Best Ski Town Sacrafices
Working at a ski resort can be a magical experience, but ski towns have this remarkable quality of embracing struggle and promoting poverty with an elegant smile. Doesn’t matter if your the Best Ski Town or the worst ski town your biggest promoter is going to be someone who calls themselves a “Ski Bum”. An individual that wears this label proudy, but struggles daily to survive in these magical little mountain towns.
From dead end jobs to low paying wages. A ski town workforce is made up of seaasonal nomads who sacrafice big bank accounts, nice housing, quality vehicles for those soul touching powder turns up on the mountain. Living out of cars. Eating ramen noodles. Scrounging for change to buy new gear or fill up gas tanks. Ski bums pay the ultimate sacrafice to be the heart and soul of ski towns around the globe.
Are Ski Town Resort Employees Modern Day Slaves
Calling yourself a ski bum sounds a whole lot better than day labor workforce slave. The employee pool to draw from in ski towns is slim pickings. Mainly because employers pay slave wages and show zero appeciation for the sacrafices their employees make. To put millions of dollars through the cash register every month. Especially up on the ski resort. Almost 95% of ski resort employees take home pay is less than $1,500 a month, and they’d be lucky to take home $8,000 in one season.
Ski Town Wages
Let that sink in for a second. In todays world no one can survive off of $1,500 a month unless you are living with someone else who is paying all the bills. But even in the best ski town where the cost of living is double the rest of the world $1,500 a month doesn’t even provide enough money to break even.
Even worse than not being paid a livable wage ski resort employees are worked unbelievably ridiculous in the best ski towns in the world!
There is an unwritten rule in the restaurant industry, “You work when the rest of the world plays.” Which means you work nights, weekends and almost every holiday if you want to make any money.
Ski Resort Employee Sacrafice in a Ski Town
At a ski resort its an absolutely mandatory “MUST” protocol and standard operating procedure for the entire ski industry. Which means to get hired you have to agree to work every holiday, weekend, big event, festival, nights and any other snow days that makes them big money. Requesting off those days will be met with an ultimatum from your manager or HR director, “If you need these days off you can’t work here!”
Holiday Schedule For Ski Resort Employees
We’re talking the entire two weeks of Christmas (Decemeber 20th-Jan 3rd), Martin Luther King weekend, Winter Carnival, Presidents Day Weekend, Valentines Day Weekend, St Patricks Day, the entire month of Spring Break, Easter, Thanksgiving and all mountain events, functions and gatherings throughout the season.
To work at a ski resort you have to agree to barely make more than minimum wage. Miss all family & friend holidays and functions. With the only appreciation shown from ownership, management and supervisors is a free ski pass. Couple of free beers here and there. Sporatic functions that offer free food, and discounts on select products.
Ultimate Slap in the Face to Ski Town Employees
You have to agree to the terms of making $42 a day while the ski resort collects a $100 a day from 20,000 people who purchase ski passes. So that they can pay you $540 after taxes over the entire Christmas break when they bring in a million dollars or more to pay for that $500,000 one hour firework show.
Life isn’t fair, but the heart and soul of every ski town across the globe is made up of passionate powder hounds lovelably nicknamed ski bums. Who put millions of dollars into the pockets of the rich. While they struggle to survive living out of their cars, eating canned soups and huddling around campfires.
It’s affectionately called living the dream, but objectionate view point would call it celebrating poverty.
Ski Town Restaurant Money
If you want to be a ski bum that doesn’t struggle in a ski town than you need a gig that pays well.
If you can deal with working horrible hours a server averages close to $35/hour. Which helps to make up for all the sacrafices you have to make to live in a ski town. Unfortunately you will also have to deal with some unbelievably dense people.
Don’t Do This When Going Out To Eat at a Ski Resort
When going out to dinner in a ski town don’t be a douchebag. Don’t assume your entitled to anything and everything. Leave your IGNORANCE at home! Your not funny! Use your powers of observation & perception. You may be on vacation, but the staff are locals and probably have been running around that restaurant for 10+ hours. They’re not in the mood!
More Restaurant Tips
Best Ski Town Housing Crisis Alternatives
Living in working in a ski town can be magical, but being able to afford it can be challenging. The key to being able to live in a ski town and not go broke is creativity. To afford housing in a ski town you’ll need to partner up, or find something off that radar.
Ski bums are notorious for “packing them in”. I remeber a ski trip to Gov’y camp back in 2008. Where five us drove down from Crystal Mountain to stay with a friend of a friend of another friend. Its was unbelievable that a complete stranger based on a call from another stranger agreed to take us in over the weekend for free. While we ski’d more vertical feet in a weekend than most do in a lifetime.
Housing Sacrafices of the Ski Bum
It became clear once we arrived this wasn’t a one off situation. There were over 25 ski bums living in this three bedroom house.
Personal areas were sectioned off by hanging sheets, braced plywood and even moving boxes divided sleeping areas. Privacy was in short supply, but you weren’t living there to collect your thoughts.
It was the same in Telluride. Where bunkbeds where made out of stolen kegs and plywood. Couches were pulled out 4 foot from the wall to make another sleeping area for a room mate. My friend in Park City rented out the patio deck for $200/month during ski season. Sleeping in make shift shanty on the 4th floor patio.
Cheap RV Living is the Key to an Amazing Ski Town Adventure
The key to the housing crisis in ski towns across America is RV Life! If you have a fully self contained RV that you can urban boondock in than you’ve got the golden ticket.
Most campground’s average monthly rate is $400 in the summer, and even less in the winter. Winter camping is a little tricky to get used too, but compared to the alternative of a $2,500 efficiency apartment. Its worth the effort!
Every campground has water, electric, sewer and all the normal utilites you get at home. You can get high speed internet for the computer, and live sports for the TV. Electric heater is less than $60 a month, and a couple of minutes with a shovel can whip up a freezer. Laundry is only $5 a week, and theres no such thing as a pet deposit.
Is McCall Idaho The Best Ski Town
McCall Idaho is the best kept secret in America, and is hands down the best ski town in country because it checks so many boxes! Especially for a full time traveler like myself.
19 Reason Why McCall is The Best Ski Town
- Within 2 hour drive of a major city and civilization
- Two ski resorts call this charming mountain town home
- Year round activities
- Affordable cost of living
- Restaurant scene that consists of more than pub food
- Surrounded by rivers, lakes and Mountains
- Indoor Hockey rink with multiple adult hockey leagues/tournaments
- World Class hunting and fishing
- No national park — 1,000s of miles of outdoor recreational wilderness
- Within two hour drive of an International Airport
- Within striking distance to a dozen world class ski resorts
- Year round town sponsored events ~ for tons of family fun
- Surrounded by at least a dozen hot springs
- Free camping opportunities everywhere you look.
- You can day trip to 7 different states or even Canada
- Its a gorgeous landscape that a million people every year come visit
- High speed internet and full cell service
- Even the police are a positive in this town
- And so much more.
You just gotta see this wonderland to believe it!
Most ski towns that claim to be the best are only one dimensional. There are very few that offer multiple facets of living, entertainment, employment or culture. Those that do are so expensive that the locals get driven out by the upper class of society. Like Park City, for example.
Most ski towns are either a one season town, or a ski town that offers no off mountain entertainment. To be the best ski town in the U.S. you have to cater to year round activities for both locals and guests. Which is exactly what McCall Idaho does. The only thing that would make it this place better would be a few more off mountain entertainment amenities like a bowling alley and/or a movie theater. Something like the Foundry in Winter Park, Colorado would be a phenomenal addition to this postcard looking ski town.
Best Ski Towns To Live In
There are other ski towns like Telluride, Tahoe & Jackson that will steal your heart with their beauty, but disappoint with their quality of life. Park City and Steamboat springs can deliver the quality of life if you can afford the entrance fees. While Whitefish and Mammoth both have solid claims to be the best ski town to live in. A local will tell you thats ship sailed long ago.
Then you have the Red Lodges, Breckenridges and Mount Hood’s of the world. That put together quite an appealing package to an aspiring ski bum, but how much partying do you really want to do?
The “Best Ski Town in the U.S.” is the ski town that checks the right boxes for you, and for me that is McCall Idaho. Which is probably the best kept secret in America!
Is Telluride The Best Ski Town
Telluride is one of my all time favorite ski towns, but thats because I never lived there full time. It is absolutely the most gorgeous ski town in the country. With towering peaks of granite overlooking this ideal ski town. An actual gondola that you can ride for free to commute around the town.
Telluride is awesome with an amazing personality and a breathtaking mountainous landscape backdrop, but there is no housing. No place to camp. Its illegal to sleep in your car, and they actually enforce it. Its super expensive and you need 2-3 jobs just to afford a basic life there. But they do have the “free box”. Where hotels put left behind guest items out in a little bin on the sidewalk for who ever wants them.
Telluride warrants a visit from anyone looking for the best ski town in America, but go in with an open mind and diligent eyes. Besides the bars and volleyball league what else will you do when the chairs aren’t spinning. Is that worth a $3,500 apartment you can’t afford without 10 room mates? Not in my opinion.
Could Lake Tahoe Be The Best Ski Town
Lake Tahoe is definitely a quality candidate for best ski town in America. You’ve got casinos, ice rinks, bowling alleys, movie theaters, grocery stores, restaurants, affordable apartments and a state mandatory minimum wage that is above $10/hour.
A gorgeous alpine lake thats surrounded by 10 ski resorts all offering their own unique terrain. Free alcohol while you gamble at any of the casinos, plenty of shows and events that roll through town. Including the World Poker Tour at Harvey’s Casino. You can fly in/out of Reno. The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the South Lake rim, and Yosemite is less than 3 hours away.
You can literally surf in the ocean, ski the mountain, section hike the PCT and play black jack all in the same day.
3 Strikes for Tahoe
Unfortunately, I gave Lake Tahoe three chances to be my permanent home, and all three times it sent me packing. Just wasn’t meant to be. I don’t regret it, and I don’t fault anyone for giving it a try. For me personally there just wasn’t enough money to justify the constant struggle.
Maybe I have high standards. Maybe I didn’t see things clearly enough. For whatever reason Tahoe and I are not compatible.
Why Isn’t Winter Park The Best Ski Town
When it comes to Colorado ski towns Winter Park is nowhere near the top. Its the closest ski resort to Denver, and gets over run with skier’s and snowboarders. The mountain is amazing so its no surprise why, but hope you like moguls and tracked out runs.
The town itself is nothing more than a two block strip mall filled with over priced shops, dull restaurants and all the household name gear you can find anywhere else. It has no personality what so ever. If it wasn’t for the terrain or proximity to Denver it’d probably be a struggling mountain.
Not to mention it is only 12 miles from the beautiful gateway town Grand Lake to Rocky Mountain National Park, and they never talk to each other. Which is truly unfortunate because if they ever did start colloborating there is a ton of potential there.
The best ski town in the U.S. also has to have a healthy relationship with its locals and police force. Winter Park doesn’t even comprehend this concept. The only good thing about the ski town of Winter Park is the Foundry Bar.
How Come SteamBoat Springs Is Considered to be The Best Ski Town
Steamboats Springs is the self pro-claimed best ski town in the world, by copy writing catchy slogans. Such as, “Champagne Powder & Ski Town” USA.
With a full service town including all the shops, big box stores, free bus, movie theater, bowling alley, employe housing and plenty of off mountain entertainment.
Its not a bad arguement. Its not even that expensive to live there, and main street is gorgeous. Its literally the post card of what every ski town aspires to be.
I just don’t consider it a mountain. Its more of a rolling hill that gets more freezing rain days than it does powder days. From my experience. It doesn’t have the beauty that other ski towns have. In fact if you want my honest opinion it has a boring looking landscape.
It checks a lot of boxes. Just not enough for me to call it the “best ski town in America“
Will Whitefish Ever Be The Best Ski Town
Whitefish has it all. The most amazing National Park in the country. Glacier fed lakes and rivers that run crystal clear. It’s just across the border from all of Canada’s true gems. Two ski resorts. 11 miles from a full service town that contains all the big box stores, affordable housing and plenty of jobs. You can even gamble every where including cash game poker at any of the bars.
There’s campgrounds, affordable housing and no sales tax! Locals are super friendly and quick to invite you along in their adventures. I even played poker against Steph Curry at the Remington Bar one night. There’s night life, good paying gigs and a masterful culinary scene. That includes a crepe breakfast joint I have to swing by every time I am in town.
Getting to Whitefish is as easy as making a choice between air, train, bus or driving. The ski resort just under went a major renovation, and theres even hot girls that live there. Trust me thats rare variable in most ski towns.
But it’s just too crowded in the summer time. Literally takes 10 hours to drive the Going to the Sun Road in the summer time. Its too much tourist non-sense for me, and I’ve lived for more than a decade in high volume vacation tourist destinations around the globe. Whitefish is just too much for too long.
Why Isn’t Mount Hood Considered The Best Ski Town
Government Camp known as Gov’y camp is a much needed accessory to Mount Hood in its campaign for best ski town. Unfortunately, Mount Hood is like a college campus ski village. More paychecks get spent at the liquor store than they do the grocery store.
To me its just not the whole package your looking for when trying to find the best ski town.
Is Park City The Best Ski Town
Park City is probably in the top 3 of best ski towns in the U.S. According to any magazine, but remember the heart and soul of any ski town is its ski bums.
All ski towns are expensive to live in, but Park City draws from the super upper class of society for a reason. Yes, there is a full service town, free bus, world class mountain biking and a picturesque charming one of a kind ski town. Restaurant choices that even include sushi. Town sponsored events like the Sundance Film festival, but its Utah with its ridiculous liquor laws.
The only downside to Park city is you either own 3 houses or work 3 jobs to live there. I don’t really want to work 3 jobs.
Does Crystal Mountain Have a Chance at being The Best Ski Town
Crystal Mountain, although has a special place in my heart its like Alta. You need more than one bar and a laundromat to be considered a ski town.
If you don’t like binge drinking you better like movies. Because there is nothing else to do after the chairs stop spinning on the mountain.
Green Water is the ski town for Crystal Mountain, and its a close knit community that is gorgeous. Super friendly and really look out for one another. Extremely all-inclusive, and super big hearts.
The boulevard up to the mountain is spectacular, and they even have “B” lot. A place for RVers to park during ski season. Lot of positive things about Crystal mountain the mountain, but there is no ski town. Sorry Crystal.
How Come The Best Ski Town Will Never Be on the East Coast
I will never ski anything East of the Mississippi so while there may be some amazing ski towns out east they don’t get good snow. To be the best ski town in the U.S. you need powder days. Not bullet proof granite ice.
The Greatest Ski Town To Live In
McCall Idaho is the best ski town in the country without a doubt in my mind.
Because it offers everything without requiring the bank account to afford it. The vibe and pulse of this city makes up the best ski town personality I have ever come across. If you want to know what the best ski town in America feels like come visit McCall.
Is there a ski town that should have made this list? Leave it in the comments below? I’ve probably been and could shed some light on why it didn’t make our list. Happy New Year, and may the New Year be the greatest you’ve ever had.