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January 07, 2011

Where have the Ski Bums Gone

New book out on where the Ski Bums have gone--from the Review by Wayne Sheldrake, the writer of Instant Karma:

In a chilly summation that fits these realities, one ski bum morphed into a ski area executive admitted to Evans, if you aren’t willing to make the sacrifices it takes or if you just can’t afford the Mega-resorts, “..tough shit…. Go find some place that’s not famous and make something out of it. We worked hard to make this place nice. Don’t come crying to me now because you can’t afford to live here.” Then he frets, “On the other hand, if we don’t have any new people coming in, we’re dying.”

Fret not. Though the dropout mentality has all but vanished from the American psyche and college grads deep in debt go straight to the real world, Evans reports those dead-end jobs that ski bums once pounced on are now filled by immigrants. Still drunk with that idea of unfettered freedom and self-actualized happiness, they are the new bums on the block.

It is a sobering reminder of one of the biggest changes happening in this country. We have two major factors at work. We have an income disparity and a class disparity and I am not sure which is more damaging.

Imagine the days long ago when middle and upper managers (perhaps not major execs, but at least line management) lived and worked in the same place as the lower level employees. Sure there were nicer suburbs and there was a difference in economic prosperity, but I cannot imagine is was as pronounced as it is today.

We see it as more and more companies move their offices away from the factory location to glitzy urban lofts. The workers build your product in some suburban location or perhaps an industrial district but the goal of managers is to leave that site and move to "corporate". It is to distance yourself from the working man and achieve an elite status.

John Edwards during his VP run in 2004 often gave the "Two Americas" speech of one where the "Haves" are multimillionaires that get $400 haircuts, fly on private jets, and bang repulsive groupie mistresses while their wives have cancer and the other where working Americans vote for these elitist pricks to run things and tell them they cannot have salt on their fries or toys in the happy meals or transfats or smoke...

The reason that there are no ski bums left, despite the iconic status afforded ski bums among the Baby Boomers that spend the big money and own second homes in the Aspens of the world--

The Rich don't want them there.

How do you coexist in a town where a pint of beer costs $9 with the folks that work menial labor to subsist and live the dream and make mere pennies from the resort serving the wealthy patrons? There is no housing because the dive Apartments have been torn down or turned into Luxury Condos. Ordinances block urban camping. There are no campgrounds. So to scratch out an existence in a resort town, you have to live an hour down mountain and drive each way for a job that pays just over minimum wage, all so that you can earn a season pass that would cost a months salary to a minimum wage worker that you can never use because you are working all the time.

What is interesting is a new trend that my fellow Blogger Wil at 120 Days of Pow, now defunct, highlights. Mobile professionals choosing to take their laptops and blackberries and work remotely over broadband from the resorts. These folks earn six figures and can work from anywhere. They have the flexibility to enjoy the lifestyle and the money to exist in a resort town. My buddy Erich did it at Tahoe last season. Wil was at Steamboat three or four years ago.

It is classic Gentrification at work. Scarcity of these locations and of housing created artificially by zoning laws written by people that already own and have the money to be in charge whose concerns are keeping out the riff raff and keeping their own property values high.

You could write the same article about many sections of Oakland that are becoming less and less black to the chagrin of locals.

This is the price we pay for a booming economy and growing population as well as zoning laws that restrict growth and environmental laws that prevent ski area expansion. We have a fixed quantity of land and a cabal of folks that control it and want to keep the bums out.

I am not sure that is a bad thing in many ways, but it is a change in character of what the towns and the industries were. Reading about a Black poet lamenting Oakland's loss of their culture or skiers talking about ski bums being pushed out by rising real estate prices and mobile urban professionals is just the sad fact of life.

Posted by Justin at January 7, 2011 12:11 PM