Tag Archives: Ski resort

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Mountain Man


This is too awesome not to share. In case you can’t read my nephew’s handwriting, here’s the gist of it: “When I grow up I want to be a mountain man who runs a mountain area, like my uncle John Curcher (sic)! And my aunt Kimmy Curcher!” “The clothes I would wear would be nice clothes” (as in Patagonia and Outdoor Research, no doubt). “The tools I would use would be pencils” (because nothing at a ski area is ever done in permanent ink).


“Be careful you dang teenagers!”

But the very best part is the drawing. Notice the snowboarder dropping from the helicopter, screaming “Yahoo!” And the others saying, “Awesome!” “Super!” and “Zowee Mama!!!” Got to love the enthusiasm there.

But the best part is what I can only assume is the ski patroller’s (my) voice from the helicopter yelling, “Be careful you dang teenagers!”

When I first examined his artwork, I assumed he was depicting John and I riding down the mountain, and I thought, “Well at the end of the day, at least my nephew gets me.” But upon closer examination, I realize someone has to be the killjoy, warning the teenagers to be careful. After all, any good story has a protagonist, an antagonist and a very awesome setting. Also, I can’t help but notice the great care he took in drawing the helicopter. A mind made for machines is a mind made for mountain operations.

Bravo Jack.

The Future of Skiing According to Mountain Riders Alliance


Mountain Riders Alliance is trying to change the sport of skiing. More accurately, they’re trying to return the sport to its roots. They want less emphasis on real estate villages and expensive lift systems and more focus on skiing. Their goal is to provide just enough uphill transportation to keep the sport viable, but not so much that it inundates the environment. I like where they are coming from. I had the pleasure of meeting founders Dave, Jamie and Pete last season when they came to Crystal. We skied, talked about the future of the industry and shared beers at the Elk. These guys get it. They have signed terms sheet to purchase Mt. Abrams and the steep Manitoba Mountain in Alaska is coming on line; these like-minded souls are poised to shine some serious light on the ski industry.

It is, or should be anyways, first and foremost about the skiing. Everything else is gravy. Below is MRA’s plea for support in followers, donations and schwag buyers. Click on the logo below to be taken to their site with more info. These guys deserve a look.

The ski industry has been taken over by Big Business.

Conglomerates and private equity firms with no connection to local communities have bought up ski areas large and small, while many community-based mountains have closed. Lift ticket prices have gone through the roof, making snow sports inaccessible for many. Urban sprawl in our mountain towns is degrading the natural environment while a select few make a large profit.

We want to offer an alternative!

Who We Are

Mountain Rider’s Alliance is a group of passionate snow enthusiasts dedicated to making a positive change in the ski industry by supporting mountain communities and being more sensitive to the environment. We want to bring the triple bottom line of people, planet, then profit to the ski industry. We believe riding is more than a sport, but rather a way of life.

MRA is creating or converting values-based, environmentally friendly, rider-centric Mountain Playgrounds around the world. Our model will help local businesses prosper, create renewable energy and offer an authentic skiing experience.

MRA Triple Bottom Line Business Model

MRA’s Triple Bottom Line Business Model


Why Should You Support MRA?

You love community.

You want ski areas to support their local economies and preserve the individual character of ski towns. You want skiers to have a voice in how their ski areas operates. You want your ski area to partner with non profits to make the world a better place.

You love the environment.

You want ski areas to reduce their fossil fuel dependence, harness renewable energy techniques and lower their footprint. You love snow and the mountains, and want them preserved for future generations.

You love skiing. 

You are not concerned about time-shares, out-of-boot amenities, or overpriced lift tickets. You want affordable uphill transportation with the emphasis on skiing and riding.

Matt Reardon at Manitoba Mountain, Alaska

Matt Reardon on Manitoba Mountain, Alaska

What Do We Need?

Our grassroots organization has been bootstrapping for over two years. We have made an enormous amount of progress without any operating capital. Recently, the first round of seed investors has contributed to support our global vision. Now we are now seeking additional funds to move forward from concept to reality.

Two ski areas are ready to become the world’s first Mountain Playgrounds, with many more to follow. You can make that happen.

How Can You Help?

Donate: Your contributions will have a direct impact on moving our plans forward and, more importantly, support the sustainable future of skiing and riding.

Represent: Wear your MRA attire with pride and spread the good word!

Share: Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Meet the Leadership Team

Director of Finance and Development Pete Blanchard graduated from Duke with honors, worked a stint on Wall Street, and recently received his masters in Sustainable Business from Presidio Graduate School. His ability to speak in “financial talk” is a key piece of the team. As a long-time member of the pro leisure tour, Buddy Pete’s gifted ability to put the team’s ideas on paper makes him our three-time returning MVP.

Project Manager Dave Scanlan is a jack of many trades. Over the years he has been known as Tele Dave, No Poles Dave, Bumping Dave, Hippie Dave, and Tie-Dye Dave. As chairman of his local Land Use Advisory Planning Commission on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Dave’s ability to eloquently discuss the finer details is top notch. His work ethic and attention to detail are in a league of their own. He would like nothing more than to create more cool places to ski.

CEO Jamie Schectman has been around the block a time or two. He is the guy who keeps everything organized and everyone moving forward. He comes from an entrepreneurial background and isn’t afraid to try new things by challenging the status quo. As a self-proclaimed change agent and global ski bum, “Shecky’s” ultimate goal is to create the job of product tester at MRA Mountain Playgrounds around the world.

MRA has over 50 active team members from 6 different countries contributing to our grassroots organization, and has recruited an imressive group of advisory board members, bringing a diverse wealth of knowledge to our collaboration.

For Those About to Ski Bum, We Salute You


The view from my “office”

Every so often I meet someone intrigued with my lifestyle. He or she wants to know how I just “threw it all away” to live at a ski area. Some of them want to know how to do it themselves. We all have our own path. I started as a volunteer patroller in college, just looking for a season’s pass. Then after a few years as a High School English teacher I decided to take a year off, pro patrol for a season and see what happened. That was 17 years ago.

Currently I’m working on a novel that takes place at a ski area. My main character, Lucky Rollins, is a recent transplant to a small ski town. Like a mother hen, I’m fretting over her, putting her in harm’s way and obsessing over ways to push her problems through the sieve of a ski town. I suppose I can offer my own insights based on personal experience as well as the fictional life of my characters. For those about to ski bum, I salute you. It’s not necessarily easily. But nothing worthwhile ever really is.


There are two types of people that move to a ski town. First are those taking a gap year (or two, or three) between High School and Whatever-Comes-Next. Few of these become ski patrollers or ski area managers. Most are lifties or ski instructors or run a cash register in the cafeteria. They enjoy the season of low-responsibility, honing their future selves with fresh mountain air. Ten years later they will look back at the season they ski-bummed as one of their best, recalling with great fondness the crappy dorm room they shared with three other employees that never bathed and the sheer lack of direction their life’s trajectory held. These employees rarely stick around long–always moving on to something more worthy of their talents. But while they’re here, they bring an important energy and optimism to ski town life. We need the freshly scrubbed newbies just like we need the crusty, jaded locals. One tip to the freshly scrubbed: don’t be in too much of a rush to become weary of this life. If you don’t stoke your own enthusiasm every once in a while, the fire will go out.

Then there are those that have gone a round or two (or ten) in the “real world” (and have somehow not gotten themselves noosed by a mortgage payment and mouths to feed) and found it lacking. That shiny new car, with the expensive payment, doesn’t actually make them feel any better about themselves. Nor do those Italian shoes or the designer clothes. It’s just the same old treadmill. Like monks, they come to the hills to take a vow of poverty, eschewing 20-year-old Scotch for Pabst Blue Ribbon, trading in their cars for campers and iPhones for the cheapest flip phone they can find. Sort of like a Gap Year for grown-ups.


Dirt Bag King, Corey Peterson shows off his best side

I’m not sure what kind of advice I can offer to these newbies. Maybe I should introduce these ski bum neophytes to the true ski bums, the B Lot boys of Crystal, The Dirt Bag Kings of Big Sky. The true ski bums don’t even work for the ski company, let alone enforce the rules.

Ski patrollers are some of the most “professional” roles on the mountain. At least that’s how we see ourselves. We think of ourselves as snow scientists and maybe even lifesavers, but never cops. Don’t ever call a patroller a cop. Not when I’m in earshot anyways. Most patrollers join the ranks for a few seasons. A five-year patroller is a veteran. Then there are a few that never leave. These are the Lifers, sometimes crusty, maybe a little jaded, but still willing to practice maximum enthusiasm every once in a while.  If you last ten years, you’re probably always be there.

Why Do You Want to Move to a Ski Town?

You have to ask yourself how long you see yourself doing this. Is this a temporary move away from the city and the responsibilities you will one day return to or perhaps merely a stepping-stone to an illustrious career as a mountain guide/photographer/journalist/professional skier? Or do you actually see yourself here, in this ski town, for the rest of your days.

If you’re like many people wondering what ever happened to the American Dream of prosperity, and wouldn’t mind just chucking all that, ski area life might be an option for you. This is especially true if you a) are not in a relationship b) don’t have children or a mortgage and c) are not waiting for those three elements in your life to provide meaning.

How Can You Make it Work?

You’re ready.  You’ve decided to make the move. Here’s just a few tips I can offer:

Ski patrollers ready for Sweep

1) Don’t move to Aspen or Park City. Don’t get me wrong. These are great ski towns. If you can afford to live in one of these places, then by all means go for it. It’s certainly more admirable than joining the Yellowstone Club. But don’t move to a great town to find you have to commute from 50 minutes away just to find affordable housing. Also, employment opportunities are very competitive. And there’s traffic.

2) Go where you’re known. If you already have a cat driver friend living in Truckee, then go shack up on his kitchen floor for a few weeks. All it takes in a ski town is a toenail in the door and you can soar. Just remember to bring beer for your friend as payback.

3) Don’t wait until November to find housing. Ski town populations bloom when the first snow hits. Start now.

4) Are you there to ski or party? Find the right place. If partying is more important than skiing, then find a ski area on private land with plenty of bars. Ski towns in the PNW are mainly on public lands, which means less housing, fewer bars and quieter nightlife. But we also have less crowded mountains, quiet slopes mid-week and a more laid-back feel. Also, the parking lots are good places to park that camper of yours in case you can’t find housing.

5) What about off-season work? Do you already have a summer job in mind? If not, consider a town that offers work in the summer as well. Ski towns are fun places in the summer, too. Best-case scenario is you have a summer job that can subsidize your winter fun. There’s nothing wrong with a legit paycheck coming in, perhaps one that even offers health insurance, to off-set what you won’t be getting during the winter.

6) Aim high. I know it might sound strange, but ski areas are rife with entry-level employees without many skills. If you’ve done some corporate time, it might come in handy in a ski area, where good managers are hard to come by. Sometimes just a pulse and a little enthusiasm can go a long way.