course.

Then I got promoted. That sucked.

It was amazing at first. I was managing a program that taught thousands of 4-to-6-year-olds how to ski over the course of a season. I removed the toys and television from the room and declared that all we needed were skis to have fun. I was making a difference but it quickly became my life. Instead of on-snow, I spent my time indoors working on making skiing the best experience ever. I was so focused on helping others to ski, that I forgot to ski myself.

To live that close to the resort, to literally work at the resort and see my day count dwindle to less than if I had been driving four hours each way every weekend with the rest of my family. I was here, but I couldn’t get out of my own way enough to actually commit to the skiing. I was worried that I would fail, that I wasn’t going to make it as a ski bum, so I forgot to be one.

It was devastating. Here I was, having made the decision to become a ski bum and I was still petrified of becoming one. It actually took me a few years to overcome the financial fears and just step into the abyss of becoming a bum. I quit teaching skiing and took a restaurant job so I could do my own skiing all day. And I never felt so free in my entire life.

I’m not sure when we actually started counting days ourselves. As a kid, my mom had kept a record, writing our first initial in the top right corner of each square on the calendar. Dad started going to PSIA events just so he could have an excuse for some midweek days here and there. As the next generation, we were anti-PSIA, so we found ourselves with skins exploring the backcountry in ways that would make me cringe now.

It wasn’t long before we were pulling 200-day seasons, hiking up in September and June to make the ends work. It wasn’t long before the sport became an addiction, rather than a pastime, and I would get the shakes if we hadn’t left to ski by 1p.m. It wasn’t long before I was engulfed in every type of skiing — downhill, uphill and sideways — and all the gear that went with it. It wasn’t long before I needed a ski shop job to afford the gear to do all the skiing I wanted — until I realized that once again I had placed myself indoors during the day. Again.

It wasn’t long before I had to reinvent myself again, this time as a real estate agent. Having grown up in the industry, the move made sense. But it felt like giving over to the Dark Side of The Force as it was something that I could have done in my past life. But I was doing it here. Which means blocking out two hours a day to ski and Saturdays for coaching at KMS. And I have never felt so free in my entire life.

So many people define being a ski bum as someone who runs a dishwasher at night, has a car full of beer and or sleeps in a van down by the river. But that is only one version of the lifestyle. A ski bum can be anyone willing to live a mountain-centric lifestyle. Being a ski bum is more about the flexibility and willingness to go with the flow if only for one reason: so you can spend more time in the mountains.

Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident, Realtor, bartender, KMS coach and committed ski bum. She can be reached at Merisa.Sherman@FourSeasonsSIR.com.


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