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Author and journalist Heather Hansman considers the future of ski towns

Jeremy Swanson
Courtesy of Snowmass Tourism
A skier enjoys a powder day at the Snowmass Ski Area. Writer and journalist Heather Hansman explores ski culture and the viability of places such as Aspen in her recent book, “Powder Days: Ski Bums, Ski Towns and the Future of Chasing Snow.”

Heather Hansman is a writer and journalist who also happens to be an avid skier.

She’s an environmental columnist at Outside magazine, a former editor at both Skiing and Powder magazines, and a contributing editor at Backcountry Magazine.

Three winters ago, Hansman packed her life into her car and spent the season couch-hopping in ski towns across the country, including Aspen.

Hansman’s inquiry resulted in her latest book, “Powder Days: Ski Bums, Ski Towns and the Future of Chasing Snow.”

The book digs into the archetype of the self-proclaimed “ski bum” and asks whether the idealistic lifestyle can and should still exist today.

Eleanor Bennett
Aspen Public Radio
This view shows Aspen Mountain and the Skiers Chalet, one of the last affordable places to live in Aspen. In her recent book, author and journalist Heather Hansman writes that the Chalet is one of the last ski-bum strongholds. According to Hansman, the Chalet sold for $22 million to a local hotel developer in 2015 and Aspen residents voted narrowly in 2019 to replace it with a timeshare unit and a luxury hotel, along with a revamped 1A lift and a new ski museum.

“One of the core questions of this book is ‘Am I still Peter Pan?,’” Hansman said. “Am I still the kind of dirtbag skier who isn’t mature enough to settle down?”

Hansman tells a personal story about the magic of skiing and the people who devote their lives to it, but the book is also a response to growing inequity, rising suicide rates and a warming climate.

“So much of the ski-bum mentality often is like, ‘I’m going to sneak by under the radar’ and ‘Damn the man, I’m not going to engage,’” she said. “But if you want skiing to keep existing, if you want the things you love to be there, you have to act for it and work for it.”

In her book, Hansman covers the history of skiing from post-World War II counterculture and the 10th Mountain Division veterans who started ski areas such as Aspen and Vail, to resort consolidation and the corporate ski resorts of today.

Courtesy of Heather Hansman
Journalist and author Heather Hansman will be in Aspen on Wednesday to talk about her book “Powder Days: Ski Bums, Ski Towns and the Future of Chasing Snow.” She will be visiting with Auden Schendler, SkiCo’s vice president of sustainability. The ticketed event, co-hosted by Aspen Words, will take place at Paepcke Auditorium at 6 p.m.

Aspen Public Radio talked with Hansman ahead of her Winter Words author series appearance Wednesday.

Hansman will be talking with Auden Schendler, senior vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, at Paepcke Auditorium at 6 p.m.

The ticketed event is co-hosted by Aspen Words.

Listen to the conversation above.

Eleanor is an award-winning journalist and Morning Edition anchor. Eleanor has reported on a wide range of topics in her community, including the impacts of federal immigration policies on local DACA recipients, the Valley’s COVID-19 eviction and housing crisis, and hungry goats fighting climate change across the West through targeted grazing. Connecting with people from all walks of life and creating empathic spaces for them to tell their stories fuels her work.
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