Skiing and Boarding
(Note: this is entirely new content.)
Free Skiing and Boarding Through Hitching
Often the access road is several miles long downhill from ski resorts to the pass highway. An excellent way to avoid the lift lines completely and get some really long wilderness runs is to ride the hitch-lift. Catch a ride from the highway up to the resort parking lot then board down to the highway. As it gets late, you will wait longer for rides up the mountain. Once you get tired or can't get a ride, hitch back to wherever you are crashing or ski over to your mountain snow cave.
Never try to steal from a ski or board bum, their expensive gear and some tunes is often all they have. Do not assume all gear at an expensive resort belongs to a corpgov billionaire, just because you see something expensive is not permission to steal it. Stealing gear while laying low or even if you are not involved with direct action will get you a lifetime criminal record and probably banned from the mountain.
Used ski and board gear is available cheap at thrift shoppes, auction sites, and even sometimes at military surplus shops.
Board gear (often promotional items) can sometimes obtained by swapping or shmoozing up a distributor.
Auction sites, pawn shops, used sports shops, and ski swap shows are all good places to look for gear.
Some older strap down type snowboard bindings can use normal winter pak boots so you can save on that expense.
Dumpster dive at ski and board shops and resorts looking for repairable gear.
Check for sales on used rental gear at the end of the season.
If you grow your own herb you really do have a money tree for this community.
If you live near a college with dorms, there may be an annual "summer sale" of abandoned or unclaimed property at the end of the semester (Call the college and ask). There are bound to be usable or repairable pieces of sporting goods available. Get there early and bring cash, since you won't be the only one looking for bargains.
If you don't need to look like the stylish belle of the ball there are deals on ski gear for you. It is often possible to find military GoreTex jackets and pants at surplus shops. Get gear a few seasons out of date. Be sure to mix gear that will keep you warm and snow out when you wreck, be sure there are pit zips and vents so you don't start to sweat. If you are working hard GoreTex type breathable fabric is worth the expense, but new prices are obscene. Most of the swap meet knockoff gear is not really breathable GoreTex even if it says so, you are paying for copied style not function and you will sweat. If you go with a lightweight design your jacket shell works all year as a rain jacket. Be careful to de-new and de-logo your gear to prevent theft, this is a major problem with nice ski and board clothing. Only dress in wool or synthetics, cotton gets wet and stays cold.
A good set of pak boots or soft boarding boots is important for when you are not on the board or skis. Mountaineering boots work for cross country and randone, leather boots are only good for summer skiing and climbing, Plastic mountaineering boots are comfortable and warm, get extra boot liners for when the othere get damp.
If bushwacking a helmet is not a bad idea to protect from tree trunks and rocks, if you can't afford a ski/boarding helmet an oversized bicycle helmet is ok but has too many vents. See if your army surplus store has the bomber style wrap around hat, these really keep you warm and also close under your chin.
Riding for Free At the Resorts
Like in most other industries, people at a ski resort are paid jack shit. Most ski resorts only check passes at base lifts. This means if you can get past these, you can ride all you want without worrying about having a ticket or a pass. The simplest way to get past these first lifts is simply to ski past the people checking passes. Try and come up behind a big family or group, and slip by unnoticed. Hiking up to the second tier of lifts is an option as well. Often depending on the layout of the ski resort, one can drive or get a ride up on back roads that get one closer to the intended lift.
In European Alps we found that the ski lodges are often grouped together, you will find restaurants scattered around the very large ski areas which run free lifts intended for their customers, the runs are not too long but can be exciting and they are free, there are others of varying size that connect the resorts together which are also free.
Getting Free Lift Tickets
In order to acquire cheap ski tickets, it is fairly simple. All you have to do is wait outside the resort entrance, maybe in the parking lot, until you see someone leaving the mountain. Walk up to them and ask very politely for their ticket. Offer them about $10 for it, and usually they'll say yes. JV weld or hide the cut wire loop behind a pocket flap so the lift op won't see your scam. Make sure the ticket isn't a half-day, and enjoy a cheap day on the slopes.
If you can't find a girl/boy friend near the slopes you need to find a way to stay near the fun without spending money.
Some resorts give free rides and dorming to employees, if you can put up with a corpgov type slave job, often for a government subcontract resort operator, at minimum wage and homelessness on being fired this might work for you. A lockable foot locker is a good idea to prevent theft, a cable to a pipe stops the walk away thief, drill the bottom for wheels and a trailer tongue and in summer you also have a bike trailer.
If you can save up for a decent gore-tex bivvy sack and sleeping bag you could try snow-caving which is digging into a snow bank or making an igloo and living inside, these snow shelters can be surprisingly warm. Another idea is to put your bivvy under the eaves or inside of an equipment shed or lift house at the the resort. These shelters can be pretty warm if you stay dry but if you get your bag wet you had better find a way to get to a warm place quickly before everything freezes solid. The gore tex sack will serve you well in almost all solo camping but this is offset by their high price. A four season tent will take a snow load and keep you dry, but the bright safety colors contrast against the snow, you would have to camp far enough away that ski patrol won't bust you.
A car is not a bad idea for a shelter, a sun shade can help keep the ice from getting too thick on the inside of the windshield. Don't be stupid and run the engine for heat, also don't use the car battery for light or music the cold will make starting hard already without draining the battery. Hot water poured on windows to de-ice can cause big cracks. Move the car every other day and hop resorts so that security and staff don't suspect the car is abandoned, staying in the town nearby may be an option see Cars for tips on living in a car.
Most of what you need to know is in Pack your bag#Music, keep your elecronics for the slopes dry, a small river bag for cell phones works, poke a hole for the earphones and remote if you have one, seal the phones to the bag. put the player near your stomach or armpit so it will be protected in case of a wipe out. Again prevent theft carry your music gear or lock it up.
Ski and Board Bum Survival Tips
Get a minivan, they are cheap used and some handle pretty well in the snow and ice if they have good tires, the cops also think they are full of mothers and babies and leave them alone more.
You can get rid of a row or two of seats in your van and treat it like an old VeeWee camper by building cabinets and a mattress.
Use caution trying to store water in the van, if it freezes and splits the container you wont get the ice out of the carpet until spring.
Tint your windows and add shades or thick curtains, that way you can smoke out in privacy and cops can't look in when you are sleeping.
Propane for a stove is the easiest since you can use the big refillable tanks, this can also be used to heat the van but always crack the windows or the gasses and condensation can cause problems.
An extension cord to get power for your hotplate, laptop, and space heater will work even if you run out of propane, look behind most buildings and stores for an outlet.
If your electric hotplate breaks but you have a little folding iron for ski wax many are good enough to cook raamen or mac and cheese type meals, in one case this trick worked for almost a month until our writer got more propane.
Get a job at a board shop, you will get crazy deals on gear, sometimes people just leave their old stuff when they upgrade, and if your boss is cool he will let you park behind the store and plug in at night.
If you plug in at a resort park as close as you can so the plow doesn't cut your cord, if you know the plow guy slip him a few joints and ask him to wake you before plowing near your car.
Run your van every few days or the battery will die, we have heard you can get a small charger that you can mount under your hood and plug in overnight to prevent dead batteries, ask at an auto parts store.
Find a cool girlfriend/boyfriend and you will have a warm bed, free food, and a safe dry place to keep your stuff, if the parents are real hippies they will sometimes let you stay for a long time and smoke you out too.
Don't try to homebrew in your cold van, it wont work, find a friend who has a heated basement.
Put your laptop in a bag, you don't want to wake up to find it all damp in the morning from condensation.
Invest in a good MP3 player, you need tunes on the slopes or if you are working the lifts.
Stealing peoples gear is a good way to get your ass kicked, people remember what their stuff looks like, even a few years later, and it is just wrong to steal from a brother or sister.
You can live a long time on margarine and toast.
Smoke out the cool lift jockeys if you want to ride for free, find out who the assholes are and go someplace else on their work days.
If you think using a cellphone to surf the net is a good idea remember cellular Internet is expensive unless you have an unlimited plan.
A cellphone is good to call friends or family back home to beg for cash if they want to pay for it, but that means they can also use it to nag you.
A prepaid mobile phone is good if you are running out of cash but costs more per minute, most resorts also have pay phones so have a cheap calling card too.
Make friends at a grocery store or mini-mart then they wont care if you shoplift food in front of them, but find out if the boss checks the tapes.
Park down slope a few miles where there is a town and hitchhike to the slopes, gas is expensive, park someplace safe like by a friend so your van wont get cleaned out.
Start your car early or plug in and use a blow heater to clear your windows of ice.
If your van gets really funky and icy inside from condensation take some friends on a road trip to California or someplace warm for a week or so and it will dry out, get them to chip in on gas.
Let gay guys try to pick you up at the bar, they get to hit on you and you get free booze and food.
Get tight with someone working or managing the hotel part of a resort and you can sometimes get free stay in a hostel room or use the hot tub.
Learn how to scam free tickets and passes especially off season at ski shows and knowing people at TV and radio stations or sports and travel shops.
If you have video or photography skills and can get the right gear print up some letterhead and business cards for your company and get fishing for passes to film yourself, friends, or the locals cutting up the powder.
If you are a writer follow the above advice but introducing yourself as a new magazine or newspaper sports reporter.
At most mountains skilled skiers and boarders with first aid or EMT skills are allowed to join ski patrol and ski free if they take ski patrol radio along, some places allow visiting ski patrol members from other locations free access too.
If you have a gob of extra free passes and need to sell them for food or gas money do it away from the resort property if possible like at the gas station or town near the resort.
Wether you are sneaking across the northern border in winter or seeking solitude in the unpopulated mountains, with the proper gear a snowy landscape can be easier than tramping a wilderness trail for travel. Cross country, randone, telemark skis, and split boards will get you across the land and even up hills on your trek. Snow shoes are mostly for those who can't ski or for walking around a camp after fresh snow, skis on the other hand are like a one speed bike that makes travel over the landscape so much quicker and with downhill slopes as free rides. Always look for used gear on auction sites, thrift stores, or military surplus sales. If you go to a resort shop you could easily spend thousands of dollars on back country or if you are thrifty and willing to give up some performance or durability around $100. Look at a few current books on the subject to stay up to date.
Types of Skis
The cheapest solution we have found is either using regular used cross country skis from a thrift store, or buying long resort skis, pulling off the binding and adding a military cable binding and skins of uphill travel. We have heard of people making the wide back country skis from wood, and bending making a double chamber shape for use with kick wax, bindings are made from cable and old school leather ski boots, mountaineering boots, or Norwegian welt boots are used, older cross country skis must be stored with tips and tails bound and a wooden block holding the shape in the middle.
All of these types of ski and board can use a one way climbing skin to keep from sliding down hill, almost all climbing skins are synthetic now. keep the skin waxed to prevent ice-up.
Most cross country and a few kinds of randone skis can use kick wax that sticks to the snow this is also for getting up hills. You need a snow thermometer and several temperatures of wax to use during different parts of the day and from shade to sunlight areas. Be sure your speed wax is in good shape and this way of sticking to the snow lets you take downhills much faster than with skins attached.
If you will be regularly moving large amounts of gear a ski sled might be wise to buy but we usually suggest getting a large toy plastic sled adding two PVC leads about two meters long and attaching this to a belt so you can control the sled downhill, speed wax the bottom of the sled for better sliding, two full length aluminum strips for runners can be pop-riveted on and fine sanded to give you better control. Towing your camping gear sure beats shouldering the load.
If traveling in avalanche country you should review your training in use of your avalanche beacon, avalanche probe (a tent wand with the string pulled tight is a lame to mediocre substitute) and shovel.
If you want some ava-charges for much cheaper then retail and without a hassle, order fine Potassium Perchlorate to use as 70% and the finest aluminum powder for 30% from a chemistry or pyrotechics shoppe. Put both chemicals in plastic sacks and pack them into a pringles can with a few feet of fuse, be sure there is a few cm of extra space for shaking the mix. When you want to blow the avalanche, mix the powder right there stick a long fuse and chuck it into the open, get to the trees or a safe place before it blows, know how fast the fuse burns. If you blow an avalanche charge without checking if their are people below you are likely killing them, don't set off an avalanche charge unless you are trained in their use. (Police flash-bang stun grenades are basically the same thing as above just smaller)
Stay hydrated, you will not feel very thirsty in the cold, dehydration is a real danger. Don't let yourself get sweaty or exhausted when working or traveling outside in the cold; many have died from hypothermia this way. Have a powerful stove designed for melting snow and a stainless steel kettle (aluminum might melt in the hot spots), add a little liquid water to kick start the melting, a small propane blow torch or alcohol burning gel may be needed to start your liquid fuel stove in extreme cold weather.
Eat around 6000 calories if you will be working or moving hard or 4000 if sedintary, fats and protein should be prominent in the diet, don't forget fiber. Protect your head, armpits and groin to keep your whole body warm. Keep you hydration system or water bottles under your coat so they don't freeze and break.
Be sure to carry a spare emergency ski tip for your group and binding repair parts and screws.
If you are traveling with a group and a snowmobile is available many riders can be moved quickly riding behind using water ski tow ropes. Snowmobiles are very loud with two stroke motors which require special mix gas, most waste fuel if used alone.
If the snow will handle it dig out a snow cave with your mountaineering shovel. Be sure to stake ut the top of your shelter and don't make the interior too large. A snow cave is built by excavating snow such that the entrance tunnel enters below the main space to retain warm air. Construction is simplified by building it on a steep slope and digging slightly upwards and horizontally into the slope. The roof is domed to prevent dripping on the occupants. Adequate snow depth, free of rocks and ice, is needed. Generally at 4 or 5 feet is sufficient. The snow must be consolidated, so it retains its structure. The walls and roof should be at least 12 inches/30,48 cm thick. A small pit may be dug deeper into one part of the cave floor to provide a place for the coldest air to gather, away from the occupant(s), and the entrance may be partially blocked with chunks of snow to block wind and retain heat, although it is vital to prevent drifting snow from completely plugging the rest of the entrance in order to maintain a constant air supply. A narrow entrance tunnel, a little wider than a human leads into the main chamber which consists of a flat area, perhaps with elevated sleeping platform(s), also excavated from snow. Most sources agree that using tools such as a shovel and ice axe are vital; digging by hand is for emergencies only.
If the terrain or snow will not permit a snow cave you might need to make an igloo. An igloo is blocks of snow laid in a spiral upwards fashion with the final block cut to fit the top hole.