How to Be a Ski Bum

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How to Be a Ski Bum

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If you live and breathe skiing, you probably think that ski bums live quite an envied life - one that, of course, centers around skiing. While the freedom to hit up the slopes the second the powder flies or to get first tracks each and every day is certainly desirable, life as a ski bum isn't as simple or care-free as one might think.

As any skier knows, lift tickets, ski clothes, skis and boots are quite expensive. Add that in with the cost of living, and becoming a ski bum becomes quite a considerable task indeed.

However, men and women in the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland and more do it every ski season. With some planning, you can, too. Here's how.

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Start Planning Early

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If you want to dedicate a ski season (or two, or three) to becoming a ski bum, don't make it a last minute decision. The earlier you start planning, the better chances you have of securing a job and finding housing. Plus, if you want to score a deal on a season pass, you're best bet is to buy early - some resorts sell season passes as early as April or May.

A good place to start is the town's Chamber of Commerce website, where you can browse possible job opportunities and sometimes even housing information. To find roommates, Craigslist is a popular option. Of course, if you have any friends or acquaintances in the town you plan to head to, they are a valuable source of information, as locals are usually armed with a wealth of knowledge about how to make it as a ski bum.

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Plan Your Deals and Discounts

Liftopia's iPhone app helps you score great savings on lift tickets, sometimes up to 80% off. Courtesy Liftopia

As early as possible, you need to start figuring out how you're going to pay for your time as a ski bum. Do you want to buy a season pass? Read about how to save on a season pass. Are you going to rely on lift tickets? Figure out how to get discount lift tickets, and keep track of deals through sites like Liftopia.

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Avoid Upscale Regions

Welcome to Jackson, Wyoming. Copyright Mike Doyle

If you want to be a ski bum, avoid luxury resort towns that cater to high-end clientele. For example, you'll have a better shot at being a ski bum in a more rural area, like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, than you would in a upscale resort town like Aspen, Colorado or Deer Valley, Utah

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Keep Your Housing Expectations Low

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In resort towns where primary lodging options include high-end hotels and exclusive condominiums, it's tough to find cheap housing. If you're on a budget, you'll probably need to live with multiple roommates, and chances are, space will be tight.

The sooner you start looking for housing, the better as places fill up fast. When you're looking for housing, remember that long-term rentals are usually cheaper than short-term, especially in areas where tourism is high.

If you can't find an apartment, check out hostels, too. Although the accommodations might not be five-star, prices are generally pretty low.

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Plan and Prepare Your Job Search

Copyright Mike Doyle

Unless you have a solid savings to rely on, you'll need some type of winter work while you're a ski bum. There are generally two options that accommodate a ski bum lifestyle - working at the resort, or working in the hospitality industry.

Ski Resort Jobs:

Also, if you're going to dedicate your winter to being a ski bum, have a plan for when the snow melts.

Long-Term Ski Bum Tips:

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Look For A Nighttime Job

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Many ski bums become ski bums because quite simply, they want to spend their days skiing. A day job isn't going to accommodate that. But, if you can find a job where your primary hourly commitment is post-ski day, you'll have time to make it to the slopes.

Ideal ski bum jobs include bartending or waitressing, working the night shift in a grocery store or department store, or working the late shift as valet parker, concierge, or receptionist at a hotel.

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Work at a Ski Resort, as a Last Resort

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On-mountains jobs have pros and cons. A huge benefit is that they usually come with a free ski pass, or at least free lift tickets. The problem is, though, that your pass will probably be valid only if you work a sufficient number of hours. And, of course, on-mountain jobs are usually day jobs - so your ski days will be limited.

Some mountains jobs automatically mean time on the slopes, but it's not that simple. Ski patrol, for example, spend a lot of time on the slopes, but the position requires extensive training, including medical training, and you must be an excellent skier.

Ski instruction is another option, but that too requires training, and when you're on the slopes, what you ski is totally dependent on who you're teaching.

Then, that leaves entry-level resort jobs like lift operators and trail groomers (both of which can involve of a lot of physical labor), day-care workers, cooks and cafeteria workers, retail, and administrative positions. While these options don't necessarily mean free time during the day, you will be close to the slopes and might be able to snag a turn or two before or after your work day starts.

If you have a mountain in mind where you might want to apply, inquire about career opportunities. They might have a job fair in the beginning of the season where you can find out about seasonal openings.

Read More: Ski Bum Job Tips

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Choose a Resort With a Long Ski Season

Consider heading to a place like Whistler Blackcomb, where the ski season stretches on into the summer. Copyright Stuart Dee / Getty Images

If you're going to dedicate part of your to being a ski bum, take advantage of the time off and choose a resort with a lengthy ski season. Ski resorts in the western U.S., like Utah, Colorado and Washington, tend to outlast their eastern counterparts. If you head north, resorts in Canada even stretch their seasons into the summer, like at Whistler Blackcomb's glacier areas.

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How to Be a Ski Bum: Consider a Southern Hemisphere Ski Resort

Visitors to the Argentina's Patagonia lake region, home to Cerro Catedral, will be treated to stunning views. Copyright Hans Strand / Getty Images

If for some reason your winter schedule doesn't quite fit with the ski bum lifestyle but your summers are more flexible, consider spending your summer months at a southern hemisphere ski resort. Resorts in New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Argentina offer skiing from June to September, providing another option for would-be ski bums who want shake things up.