As Pogo famously observed, "We have met the enemy and he is us." We - ski bums of an earlier generation - didn't set out to kill off ski bummery. We set out to be, well, ski bums. Like Johnny Davis (Crested Butte), Martin Hollay (Heavenly), Glenn Artist (Park City) and the rest of the old-timey ski bums turned upstanding citizens Jeremy Evans portrays in his ode to the vanishing(ed) ski bum lifestyle, none of us wanted to grow up, become adults, have kids, begin to worry about, gulp, saving for retirement and get real jobs that paid real money. Life happened, dude.
And so we began to build, dream bigger dreams, ski better mountains and become the people we so desperately wanted to avoid becoming - our parents. Oh, we went them one better. We became adults in ski towns. Ski towns that were nothing like the oh-so precious mountain resorts they are today. Ski towns where we drank hard, partied harder, skied like we believed in immortality, got nekkid and thumbed our collective noses at one-week-a-year visitors who wished they were us.
We hammered nails in the summertime, pulled enough scratch together to buy a lot, build a cabin, ski 150 days a year and repeat as necessary. Then something weird happened. What we were doing became popular, at least in a mythological sense. Other people wanted to buy in, or at least visit on a more regular basis. The backwater mountain towns we lived in became hot commodities. Our ramshackle cabins were suddenly worth seven figures. We figured if what we'd done was good, doing more would be better. We dreamed bigger, built condos, became realtors, businessmen and mayors, didn't notice the tentacles of the corporate takeover that was gaining control of our town and lives and suddenly woke up in paradise lost. Tabernac!
And now, there's nowhere for aspiring ski bums to go. They simply can't afford it... well, it and a one hundred-fifty dollar a month cell phone habit. We killed it for a future generation of ski bums.
Or did the cult of celebrity, as so aptly chronicled by Teton Gravity Research and hyped by the X-Games kill it off, make it uncool? Or was it squeezed out by the inflow of an immigrant workforce more focused on making a living than shredding powder? Or is it just a matter of the next generation of ski bums having to find other little mountain towns to develop, assuming the barriers to entry aren't too high and the whole culture of skiing wasn't just a post-WWII phenomenon? Or was the whole dream just another chapter in the human saga, here today, gone tomorrow, like hoop skirts and buggy whips?
Jeremy explores all, okay, most of those themes in In Search of Powder . Along the way he introduces us to some compelling characters - the aforementioned old-timey ski bums - some corporate villains, and some planners, schemers, connivers, consultants, filmmakers and heroes, both known and unknown, of modern-day ski culture. He traces the arc of development of towns like Mammoth and Lake Tahoe, California; Jackson, Wyoming; Park City, Utah and Crested Butte, Colorado and muses about the future of skiing and, of course, ski bummery.
He meanders perhaps a bit too long in, for example, the development of Dave McCoy's personal mythology and the tortured history of Teton Gravity Research. He spends perhaps too little time with Myles Rademan, plumbing the influence of his role in modern ski area development. And he's far less damning of the perniciousness of bottom-line corporate thinking than, say, Hal Clifford was in Downhill Slide, though his swipes at Vail's neanderthal management no doubt left some marks.
But let's face it, his subject is near and dear to all of us livin' the dream, those of us wishing we'd started livin' the dream earlier and those wondering whether there's any dream left to live. If you want some insight into how we got where we are - notwithstanding the exclusively U.S. focus of the book - and why our children had better find another dream to follow, you'll enjoy spending time with Jeremy's highly readable book.
Jeremy Evans will be at Armchair Books for a signing Friday February 19 between 2p.m. and 4 p.m.