Nature Report: Yampa Valley Ski Bums Awakening from Hibernation

With the first winter storms gracing the Yampa Valley, another seasonal miracle appears to be in full force: from Oak Creek to Hayden, in trailers, converted vans and basement apartment, life begins to stir. As the temperature drops, a wide range of Ski Bum species awake from their annual slumber in anticipation of ski season and the opening of the mountain.

One of Yampa Valley's native varieties of ski bum, Bostoniana Slackerus, is seen waking from its long hibernation.One of Yampa Valley's native varieties of ski bum, Bostoniana Slackerus, is seen waking from its long hibernation.

Shaking off the debris of crumpled cigarette packs, empty beer cans and half-smoked joints, these seasonal creatures, already clad in winter garb, begin migrating toward Mt. Werner and various restaurants across Steamboat with the hopes of finding a decent job that will afford them a ski pass.

"It's kind of beautiful," says Bob Upendawn, a local curator and advocate for preserving the long heritage of Ski Bums in the Yampa Valley. "Routt County has a unique mix of Ski Bum creatures. We have a lot of East Coast skiers that traveled west in the 1980s: Bostoniana Slackerus­. This species was looking for good snow and a smaller population with less competition for first tracks. Steamboat provided the perfect environment for them to proliferate."

Upendawn explains that a secondary wave of Ski Bum came in the 1990s, a younger, more voracious breed attracted to the valley because of its isolation and physical features. This breed brought with them snowboards and a healthy drinking habit.

"Powderistic Shreddus is relatively harmless," states Upendawn. "Their shaggy appearance and tattoo markings are off-putting, but they do serve a benefit by pollinating the local bars in their nightly trek across town to get wasted."

The third iteration of Ski Bums, however, has Upendawn worried. "With the recent legalization of marijuana, we're seeing a new species of Ski Bum emerge: Stonerifus Stupidicus, which is primarily comprised of Jibbers, but certainly Hipsters and like-minded ilk are part of the breed."

This third breed, according to Upendawn, is invasive and poses a potential threat to the delicate Ski Bum balance in the Yampa Valley. Mainly coming out of the Midwest, this particular strain moved to the valley with the sole intention of getting f'ed-up on marijuana in its various forms - flower, edible and oil. They generally live in packs of five to eight, splitting the cost of housing and supporting their drug habits by working a string of low-end service-industry jobs for no longer than a month at a time or becoming an indebted servant of the ski mountain. Building "nests" within their Honda Accords and Ford Escorts comprised of RMR canisters and ramen-noodle packages, these Ski Bums frequently will camp out for days in ill-placed locations, playing loud Dub-step or alternative-bluegrass music in an attempt to attract more of their kind.

Preventive measures have been implemented by the Steamboat Ski Resort in an attempt to keep Stonerifus Stupidicus at bay, include raising the price of a seasonal ski pass to just under the yearly income of poverty -  $11,000 - and installing a series of overpriced ski-equipment shops around the mountain base in hopes that by looking like Vail, the highly stoned Ski Bums will be deterred.

"We admit that it's not going to keep all of them out," says Don Lyke-Uhipee, director of Ski Security for Mt. Werner. "Some of these Ski-bums are being financed by a trust fund, or they've bought a pass during the summer by beating up old women and stealing their purse money."

Lyke-Uhippe explains that as a secondary tier of security, Steamboat Resort plans on planting decoy traps comprised of a half-bag of marijuana, an i-Pod and a bag of Cheetos at various locations on the mountain in hopes of snaring Stonerifus Stupidicus, removing them from the premises, and returning them to their natural environment: Portland.

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