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Steamboat Magazine

Long Live the Ski Bums

03/18/2024 01:04PM ● By Sophie Dingle
(Photo: Local "ski bum" Tina Rennie waits for an early morning ride to Steamboat Resort. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.)

Do you consider yourself a ski bum? 
“Oh yeah.” – Scott Hinze
“That’s what they call me. It’s something that I love to do. When I go up skiing, nothing else bothers me.” – Jack Legrice
“I consider myself to be a ski bum capable of adaptation. I’ve been here long enough to know what works and what doesn’t.” – Tina Rennie
Steamboat Springs, CO - The ski bum is typically defined as an individual who prioritizes skiing or snowboarding over everything else in life, often living in mountain towns (maybe with five roommates?) and working low-paying but semi-flexible jobs that allow them to ski as much as they want to in a given season.
We wondered: What does a ski bum in Steamboat Springs look like? “Not dressed as well as one from Aspen,” jokes Scott Hinze, one of the self-proclaimed bums we spoke with. Scott moved to Steamboat in 1986. In the nearly 40 years that he’s lived here, Scott has held many jobs – cleaning corporate offices, cooking in restaurant kitchens, working on the mountain – but the skiing lifestyle was always his top priority.
“Every living situation and every job taken was a part of a decision to be able to ski whenever I wanted,” says Scott. “I got into law school but I don’t want to sit at a desk. That’s just not me. A lifestyle is more important than making money.”

“Every living situation and every job taken was a part of a decision to be able to ski whenever I wanted.” – Scott Hinze. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.

Throughout our conversation, Scott regaled us with tales of his work (he used to be a night baker for the resort, making and hand-wrapping brownies and cookies, then would ski down in the dark when his shift was over), his living situations (think trailer park with roomates, for $200 per month) and how the town and its livability have changed over the years.
“The prices do go up,” he says, “and they stay up. But the community makes up for it.” His current living situation is $1,000 more expensive than his past one, but, he points out – he can afford it. Scott works two jobs: managing the barbeque pit at the Yampa River Icehouse and washing dishes at Ragnar’s two days a week for $22 per hour. This is his 19th season working for the ski resort, and after his 20th, he’ll receive a lifetime ski pass and retire.
As a ski bum veteran in town, Scott’s advice to newbies is this: “Come, go to Colorado Mountain College, figure out how to pay your bills, and live here.”
Which is exactly what 20 year-old Ethan Laman-Thornton is doing. Originally from Colorado Springs, Ethan was looking at Colorado Mountain College campuses across the state when he settled on Steamboat.

“I definitely want to stay. I came to the mountains, and I don’t plan on leaving.” – Ethan Laman-Thornton. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.

“I originally wanted to move to Summit County but it was so expensive,” he says. “I’d never been to Steamboat before we moved here, I just wanted to be in the mountains.” Ethan is studying hospitality management at CMC, working for Wyndam and lives with his girlfriend in a hotel-room-turned-apartment on the east side of town.
The fact that he pays over $1500 per month in rent for a less-than-500-square-foot room is irrelevant; what’s important is his goal of hitting 100 days on the mountain this winter. Ethan is a snowboarder who grew up boarding on Monarch Mountain.
“I don’t really remember learning but I fell in love with it,” he says. “Every time I go out, I try to do something new and progress myself.” In the next three to five years, he hopes to go pro on the Freeline World Tour.
His biggest challenge is “the money aspect,” which he navigates by cutting down on food expenses, staying home and eating Minute rice. He lives paycheck to paycheck and has no money in his savings account.
Still, Ethan says, “I definitely want to stay. I came to the mountains and I don’t plan on leaving.”
Tina Rennie, 29, arrived in Steamboat in 2012 to attend Colorado Mountain College. Ten years ago, she was able to find a place at Fish Creek Condos which she split with roommates, paying $375 per month. She babysat, coached for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and picked up shifts at a local jewelry store.

“You’re surrounded by a lot of people who fall into the vacation lifestyle and forget about setting personal goals.” – Tina Rennie. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.

“One thing that was really important to me,” Tina explains, “was that if I’m going to stay in Steamboat, I need to be progressing. You’re surrounded by a lot of people who fall into the vacation lifestyle and forget about setting personal goals.” How would she buy a house? Excel in a career? Make more money? Buy more skis?! These are all questions that Tina pondered. “I don’t want to just be able to afford to live here, I want to have a foundation,” she says.
Currently, Tina does not own a house but has a guaranteed living situation through connections she’s made. Pair that with a job that accommodates her skiing lifestyle, allows her to pay rent and save money, and she feels secure.
“Saving money is a priority but lifestyle would top that,” she says. “I choose to bartend because it accommodates my lifestyle and schedule.”
In her book “Powder Days” author Heather Hansman explores the concept of ski bums. “It’s hard to balance dirtbagging with the pressures of growing up…can you be a ski bum forever? Would you want to?” she asks.
Tina’s friend Kelly Mazzanobile, also 29, thinks probably not. “I don’t see myself here ten years from now,” she says. “I think what it comes down to is that as Steamboat starts to expand, it’s not the same anymore. It’s a little different – still good, but I’d like to be able to find more of an affordable lifestyle than how Steamboat is trending.”

“You have 30-year-olds in small, cramped rooms with five or six people. It’s no way to live but it’s the cheapest way to be here.” – Kelly Mazzanobile. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.

When Kelly first moved here in 2017, she lived at The Ponds which provides employee housing for Steamboat Resort workers. “That’s a wild place to be,” she recalls. “You have 30 year-olds in small, cramped rooms with five or six people. It’s no way to live but it’s the cheapest way to be here.” After a year and a half, she moved out and now lives in a multi-story house downtown with three roommates. 

So, is it all worth it, we wondered?

“As long as I’m eating powder, t’s worth it.” – Travis Blare. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.

“As long as I’m eating powder, it’s worth it,” Travis Blare told us, surrounded by snowboards in his one-bedroom apartment. Travis works every day in the off-season so that he’s able to take time off all winter to snowboard. Still, even with an endless supply of powder, he says, “It’s always changing. We used to be such a ski town! Every bar had a band and a foosball table. There were no traffic lights. Now this is a city.”

“Skiing is the only thing that I’ve done really, really well.” – Larry Budwig. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.

“Skiing is the only thing that I’ve done really, really well,” says Larry Budwig. “Not better than everyone else but as best as I can do it.” Larry, who first lived in Steamboat from 1979-1984 while on the US Freestyle team, now rents an apartment that’s part of a larger house in an area which he remembers as not having any roads or houses.

Now, as the town is changing, the ski bum culture is changing. Rents are rising. Food costs are rising. Labor booms and shortages come and go. The town grows and expands. The mountain grows and expands. People move in and move out. But the skiing – that’s forever.

“In the 80s, we thought Steamboat was getting too big and we went up to Big Sky. But we didn’t like it – this is the perfect location. Being able to work and ski makes it a lot easier.” – Jack Legrice. Photo by Dustin Posiak-Trider.