Local author publishes book of sage insights from a powder hound
Get the book
“Ski Bums and the Art of Skiing,” by Tom Simek, is available in print or via Kindle download on Amazon, in paperback or for Nook on the Barnes & Noble website or can be ordered through The Next Page Books & Nosh on Main Street in Frisco. An audio version of the book, read by Simek, can also be downloaded on iTunes or Audible.
The idea for Tom Simek’s memoir, “Ski Bums and the Art of Skiing,” began as an itch in the back of his mind as he idled away the hours in the ski shops of Summit County, soaking up sage advice from old-school powder hounds.
“I watched these guys tuning skis, and they were talking deep stuff some of the time, somewhat subversively, not even about skiing or equipment and maintenance, that really applied to living,” Simek said. “The guys are kind of monkish, the true ski bums.”
As Simek scribbled notes into his journal on the holistic nature of skiing culture, the first wisps of a story began to form, but other writing projects — a series of environmental fables and a pair of travel books — quickly pushed the idea to the back burner. It wasn’t until he was living in Greece years later, sifting through a pile of notes and missing the mountains and his memories, that he began putting words to paper for “Ski Bums.”
“I’d lived in a city the past five years, Athens, Greece,” Simek said. “It’s a real city, a lot of people, and it goes on forever. They do a lot of crazy things, people. They look for this thing, and in our world right now, we’ve become very insular. But people stay inside, and skiing is one of those things that really gets you outside, and it can help you.”
The author returned to Colorado and began to polish the thesis of his book, to get at the heart of what it was to be a proverbial ski bum, something Simek said is a way of life beyond just the activity of skiing, and to explain how being out in nature in the high mountains can be a divine, if not specifically religious, experience.
WRITING ABOUT LIFE
Ultimately published in October 2014, the format of “Ski Bums” is a narrative, Simek said, a chronological account that takes place over the course of about four months, starting with his first trip into the backcountry of Colorado at the age of 15 and ending with a few epic descents in Telluride. Along the way, the book is divided into sections describing how elements of skiing have related to his life.
“For example, there’s a chapter on balance, how I learned to get balance skiing, the physics of balance, and how that also applies to life, and how in life situations, for one reason or another, I lost balance,” he said. “It can be read as almost one thing, start to finish, but you can also sit down and pick up a chapter and read one thing, and within that, there’s a little story, not really a lesson, but a nugget of information that I learned along the way that skiing taught me.”
The book also deals with the peripheral lifestyle traits of a ski bum, from marijuana smoking to drunken debauchery. Summit County skiers will recognize the anecdotes, Simek said, and the ubiquitous work hard, play hard mantra of ski town living.
“That’s what everybody can relate to,” he said. “They had a night that they drank too much. You’ve gone skiing and had your good days and your bad days. People get hurt, and things happen, but there’s also glorious days.”
The book is meant to provide insight for the next generation of skier, but also allowed the author to be nostalgic about the good times he had living the life of a ski bum and how skiing has provided him with a sort of therapy for life. “Ski Bums” is based on Simek’s own experiences, but everyone has their own journey, so there may be people who read the book and disagree with the author’s interpretation, he said.
“I think it’s a good little cross-section, but the disclaimer is I’m in a certain group of people,” he said. “There’s some bias; you can’t expect that every ski bum you meet is going to be Socrates. Ski bums come in all shapes and forms.”
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