Am I a ski bum? 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CLIFF JENNINGS / COURTESY OF WHISTLER BLACKCOMB - true Locals on little Whistler in 1968.
  • true Locals on little Whistler in 1968.

I'm never sure how it happens but it happens every year. I'm cruising along nicely, enjoying the early weeks of the season — ski season, of course — and all of a sudden it's That Time of year: Christmas, or whatever one wants to call it if one is painfully politically correct... emphasis on painful.

As with many things, Christmas has, at least for me, been irrevocably changed by the digital revolution. I no longer have to wait in line at the post office to send off cards and/or gifts to family still mired in the Divided States of America that I know will never arrive in time; thank you, online shopping.

But this time of year also marks, at least temporarily, a respite from my usual ranting about politics and people too often overlooked by the folks handing out the annual Darwin Awards. After all, this is a resort town and no reason to give our holiday guests anything else to be miffed about since they already frequently tilt the stress-o-meter. And with the mix of aging and artisanal snow we're currently enjoying, maybe we're all a bit more stressed than we'd like to be.

I mean, really, who wants to think about the fact the Doomsday clock is currently sitting at two and a half minutes to midnight thanks to the combined idiocy of Dotard and Dotarder, the weird haircut twins, hectoring each other with the threat of nuclear Armageddon? The only time it been closer to striking the witching hour was when the U.S. and Soviets whipped out their new, improved thermonuclear bombs back in the 1950s and when they went nose-to-nose over missiles in Cuba in the 1960s. And every mother's child is going to spy to see if reindeers really know how to fly... through mushroom clouds. I think not.

So as a public service, I think it's time to focus on what's really important. The driving force behind this town. The reason this town even exists. The light in the eyes of the folks who took sleepy Alta Lake and turned it in to Whistler. And no, this isn't like last week's farcical history that someone, somehow mistook for a misstatement of fact. As if. I'm talking about the thing that got most of us here and kept/keeps most of us here. Skiing! By which I mean any preferred method for sliding down snowy mountains — one board or two, feet first or head first. Whatever. In other words, ski bummery.

Most of the people I know in this town are ski bums, even a couple of realtors I know if I stretch the definition of ski bum slightly. Like most people in town, they tend to be overeducated and underpaid and only a small handful earn their keep doing something they're passionate about or studied for. The rest spend their allotment of passion on skiing, biking, climbing or some other pursuit eventually leading to the doorstep of one of Whistler's physios, themselves mostly ski bums.

Don't believe me? Try this simple test and find out for yourself whether you too are a ski bum.

What I do in Whistler to earn money is:

a) Exactly the job I trained and studied for.

b) Something for which I am so overqualified I lied on my resume.

c) Involves the words "Spare Change" and/or EI.

d) Indictable, but gives great pleasure to others.

The house I live in:

a) I own.

b) I rent.

c) Is insured by ICBC.

d) Has a broken zipper.

At the end of each ski season, I:

a) Take my old, icky equipment to the compactor.

b) Lovingly repair and wax my boards before putting them away.

c) Try to remember who I borrowed these things from.

d) Return them to the rack outside the Longhorn where I got them earlier in the season.

I would describe my ski ensemble as:

a) Chic, new and fashionable,

b) Awesomely functional in a breathable, waterproof way.

c) Slightly more Gore-Tex than duct tape.

d) Recycled, possibly without the knowledge of its original owner.

8:15 a.m. on a powder morning will find me:

a) In bed at the Chateau.

b) At work on the mountain, with my luck.

c) Lined up at the Creekside Ganjala.

d) Well up the mountains and out of bounds.

I get up the mountains on:

a) An unlimited season pass, Epic or otherwise, of course.

b) A staff pass.

c) A stolen pass.

d) Foot.

Lunch on the mountains is usually:

a) A leisurely affair at Christine's.

b) A quick burger, somewhere.

c) Whatever people leave behind.

d) As much as I can wolf down before walking past the cashier.

I've lived here:

a) You're joking, right?

b) Since the fall.

c) More than a decade; less than a lifetime.

d) Since before your ol' man got to third base with yo' mama.

I still live in Whistler even though I am:

a) You're joking, right?

b) Broke, disheartened and possibly crippled for life.

c) Now a famous movie star.

d) Over 60.

At the end of a good ski day, I look forward to:

a) A massage, hot tub and dinner at Araxi.

b) A beer at Merlin's, a slice at Avalanche and schlepping back up to staff housing.

c) Going home, fighting with my roommates, discovering my food's been eaten.

D) A fatty, another fatty, the last of the Fireball and a final cruise down the west side with the light fading behind the Tantalus.

OK, one point for every (a), two for a (b), three for a (c) and four for a (d) except for question 9 which is worth 10 points for a (d), you old fart.

If you score between 10 and 14, have a nice trip back to the city and drive carefully, the world really needs more lawyers and investment bankers. If you squeaked out between 15 and 24, congratulations, you're well on your way. A couple more years without giving up and going back to Ontario and you too may be a ski bum. Twenty-five to 34 and you're definitely a ski bum, dude. Your parents still love you even though they're sure you're throwing your life away and wasting your education. I'm in awe of anyone scoring between 35 and 46; you are the ski bum we all want to be when we grow up. If you scored over 46, you may be Johnny Thrash, a liar or a writer.


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