While visiting my sister in Los Angeles, I stopped by my favorite used bookstore in her neighborhood, Counterpoint Records and Book. There are tactics to ravaging through a used bookshop, and the first is to always start with the sale cart. I ended up quickly finding The Ski Bum’s Guide to Mountain Wildlife, which reflected my new Tahoe lifestyle. Sometimes a book finds you. When it does, and when said book is $3, the only option is to buy it. I found out later that I struck gold: the out-of-print book is extremely rare to find, and goes for over more than $300 on eBay.
Published in 1978 by The Bowery Publishing Company in Reno, the book features original calligraphy and caricature illustrations. At best, the title deceives — this guide does not inform you about the vast animal wildlife a ski bum encounters. However, with the dry humor and spirit of skiing circa Hot Dog…the Movie, it teaches how to live like a genuine ski bum without ending up like the Donner Party.
The book is full of tips for how to get away with sleeping in stairwells and recipes for the very broke. Some of the illustrated recipes include ketchup + hot water = tomato soup, and peanut butter à la carte = peanut butter on a spoon or finger. Some recipes include food stolen from your employer, or finding food in vacant hotel rooms. Not that I’ve done that or anything.
Tahoe locals know that you have to be prepared for this lifestyle, and this guide tells you exactly what you need, other than mirrored sunglasses and the right attitude. The author explains that the best way to survive is to get a mountain job and free season pass, and the prime time for finding a job is “a month before the snow flies,” giving you ample time to find a bed too. The book also reviews America’s ski towns, mentioning Squaw Valley as “a haven for hot shots.”
According to author Nipi Chinook, “Ski bumming is an activity of intensely directed purpose — the art of staying alive and out of jail in a ski town. A complete absence of financial ambition is essential, and this carefree lifestyle is best approached with an appetite for adventure and ground