How to be a ‘ski bum’: Delya Schock spends nights as an X-ray technologist, days on the mountain
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: This is the first article of a four-part series about Vail residents who have managed to balance careers with the “ski bum” lifestyle.
VAIL — The most curious questions seem to be asked on a chairlift ride — mostly from strangers, usually out-of-towners or the occasional Front Range visitor.
They want to know how the passenger beside them actually lives in Vail.
They could have sworn those days were over. They have seen the articles that have been passed all over the Internet naming Vail one of the most expensive towns in America. There is banter of Vail Resorts and rules and expensive health insurance.
Surely, Vail is a place to visit, not to live.
The vacation doesn’t end
But in the face of that are many who don’t just live to ski but live to ski Vail. They are the locals; the ones who know which bus to get on, which runs give up the best day, where to find the drink specials and dinner deals. At the end of the day, they go home and sleep in their own beds. For them, the vacation doesn’t end.
“I was just thinking about that the other day,” said Delya Schock, who has lived in Vail for 10 seasons. “You sit on a chairlift ride with some visitor and they want to know what you do. My next response is usually ‘whatever it takes.’ I love it.”
Schock is an X-ray technologist. She studied the trade is school in South Dakota, where she grew up. Her plan was always to go somewhere that she could ski, and when a job opportunity opened in Vail, she jumped on it. She’s spent 10 years in town, working the night shifts so she can ski every day.
In a way, she’s legitimized the ski-bum lifestyle through a good job that doesn’t interfere with her skiing and vice versa.
“It is one thing to be a ski bum and another to be a ski bum with a good job,” Schock said. “If you want to stay here and grow and keep your life going, you have to be responsible, too.”
So, in to the wee hours of the morning, Schock spends her time helping mend broken bones in the operating room. But as dawn breaks, she’s in line as the lifts start turning. Her greatest sacrifice, she said, is sleep, which always comes second to snow.
“During the winter, my ski friends are my family,” Schock said. “I don’t like to leave much. There is always this underlying anxiety of if it is going to snow. If I ever want to go to Denver, there is always a very intense weather check before I say okay to a concert or a day away from the mountain.”
While Schock calls Vail home, she’s up for leaving. In fact, one of her pastimes is checking snow reports and watching the cameras at other resorts in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. When a Wolf Creek forecast was teasing almost two feet of snow, she dropped everything, jumped in a car with a couple of friends and spent two days skiing powder.
“Skiing is like a drug to me and to a lot of my friends,” Schock said. “We will blow off everything for skiing. People have definitely judged us harshly for that. We’ll ditch boyfriends for powder, and there is never a regret. The second I’m on skis, I think ‘This is where I am supposed to be.’”
Over her 10 years, she has seen the ebb and flow of visitors coming through Vail. Whether it is a rebounding economy, the success of the Epic Pass or the amount of people moving to Colorado, the ski mountain is growing with all kinds of people. But Schock is sure Vail’s heart still beats for skiing.
“Vail is an all-time ski town,” Schock said. “There are people who have been here a long time, people who came here to ski Vail. I’ve learned a lot from them. All the great skiing is still happening here. All the things that make a ski town a ski town, they are all happening here all around us.”