Local author sparks ski bum debate
Though some are refuting the book’s premise that the quintessential ski bum cannot exist in today’s world of corporate-owned resorts and sponsorship-driven athletes, Jeremy Evans says the true message of “In Search of Powder” transcends the debate.
“The truth is,” he said, “the book is about how to live life. Prioritizing and living your passion.”
It was something he started giving serious thought to after he left his home in Lake Tahoe and job as a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal in 2003 to advance his career at a newspaper in Portland, Ore.
However, shortly after arriving there, the always active 26-year-old suffered a minor stroke.
“It made me reprioritize,” he said.
He decided lifestyle was more important than career and returned to Tahoe in 2004 to cover sports at the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
“Working swing shift and snowboarding seemed a more righteous path than climbing someone else’s totem pole,” he wrote in the book’s introduction.
Following his own dream, he turned his focus on others who had forsaken the customary path to success for a minimalist life where snowfall mattered more than income.
“I was drawn to these people who ditched traditional society and traditional places to just ski,” he said. “It started out as a profile of these people.”
But as he talked to more and more skiers and snowboarders as research for his book, he noticed a shift in culture starting to emerge.
“Ski towns are changing,” he said. “They’re a lot more expensive, and ski resorts aren’t owned by families who love to ski. It’s all corporations.”
Even the skier had changed.
“The original guys, from the ’60s to probably the ’80s, seemed to have a love affair with the mountains,” Evans explained. “They loved skiing and the culture. They came to escape mainstream society.”
The new allure, he found, was fortune and fame. The popularity of ski films and magazines drew a new crop of extreme skiers and snowboarders seeking sponsorship deals and acclaim.
“There was just a disconnect,” Evans said. “Anytime money gets involved, it confuses an issue.”
So the book shifted from a collection of vignettes about ski bums and the towns they inhabit to a commentary on the disappearance of both.
“As a journalist, when you see a trend develop, you have to go with it,” he said. “You have to report it.”
But a lot of people didn’t like hearing it, especially ski resort marketing executives.
“Some people are really protective of the image and the sanctity of the ski bum,” Evans said. “I think they use that image to sell to tourists and to guests.”
Reviews by Powder Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, About.com and others have brought attention to the book, and that, said Evans, is what he wanted.
“I just want to throw it out there and put it up for debate,” he said. “And I think it’s working. People are talking about it. As a writer, I guess that’s all you can hope for.”
And by calling attention to the threat that could destroy the ski bum culture, he hopes there will be an effort to preserve it.
“I think the ski bum is an important part of Americana,” he said. “America values the renegade. If they’re dying off, we’re losing a piece of what makes America unique.”