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Ah, those ski bums. They trade security and income for skiing endless powdery, bluebird days, and whimsical lives. But it takes a special kind of talent to live large on 8 grand a year, plus the idea of being a 30-50 year-old server or bartender might not be a huge draw to you (and definitely not to your spouse/kids/pets). Luckily, in ski towns, there is a middle road. Some people have real jobs and still ski every day. Welcome to the elite club of dawn patrollers, who, in order to live the dream, traipse up mountains before or after a day at the office, like strange, very fit, powder-loving vampires.
Zahan Billimoria, director of communications for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and avid dawn patroller found time to offer some tips on how to get started. Billimoria holds a full time job, runs a language school, and is an Exum mountain guide and father. He can do it, what’s your excuse? Soon, you’ll be shunning lifts and skinning in the dark even on your days off.
Before you can be a DP-er, you’ll need to relocate to a job that is right near skiing. This kind of access can be found anywhere with snowy mountains and jobs nearby, but major DP cultural centers are Salt Lake City, parts of Colorado, Jackson, Wyoming, Burlington, Vermont, and parts of Washington State, among others.
Some DP-ers will strut around after rising at 4:30, driving to the trailhead, and getting in 3,000 vert of skiing in the dark on their brand new gear. This means that for $1,000 extra dollars they lost 3 ounces of weight, and got in a few more turns within their time frame. Maintain pride in your 1,000, or 1,500 feet—in time, you’ll get faster.
There is no “fat, old, busy, out of shape, I’ve got kids, etc.,” in DP-ing. There are actually no excuses. This includes the fact that when you start it will be dark and cold, and midwinter it will still be dark and cold when you finish. According to Billimoria “You have to get over that.”
The night before, put your skins on skis, stick all gear in the car, and even have your snacks already in the pocket of your puffy,” says Billimoria. Late to work isn’t an option. “I have to be here by 8:15 to load TGR on the early tram. If I’m late, they don’t go.”
With your gear, that is (yours will take care of itself). So obsessed that you can carry on long conversations about said gear, in fact. The two most important components not to skimp on? A good headlamp, and Dynafit bindings, says Billimoria. Although you can use your burlier AT gear (i.e. Marker Dukes, regular pow skis) the added weight will slow you down and may affect the vert you get before work…meaning less pow turns.
Billirmoria recommends base-layers that can be varied with the temps and then a breathable softshell pants and jacket over it every day. He likes this Marmot ROM jacket. Pack a puffy for the descent and you are good to go. -Brigid Mander