New influx of ski bums settle into jobs and the mountain lifestyle | VailDaily.com

New influx of ski bums settle into jobs and the mountain lifestyle

Krista Stellavato/Special to the Daily

Like many ski bums his age, Jordan Shea opted to wait before going to law school to spend a season (or more) working and skiing in Breckenridge.

BRECKENRIDGE – The bumper sticker on a 1995 Jeep Cherokee pulling into Breckenridge read “Powder. It’s a drug.”

Like other drugs, powder is highly addictive. Once a skier or snowboarder is hooked, it’s a hard habit to break.

The substance has been known to cause otherwise reasonable and intelligent people to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of the ultimate high. Just ask any of the newest influx of ski bums who have descended upon the High Country

Leaving it all behind

They come in droves, these 20-somethings, from all parts of the country. Some give up lucrative jobs; others come to clear their heads before heading off to graduate school. Many have simply chosen to take a detour from the fast-paced career path of corporate America.

Some ski, some snowboard. But they all come for the same reason: powder. And they will accept just about any type of seasonal employment to support their habit. These newcomers readily embrace a new reality – one contingent on weather reports and snow conditions.

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Allyson Terpsma, a 2002 graduate of Dartmouth College, left her investment banking job in Chicago to move to Breckenridge this season.

“I liked the people and I liked the work in Chicago, but because of all the long hours, I felt my life was becoming one-dimensional,” she said. “I wanted a more balanced lifestyle. I thought I would try living on the opposite side of the work-play spectrum in hopes of eventually ending up somewhere in the middle.”

Terpsma arrived in Breckenridge Oct. 31.

“While I am not following a conventional career path, when sharing my plans to move West with well-established professionals in banking, I was surprised by their support of the idea and in many cases, their envy and personal regret for not having done something similar before dedicating themselves to careers and families.”

Within a week, Terpsma found housing, and jobs soon followed.

Working full-time as a front desk receptionist at The Village of Breckenridge and hostessing part-time at the Salt Creek Saloon will allow Terpsma to support herself and, more importantly, give her plenty of time to ski.

“While I am still working a lot, I have more control over my hours and how I spend my time,” she said.

Brian Humphrey, a graduate of Colorado Mountain College, chose to remain in the area after graduation.

“I stayed to get the deepest powder and the biggest cliffs,” said Humphrey, who is working at Copper Mountain as a ski instructor and works for East West Resorts.

Early retirement

Some who intend to stay for a season find themselves unable to leave when the lifts shut down and the snow melts.

Josh Giltner, a Minnesota native, arrived in Breckenridge in September 2001.

“I felt like there was very progressive movement toward big mountain skiing going on at the time and I wanted to be a part of that,” he said.

Giltner’s was an ski instructor his first season in Breckenridge. He continues to instruct skiing at Copper Mountain and also works full-time at High Country Furniture near Breckenridge.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, affected Giltner’s decision to stay.

“With all the craziness of Sept. 11, being here gave me a sense of security,” he recalled. “And when the economy took a downturn, instead of going into the immensely high-stress environment of corporate America, why not wait for the economy to rebound?”

Giltner said that while his parents occasionally lecture him on the need to pursue a career, they have come to understand why he chooses to be out here season after season.

“Instead of waiting until I am in my 70s, stricken with arthritis, and no longer able to ski the way I want to, I decided to retire before I started working,” he said. “Once my early retirement is over, I’ll go find that “real world’ job. Maybe.”

Law school on hold

Jordan Shea, a 2003 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, deferred his acceptance to Loyola University Law School in order to spend the winter season in Breckenridge.

“I figured this was the only point in my life I would be able to do this,” he said. “The Colorado Pass brought me to Summit County because there is no other location that would allow me to ski multiple mountains in such close proximity.”

Shea’s parents were initially reluctant about his plans to spend the winter in Breckenridge.

“My parents didn’t believe I would actually go back to school, but I’ve already started paying tuition deposits so they saw that as a form of insurance,” he said. “They knew I would return after one season if I was already investing money in law school.”

Shea arrived in Breckenridge on Sept. 22. He was able to find an apartment, but no job, so he returned to Chicago until the middle of November. Upon his return, Shea easily found employment as a server at the Salt Creek. He would also like to teach snowboarding.

Ryan Cox, a 2002 graduate of the University of Florida, spent the year after graduation working as a litigation specialist based out of St. Petersburg. Cox made the decision to come to Breckenridge last April.

Cox arrived in Breckenridge Oct. 24. He was able to find housing and a job within a week of arriving in town and is waiting tables and working as a snowboard instructor at Breckenridge. His schedule will allow him to get in plenty of mid-week riding, something Cox has made a priority.

“I wasn’t happy with my job,” he said. “I felt like I had no potential for upward mobility, and I was working 60 hours a week and always travelling. It was good money, but I wouldn’t trade the lifestyle I have out here for the money I was making then.