Volume 96, Issue 83
Friday, March 7, 2003

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A timeless question: ski or school

Between Lines
Tait Simpson
Opinions Editor

A random assortment of hedonistic Gazetteers found themselves in various parts of Banff, Alberta this past Reading Week. Being connoisseurs of the lifestyle that being a university student allows us to lead, we, as a collective group, were slightly taken aback by the manner in which our fellow Canadian youth were living in the mountains.

Living a lifestyle that maximized skiing time, otherwise known as being a "ski bum," these youths were living in extremely similar conditions to Western students on Huron Street. After a week of thought and observation, here are the top five reasons why living the "college life" and living the ski life are essentially one and the same.

1) No Fridays: After the initial excitement of getting to either university or a ski town, one quickly learns that nothing productive comes of a Friday. Thursday nights are reserved for the local watering holes. No self-serving student signs up for Friday class, while local skiers are tired from a week of empty slopes. They have left the hardened runs for the weekend warriors that begin descending on their small towns, only to leave Sunday night; after dumping enough money in the local economy to keep the hill running for the next four days.

2) Work-study and Work-ski: Both skiing and college are expensive pursuits. Regular employment would make life much more affordable, but, in many cases, deny youngsters from having the fun they desire. Both universities and ski hill managers come to the rescue by allowing us to work on a hill as a ski-instructor for hopeless downhillers or as a tutor for the hopeless students. Horrible work on all accounts, but it allows for the golden ticket of a seasons pass or tuition, which would be otherwise unaffordable.

3) Dumpster diving: A term that refers to a poverty stricken youngster getting either food or furniture from the local dumpster. Houses furnished with Molson posters, environmentally unfriendly fridges, partial couches and rickety lawn chairs, all stem from this tradition. Ski town houses and the houses of a college "ghetto" share an uncanny resemblance. Perhaps the only difference is the college poster with the porsches on the wall that reads "Incentives for higher education," instead of the ski poster of a skier dropping a 100-foot cliff that reads, "Incentives for higher elevation."

4) Summers off: Much like the end of exams in April, ski resorts turn off the lifts about the same time each year and send the youngsters out into the great unknown, before welcoming them back when the leaves begin to turn again. Although some may choose to take summer school or flee to the other side of the equator in search of snow, those that have agree that you can't recreate the same atmosphere during the long summer months.

5) The clock's ticking: There is a sense of preciousness that comes with living in either environment. As famous Canadian skier Troy Jungen said in his Dirtbag Thesis of Skiing, published in Powder magazine, "After five years of countless runs and no job, it's time to move on."

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2002 THE GAZETTE