Snow Sunday: The 8-Step Drought Cycle

Snow Sunday: The 8-Step Drought Cycle

When it doesn’t snow for an elongated period in Telluride, there is an established and predictable set of emotional stages, not much different than the five stages of bereavement, that the local ski bum must endure. Although these stages have not yet been published in psychology journals, those who have experienced them are all too familiar with the cycle and subsequent emotional distress, and can attest to the resulting affliction. Officially documented for the first time, the stages are as follow:

Note: In the following article the pronoun “he” is used for simplicity but it should not be assumed that characteristics of “the ski bum” are only inherent to males. Please substitute “he” with “she” as you, the reader, see fit.

ski bum

1. Trivialize: First, the ski bum will trivialize the situation thereby denying its possible severity, and exhibiting signs of his own denial and inability to cope with undesirable realities. He will laugh it off and trivialize poor snow conditions through late-night drinking accompanied with hung over mornings all the while validating his actions with the fact that no new snow exists therefore neither does a reason to wake up sober, healthy and early. The ski bum not only trivializes the information he continues to receive about snow levels and prospective storms, but his reactions to this information.

2. Ignore: Next the ski bum all-together ignores the situation and subconsciously identifies it as a false reality. He will continue to ski, venture into the back country exploring chutes, even rappelling into them if need be, pretending that the winter is as it should be and always has been. Although psychologists see this as a healthy immediate coping skill, they see negative long-term emotional issues and attribute this behavior to the ski bum’s predilection to ignore unpleasant realities by escaping to alternative environments such as “the ski town” where he has successfully created his own existence outside the constructs and regulations that govern traditional society.


3. Lie: Unable to identify or cope with real problems, in the third stage, the ski bum’s subconscious mind will sense the problem and immediately resort to a neurological survival mode that causes the ski bum to unintentionally outright lie about the ski conditions. The ski bum will continue to ski the mountain and back country, as well as post pictures of these outings on Facebook—another sign noted by psychologists of his need for an alternative reality. When asked how the conditions are, he will look an innocent and honest person, even a child, in the eye, and genuinely answer, “It’s actually really good; not at all as bad as I expected.” Psychologists see this as a coping method that has allowed the ski bum to survive droughts (and bad relationships) since the beginning of time by mentally re-imagining his actual world.


4. Work: This is perhaps the most dangerous step for any ski bum, but yes, when faced with a drought, a ski bum will go to the extremity of looking for extra shifts and even consider searching for a second or third job. In the most severe cases, a ski bum will consider working days and even begin thinking about a career. Psychologists advise intervention if signs of the latter behaviors persist as this behavior and mindset can be permanently damaging and create irreversible life decisions, detrimental to the survival of the species.

5. Distract: Although the ski bum has not historically shown lasting resilience during a winter with unfavorable ski conditions, he can survive for intermittent, but finite periods, through distracting himself by engaging in other outdoor activities such as Nordic skiing, ice-climbing, desert trips and winter biking. In the most severe cases, he may consider committing to a long-term romantic relationship, however these misguided intentions should never be trusted as they are initiated under unrealized acute emotional distress.

6. Drink: This stage will not initially be alarming to the friends and family of a ski bum, as drinking is often a sign of health and happiness when it follows an epic powder day. The norm for the ski bum is to drink beers in the parking lot or enjoy an inexpensive PBR at Oak, usually into the evening after a full-day skiing. Psychologists express concern when a ski bum willingly and knowingly pays full price for a beer at Goronno mid-day, and extreme concern if they are spending time at Alpino Vino or Bon Vivant.

7. Travel: Stage seven can be the healthiest coping strategy a ski bum can experience. This stage gives the ski bum purpose and immediate relief. The research involved in finding where the best snow is and planning a trip will give the ski bum a renewed sense of purpose, then the act of traveling to the snow, and experiencing it again, will relieve the ski bum’s emotional distress and buy those around him a few more weeks of emotional stability upon his return.




8. Resolve: The last stage of the Eight-Step Drought Cycle is resolve. And all experts, psychologists, meteorologists, climatologists and anthropologists alike, agree that it can only come with a major snow event. After coping with an extended drought, the ski bum must experience a storm cycle — one in which the valley is encompassed in a cocoon of grey, and snuggled between the wind and weather, he can feel soft, cold snowflakes on his face and tongue and see them blanketing the ground before him. This will not only validate his entire existence, but invigorate his soul and imagination. Only then, will he successfully snap out his out of deep depression.

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