Returning to life as a ski bum
Posted by WendyHollands 7th February 2012
Back in 2002, I was drawn to being a ski bum after working long days in London. An apartment in Brides-les-Bains near Méribel was offered to me so I flew to Geneva, then took four poorly-connected slow trains, requiring stair climbs at each interchange. The taxi ride from the station involved the driver asking “Où travaillez-vous?” (“Where do you work?”), which I thought had something to do with travel. I smiled and shrugged and said “No parlez” based on one of my mum’s Paul Young album titles.
I found a housemate — a Swedish girl I met in the street, with a board bag and English language skills. Relief! Our home entertainment was her minidisc player with external speakers, four French TV channels and looking out the window to the main street. We’d watch the weather report every night, understanding nothing but the symbols, with no other weather source to go by.
Every few weeks, when our shins got too sore from long days in ski and snowboard boots, we’d take a day off. We hitched if we wanted to go out at night, and often crashed on couches of new-found friends.
Our communication was a French pay-as-you-go phone that our mums would call us quickly on every few weeks to check we were still alive. My mum learnt how to text once she realised how much cheaper it was. We only knew one person with an internet connection, but nobody dared ask to use it, instead opting to pay a fortune for a slow connection at a bar that had a few public computers.
Every morning after a big breakfast, we filled a backpack with a flask of soup and bread to help keep us full until we got home. Sometimes, we’d treat ourselves at the bakery after our soup if our budget allowed. We trusted our friends to take us wherever they went off-piste. None of us had avalanche transceivers or a clue.
Ten years later, I’ve returned to being a ski bum. I’m back on the soup, but little else remains the same.
My mum can see that I’m still alive thanks to Facebook, including photos from the same day thanks to free wifi spots around town. And no more minidisc player: we have laptops and media centres on the off-chance we’ve run out of DVDs or there’s nothing on the multitude of free digital TV stations. Although I can now understand the weather reports, I can also open my laptop and see live webcams on the pistes, and a feed of which lifts are open. Preparing each morning is now much easier.
The most noticeable change is in me. I don’t feel the urge to spend all day every day on the piste anymore: I pick powder days for ‘first lifts’ and juggle other commitments around the best days on the snow. I’ve swapped park days for learning how to telemark. I carry avalanche safety equipment and I know how to use it. My legs ache much sooner in powder and I can’t party like I used to. But that’s okay, because the one thing that hasn’t changed is my love of snow. Fresh powder still pumps my adrenaline and steep pistes still exhilarate me. If you can take a season off to be a ski bum, do it now before your body gets as weary as mine.
About the author
Wendy started falling over with plastic skis tied onto her tiny ski boots when she was three years old in Australia. She now falls over with telemark skis or a snowboard attached in the French Alps. She spent five seasons as a ski bum in Meribel before moving to La Clusaz in 2006. When she’s not hugging trees accidentally in fresh powder, she’s writing or travelling to other ski resorts in the hope that a tree-free perfect powder run awaits her. You can also find her talking about life in France as seen by a outsider on her blog www.lefrancophoney.com
- Lift pass price comparison - 9th November 2012
- End of season round up from La Clusaz - 2nd April 2012
- Summer in the Alps - 12th July 2011
- End of season in Zermatt - 9th May 2011
- Be avalanche aware - 28th March 2011
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