Frisco and Copper Mountain Resort are the subject of a new coming-of-age and adventure book, ‘Ski Bum’
Colin Clancy’s debut novel to release December
Colin Clancy lived vicariously through stories when he was young, and he hopes to share a similar sense of adventure with his debut novel.
The Utah-based writer will release “Ski Bum” in December, and the setting takes many cues from his time spent in Summit County — specifically Frisco and Copper Mountain Resort.
Growing up in southwestern Michigan near Kalamazoo, a love for reading introduced Clancy not only to his passion of writing, but also his interest in mountain climbing and other exciting subjects not found near his home. Friends, meanwhile, got him hooked on the sport of skiing.
“It was the first real taste of freedom,” Clancy said.
He started out skiing in his school’s ski club, going out once a week on the icy hills of Michigan at night. Clancy said it cost $8 for a lift ticket and they’d ski lap after lap until last chair. His friend’s family also had a cottage in Crystal Mountain in northern Michigan where he would spend weekends.
“I was always chasing that feeling,” Clancy said. “There’s something about a perfect ski turn where you’re going fast and you lay down a perfect carve. I don’t think there is any other feeling in the world like it.”
“Ski Bum” by Colin Clancy
Van Velzer Press, December 2022
224 pages, $9.99 for e-book, $22.77 for paperback and $29.77 for hardcover
Visit ColinClancy.net to preorder. Colin Clancy will donate 10% of presale proceeds to Protect Our Winters.
His first visit to Breckenridge was spring break his junior year of high school around 2001. From that trip, Clancy said he never looked back. He knew wanted to be out West. He joined his college club race team his freshman and sophomore year of college at Western Michigan University. The club would travel for races, mostly throughout Michigan and into Canada.
However, partly because of that trip to Breckenridge, he followed a friend’s suggestion and took a semester off to be a “ski bum.” He landed at Copper Mountain Resort in December 2004. The formative experience had him return for the 2005-06 season before finishing up his degree.
“We fell in love with Copper, and my first season there, I made so many great friends that I just decided to go back,” Clancy said.
The first season, Clancy was a lift attendant and line cook, and during his second season, he was a kids ski instructor and did setups for banquets.
It was at Copper that the seeds for writing “Ski Bum” were planted. Clancy kept a journal at the lift shack at the top of Storm King, writing down observations of the winter sports and his coworkers, who he said had big personalities.
The book’s protagonist, Jimmy, has a roommate named Bill that is based on his friend Adam from Wisconsin. The pair would hang out and discuss life plans and more in the shack. Adam was 26 and Clancy was 20 at the time, and he said it felt like Adam already lived a full, adventurous life. He learned a lot from him in a very memorable location.
“I remember sitting up there when the wind felt like it was going to blow the shack right off the top of the mountain,” Clancy said. “I remember being there on a day where it was a blizzard but it started thundering and the sky turned this yellow color, just dumping snow, and it felt so otherworldly.”
Clancy said he changed Copper’s name to Silver Mountain to give him more liberty, whittled down 20 or so characters to a composite handful and changed the chronology to make a better story. However, he said that anyone who is familiar with Summit County or has skied there would recognize it as Copper. He still uses the name Frisco as well as the same names of runs and chair lifts at Copper.
Clancy primarily writes nonfiction. He wrote for the school newspaper in college and high school, which led him to a career in penning essays, interviews and more for outlets like The Ski Journal, The Flyfish Journal, Condé Nast Traveler and Powder Magazine. His day job is marketing for hunting and other outdoor brands.
Yet a fiction novel was always in the back of his mind, and he’s excited for its release.
“It’s definitely a cliche, but I think it is true that in a lot of ways fiction can sort of tell a bigger truth than nonfiction can,” Clancy said. “… What I really want people, especially skiers, to recognize and feel is the feeling of skiing — the sensory details, the passion and the love for the sport and the all-encompassing drive to get out in the mountains everyday.”
Around 2008, while studying English for graduate school at Northern Michigan University, Clancy decided to start working on the novel. He would periodically get out the draft to tweak and stash it back into the drawer again and again. Then in 2020 he focused more seriously on it and began the hunt for publishers in 2021. Now the book is coming out in time for ski season.
“Ski Bum” naturally focuses on capturing the joy of skiing in words, but Clancy also set to write a coming-of-age story. With Jimmy and Adam, Clancy aims to show that young people can escape a rigid path of expected societal norms. Clancy said the people he met at Copper, who he is still friends with today, were willing to break from that path and lead interesting lives.
“When I was living and working in a ski resort at Copper, I would have loved to have access to a book like this,” Clancy said. “I hope that it really rings true to people who are living that life, and I hope they will appreciate it for its authenticity. I hope they’ll be able to read it just like they’d watch a ski movie.”
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