Arts & Entertainment

Colin Clancy’s debut novel “Ski Bum” might be the most relatable book to grace Parkites’ hands

SALT LAKE CITY — The term ski bum may sound offensive to the outsider, but for someone in a mountain town, it’s a moniker of pride. Freelance writer, author, and ski bum Colin Clancy grew up night skiing in his home state of Michigan. In college, he let the pull of the mountains take him West to Copper Mountain in Colorado and eventually to Salt Lake City. His first novel, “Ski Bum,” is on pre-sale now and comes out December 1, 2022. Ten percent of the pre-sale proceeds will go to Protect Our Winters.

“A flunking Midwestern college student drops out and moves west to live the ski bum life. In the Colorado mountains, he finds a group of like-minded, and sometimes degenerate, friends who show him that a ski town is the ideal place for young people to raise a middle finger to societal norms and do as they please. It’s a spontaneous party life of hot tub poaching, illicit sledding, and living scrappy and poor in a place where rich people vacation. It’s a life he quickly comes to love, but as winter turns to spring, the path forward isn’t clear. A classic coming-of-age story, Colin Clancy’s debut novel is a profoundly charming depiction of skiing, mountain culture, and the beauty of human connection with the natural world.”

Clancy has degrees from Western Michigan University and Northern Michigan University in creative writing and English. Before finishing college, Clancy and a friend took a semester off to live out their dreams of being ski bums. Many Utah transplants can relate to the fact that ‘just one season’ rarely pans out; Clancy remained with Copper Mountain for a few more winters before returning to Michigan and earning his degrees.

“In those seasons at Copper Mountain, I kept a journal,” said Clancy. “As I was writing this book, I looked back at that journal and the initial lines that eventually became the book I had written in the lift shack at Copper Mountain.”

Clancy and a few other ski bums where it all started in Colorado.

At Copper, he worked as a liftie, instructor, banquet server, and line cook.

“Ski Bum” is fiction, although the protagonist finds his jumping-off point is the same as Clancy’s— a guy from Michigan takes a semester off to move out West. Movies like Out Cold and Aspen Extreme are beloved by Clancy but don’t accurately describe the life of a liftie or ski instructor; those portrayals of ski town living were two sides of the extreme.

“I wanted to get what it’s really like to live and work at a ski resort and devote yourself for a season or more to a sport you love. I want people who are into skiing to appreciate the details and feel like it’s authentic. I also want people who don’t ski to enjoy it and maybe live vicariously through it. I want skiers and non-skiers to enjoy it for different reasons.”

The “Ski Bum” is one many Utahns (myself included) can relate to. Someone taking the leap to come to a place, like Copper Mountain or Park City, to ski on your days and hours off while working at least two jobs to pay rent, fill your stomach, buy your ski pass, and do just a bit of partying on the side.

“I really tried to get the feelings of skiing, the sensory details of it, which is something I hadn’t seen written, especially in fiction.”

A longtime reader, Clancy found authors he enjoyed reading, like Ernest Hemingway, Jim Harrison, and Louise Edrich, influential on his writing style and college journalism classes. “I tried to have my own style. I try to be very clear and concise, with concise sentences mixed with more poetic ones,” he said.

Ever the creative, Clancy illustrated the cover and chapter art for “Ski Bum.” Currently, Clancy is finishing a children’s book about a young jackalope in the wild for his 2-year-old son Jackson. The prose is complete, but he is working through the book’s artwork.

In his spare time, he draws and creates wildlife and nature artwork. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Amy, and son Jackson, with another baby on track for early 2023. He’ll find joy skiing anywhere, but his top choice right now is Brighton Resort for its terrain and small-town slopes feel.

“Ski Bum” is available through pre-sale now, with 10% of proceeds going to POW, and will be released on December 1, wherever books are sold.

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