The ski bum is dead, long live the ski bum

We’ve known quite a few ski bums in our time around here. If you think about it, Dave McCoy himself would probably been called a ski bum, had the term or the lifestyle existed at the time. Maybe Dave was the original ski bum, for all we know.

Those were heady times for us back then, when the ski towns were being built and the ski bum subculture emerged. Look around town and they’re everywhere still, each finding just enough work to free them to lay down some serious skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

A couple of years ago, we were having a ski day with “Powder Dan” Molnar, a Southern Californian who said one school ski trip and he was hooked. “Being a ski bum is all I ever wanted to be.”

But there are fewer Powder Dans now, for a lot of reasons. It’s more expensive to live and ski in a town like ours, not to mention “resorts” such as Lake Tahoe, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Vail, etc. The cost of a season pass alone would have made the eyes of many an old-time ski bum pop right out of his sockets.

There is a changing workforce, both in town and on the ski hill, where Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has increasingly relied on bringing in international workers during the winter.

They’ve had to do it because there just aren’t enough ski bums to fully staff that behemoth. The ski bum is dead. Long live the ski bum.

Such is the premise of Jeremy Evans’ new book, “In Search of Powder, A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum.”

It’s a terrific book in almost all respects, from the University of Nebraska Press – we wish it had an index, but that’s a quibble – and worth the $16.95.

Most of all, we liked his long chapter profiling Keith Erickson. If you live and ski in Mammoth and haven’t spent some time on the ski hill with Keith, well, then, you haven’t really skied Mammoth.

Keith is a Bay Area guy and he has settled down in Mammoth. Those days when he lived in a different ski town each year are long gone. We’re the lucky ones. He, his wife, Kim, and their daughter, Zoe, are now as much of Mammoth as, say, Mammoth Rock.

But we didn’t know him the way we know him now, thanks to Jeremy Evans, who has produced a great profile on Keith, tucked into superb book about ski towns like ours.