How to Be a Snowboard/Ski Bum in Vail from Locals

How to Be a Snowboard/Ski Bum in Vail from Locals

Image stolen from Gno Verucchi's Facebook - He's a super cool dude who drives around and lives out of his van, in addition to riding a Weston. Check it out at @dat.asstro


So you want to know how to move to Vail to chase your dreams of being a ski bum? Living in Vail as a snowboard dirtbag is a tough road, especially for your first season. It can be very rewarding though and we applaud you! To help you out, we've compiled a list of tips to help you get out here and start slaying pow.


1. Save Those Pennies - Squirrel Away that Nest Egg for Winter

Summer is your time to prepare for the winter season so that you can snowboard as much as humanly possible or have that cushion in case you find yourself jobless from too many no-call, no-shows when there's 12 inches of new snow.


2. Live Out of Your Car (Yes, You Probably Want to Bring Your Vehicle)

Just to start, or for the full season if you really have the gusto. For real though. Your car provides more than just valuable transportation to get around the valley or to other nearby mountains. Living out of your car initially will allow you to get into the Vail area, without needing to put money down on a place before you've secured employment or made some friends. Make your way out in September or sooner and start building your network of connections (Summer if you really can). Coffee shops are a great place to start. See if you can find someone's driveway to rent so you don't get chased off by the local authorities. The local campgrounds can provide a great home base to start your search as well.

If you're looking for a little more comfort than your vehicle, look into these towns/areas:

  • East Vail 
  • Minturn (You can snowboard down the Minturn Mile to get home but make sure you've got your Beacon, Probe, Shovel and a buddy - it's backcountry even if it's coming off the resort)
  • Avon (10 min drive to Vail)
  • Edwards (15 min drive to Vail)
  • Eagle (30 min drive to Vail)


2. Find a Job in a Restaurant - Snowboard in the AM, Work at Night

Many of the local spots start ramping up their staffing around September and October. If you want to be getting pow turns on the regular, forget the lifty jobs and aim for a nighttime serving/bartending position or clean some hotel rooms. If you work as a lifty, you'll get a pass, but you might often be faced with watching other people score those fresh turns. Here's some pretty decent local businesses to hit up where you might even run into us:

Important things to note! Most shops and restaurants close in late April through early June for "mud season" and could very likely leave you without a paycheck for a bit.


3. Thrift Stores - Where Locals Shop for Snowboarding Gear

One perk of living in a community that is packed with more wealthy people than it knows what to do with? The thrift stores are constantly refilled with lightly used gear from the previous season. You can stock up on Gore-Tex layers, Patagonia, and all that good stuff for super cheap. You might even find some stellar retro gear as seen on Brendon Glenwright (one of our riders).


4. Demo Sales - That's Right, We Sometimes Sell Our Old Demo Boards

Need a board but can't afford full price? Hit us up directly as we may have an old demo for ya. You can swing by the Minturn shop to pick it up. 

Get Yourself a Demo and Call us


5. Get Used to Bartering - It's All About Who You Know

Find all those little ways to save a little. Trade your friends some ski tunes for beer. Offer some discounts on food for discounts on gear. Find things that you can offer others and what they can offer you.


6. Don't Eat Out - Unless You Like Paying $20 for a Burger

Learn to love the PBJ, ramen, and spaghetti. Avocados, eggs, and rice go a long way as well. Eating out in Vail is the fastest way of bankrupting your wallet. While you are snowboarding on the mountain, bring your lunch with. Unfortunately, the resorts have figured out the ghetto tomato soup option created from Saltines, water, and Ketchup packets in the microwave. In fact, they got rid of most microwaves altogether just to force you into eating their food.


7. Quit Drinking or Whatever Other Things You May Do...

Seriously, especially in mountain towns. Keep your priorities straight (slaying pow in case we have to clarify for you). Alcohol is expensive and will likely give you that hangover that prevents you from catching turns the next morning. Mountain towns also have a knack for turning people to the darkside of drinking and substance abuse.


8. Leave the Dog at Home

We've all seen the social posts of everyone and their dog in the mountains. It's cool. Dogs are awesome. However, if this is your first season, you are way better off not bringing a pet. Renting a place in Vail is hard enough without bringing animals into the picture.


9. Download OpenSnow - You'll Want to Know When that White Stuff is Comin'

You'll understand the love-hate relationship that many in Colorado have for our good friend Joel Gratz over at OpenSnow but it remains one of the best sources for telling you when to prepare for pow.


10. Save Up for a Beacon, Probe, Shovel and an AIARE 1 Class

You're going to get out here and make friends with people who love them some "sidecountry" access. Sidecountry is a term we don't like to use anymore because it implies it might be safer than full backcountry (since it's coming off the resort). It's not. Don't be that dude party lapping with your friends (with or without avy gear) after a storm and ends up tragically on the CAIC accident report site. This isn't the PNW or Tahoe with some Sierra Cement. Colorado has one of the most dangerous snowpacks in the world. Be safe. You can find out list of resources to help you start to understand Avalanche Safety stuff here.

View Backcountry Basics


Want More Advice?!

Feel free to chat it up with us as well! We're more than happy to have some conversations with you and share our knowledge.

Call Us


One of Our Favorite, Successful Mountain Dirtbags:


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1 comment

I did a ski bum season in Vail 20 years ago right outta college. It sounds a bit tougher these days. It’s interesting that we never thought of the Minturn Mile as backcountry back then. Good point on the beacon/buddy necessity.

John Hawkins

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