Around this time of year, approximately 1 million years ago, I was gearing up to leave New England. Like many fresh-out-of-college ski bums before me, and like Lewis and Clark and the salmon of Capistrano, I headed west, looking for bigger mountains and more snow.
I had a snow-tire-less Jetta, two of my best friends from school and some skis that were too skinny for Colorado deep days. I was pretty sure I was going to crush it.
I spent most of the first few weeks sliding downhill on my face, unconsciously offending people who had lived there forever and generally enforcing the stereotype of East Coasters who move to the mountains.
I made it to spring a much better skier and a good bit humbler, but here are some things I could have learned before I got started.
Acknowledge that you’re the new kidThere’s a reason why ski-town localism is so pronounced. That’s because jamokes from Cincinnati move to town, get a job and claim that they’re local.
You’re not a local. You will not be a local for a really long time. Embrace that, be excited and get people to show you around.
Choose your job wiselyThere are a lot of different jobs to be had in a ski town, and a lot of them suck. You might have to compromise your self-respect in some way, but be particularly fearful of jobs like children’s ski-school instructor and concierge, where you’ll have to cater to people who are not nearly as smart as you.
Also, be wary of a job that comes with a ski pass. It may be nice, but it’s kind of like sharecropping. If your pass is tied to your job, it means you can never quit.
Choose your gear wisely tooGear makes a difference — it really does. And it can be hard to know what you need before you get there.
A lot of ski towns will have ski swaps in the fall where you can get slightly used gear. Keep your eyes peeled for those.
Make new friendsMake new friends, and not just with the bartender and the shop guys (although they’re good people to know too). You will probably never again be surrounded by so many people who want to do the same thing as you.
There’s nothing better than showing up on a powder day solo and seeing three of your buddies at the front of the line.
Ride your face offThis could possibly be the most fun season of your life. It’s easy to get sucked into the party scene or get spoiled.
Remember why you came. Never turn down a powder day.
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