The Death of the Ski Bum and Intentional Tourism

“The ski bum is extinct,” Director of Sustainability Ian Johnson declared. This sentiment was echoed by many ski resort workers featured in my Catalyst article from two weeks ago entitled, “Resort Reality: Ski Employees Face Financial Nightmares”. In the past, a ski bum could work two days a week and ski five, while nowadays, most resort employees work five and ski two. The classic ski bum lifestyle is disappearing and the growth of mountain towns throughout the West is to blame. Johnson finds the exponential growth and the increasingly elitist nature of mountain towns unsettling.

From left to right: Visiting Professor Kyle Whittinghill from University of Pittsburgh, Ian Johnson, and Professor Sarah Hautzinger on the Sense of Place trip in 2016.
Photo Courtesy of Ian Johnson.

An upcoming Colorado College-sponsored Sense of Place trip, “Not Your Average Ski Trip,” aims to educate the CC student body about the current reality. Last year, the trip took place over the weekend and was well attended by faculty, staff, and students. This year, a group will head up to Copper Mountain for a Block Break. Last year, for comparison’s sake, trip attendees navigated the local transportation system. Public transportation often takes longer than driving straight into the sprawling parking lots that have become common features of most resorts. Johnson asserted that it is important for people to understand that there are sustainable options worthy of attention. The weekend included an opportunity to meet with the “Green Team” at Copper Mountain, a group that focuses on issues related to water. While water disputes are much more contentious in the summer months, securing water rights for snowmaking is a top priority for most ski resorts in the winter.

The 2016 trip had the opportunity to hear from Anthropology Professor Sarah Hautzinger, who provided a wealth of knowledge to attendees, mostly regarding real estate. Property prices in communities affected by expansion continue to skyrocket. As a result, skiing has become even more exclusive. When asked when things began to change, Ian Johnson said, “Since the 1990s, the overall cost of skiing has gone up exponentially, creating an elitism I wish didn’t exist.”

This year, in Hautzinger’s place, the Office of Field Study brought in William Philpott, author of “Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country.” Those who choose to attend the Sense of Place trip will have the opportunity to speak with both Philpott and members of the Green Team at Copper Mountain in order to expand their knowledge of environmental issues surrounding Colorado’s favorite winter sport. The Sense of Place Trips are an amazing opportunity for students looking to learn more about Southern Colorado. Although the upcoming ski trip already has a long waitlist, the Sustainability Office organizes a trip each block. Creating an intentional space to reflect upon the impacts of our recreational activity is imperative. The Sense of Place Trips offer an opportunity for students and faculty alike to develop a conscious way to participate in outdoor sports.

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