February 10, 2013 | Posted in:Uncategorized

Every once in a while you meet someone truly interesting. I first met Jonny last spring when we rode the Slot and Crooked Couloirs together on Easter.  I ran into him again a few weeks ago at an event put on by the Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center and we agreed that we should ride together again.  I was just getting back into the mountains and I didn’t want to burden Jonny with a slow, mellow day – so I held off calling him until I felt comfortable that my back wouldn’t be a hindrance.
The thing about Jonny is; he is a ski bum. I mean that as a compliment.  I idolize the ski bum life. Being able to follow the snow, camp out wherever you please, and ride every day. Jonny does this. It is more than just the opportunities the ski bum lifestyle provides. It is also the carefree attitude and the ability to live in the moment.

All I had to do was shoot him a text to see if he was in the area, and in the matter of a few minutes we had plans to meet bright and early the following morning at the Summit Pancake House on Snoqualmie Pass. For future reference, the pancake house does not open until 7 am on weekdays – causing only a minor delay in our efforts to get an early start.

But the ski bum lifestyle comes with a price. You are living out of your truck. For people like me, this sounds fantastic. You can go anywhere, sleep anywhere, and chase the snow. In reality, it isn’t that glamorous. The truck bed is not overly comfortable and storing your entire livelihood in the truck means there isn’t much room for yourself. Nights are cold and filled with interruptions from a variety of sources – for instance, snowplows clearing your parking lot. I never did ask him where or if he showers, but my guess is he doesn’t bother too much with that apart from when he ventures to his parents house to do laundry.

It is not a lifestyle I could live, as much as I would enjoy spending all of my time in the mountains, going wherever and doing what I please. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy riding with Jonny and I look forward to many more. Hopefully next time I will be able to actually keep up as he breaks trail.

After pancakes and coffee, we set our sights for a knob to the southwest of Kendall Peak. This was, without a doubt, the easiest access tour I have ever done. We parked at Summit West, crossed the street and hopped on a skin track just under the I-90 bridge. Within 5 minutes we were starting to climb.

Jonny, having toured in the vicinity the previous day, had prepared me for the mashed potatoes we were likely to find. After 45 minutes of climbing I jokingly shouted up to Jonny as I casually flicked my pole in the snow, “so, uh, is this the mashed potatoes you were riding yesterday?”

We were both a little baffled at what we were finding. The snow wasn’t warm and soupy like we were expecting. It was light and fluffy and nearly a foot deep (yes, there was a solid crust below…but we weren’t complaining).

Just as we made it out of the forest and into a clearing about half-way up the hill, Jonny had to stop to take a phone interview. If you didn’t have a grasp on Jonny’s lifestyle before – perhaps this will help clear it up a bit.

As I waited, I blazed on ahead, setting a track up to a forest service road. Not wanting to get too far ahead, I transitioned and made a few turns. The interview was taking longer than I thought and I could hear the patrollers at Alpental setting off some rather large charges, so I dug a pit while I waited. As expected, the snowpack was stable and I couldn’t get anything to propagate. I was a little rusty and happy Jonny showed up to take over and further check the snow, agreeing with my assessment that the snowpack was stable.

We forged on to the top of the knob making good time. We were at the top of a long open meadow, spotted with a few open glades. With the better than expected snow, we both opened up and made some spectacular turns down to the bottom of the clearing. Not pausing long before heading back up for another lap.

It was a weekday and I’d set a pretty early cutoff because I had every intention of making it back to the city and putting in a full day’s worth of work. It was 11:30 and I let Jonny know that I only had time for one more lap. We were both pretty bummed about that, considering this was some of the best snow either of us had seen in a while.

We ended up compromising. We took another half-lap, only riding down to the forest-service road that cut through the middle of the meadow.  I gave Jonny my camera and couldn’t resist having a little bit of fun.

The final lap we rode out to the car. Just below the meadow the air had warmed and the snow turned into mashed potatoes that we had been expecting to ride all day, so neither of us was complaining. We found a few fun pillow lines and made the most of the exit. Before we knew it, we were back and the car and I was hustling to get back to the city.
I was disappointed I had to cut the day short, but glad that I was able to get out and enjoy some fantastic turns with Jonny the Ski Bum. 

Upon re-reading my post, I am concerned that I didn’t do justice to the wonderful person that Jonny is. He has his level 1 and 2 avy certifications, I think WFA, and is planning on taking his CAA industry level 1 this year. Jonny teaches avalanche courses, which is where he earned the title “Ski Bum”. He has run ultramarathons, biked across the country for charity, and is working on becoming a guide (which seems like it would suit his lifestyle well). While every time I have ridden with him, Jonny has been living out of his truck, he has a girlfriend in Portland and I believe a place to stay there as well, but I get the impression he almost enjoys the truck. 


  1. Penny Jansen
    February 11, 2013

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    Jonny the Ski Bum reminds me of Crazy Legs Duncan from Telluride. He was our “ski bum”/hero in the late 70’s. My brother ran into him this past Christmas (yes, the Carhart Brothers were famous, too) and they skied together for the day. I love the connections one makes in this sport.

    • Stelios
      November 30, 2013

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      I can’t really conmmet on topic such as these as we here in Sunny Southern California aren’t familiar with such weather condittions.Fri 83b0 | 59b0 SunnySat 83b0 | 54b0 Partly CloudySun 69b0 | 51b0 Partly CloudyYa’ll have a nice weekend ya here!

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