Contrary to the popular belief, ski bums aren’t extinct—they’re just evolving.
Ski Bum: Jamas Stiber
Ski hill of choice: Vail Ski Resort
Years bumming: 14
Average yearly ski days: 90
➜Thirty-nine-year-old Jamas Stiber isn’t your typical ski bum. His primary love isn’t screaming down a snowy mountain on fiberglass; it’s off-roading on two wheels (think BMX, cyclocross, and motocross). But his fast-paced recreational pursuits—and his unyielding objectives to live where he plays and to play harder than anyone else—have been nurtured by the Vail Valley for more than a decade.
Having spent his childhood as a champion BMXer in Texas, Stiber moved to Boulder with friends after graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University with a communications degree. But the People’s Republic wasn’t Stiber’s style, and a weekend trip to Vail quickly turned into a job and apartment hunt. Employment—at Charter Sports, a ski and snowboard rental outfit—came easily. But when Stiber looked for a place to live, he came to the conclusion that living in his van—yes, down by the river (and often in a Lionshead parking deck)—and joining a health club for use of its showers and toilets was a more cost-effective arrangement.
That was nearly 14 years ago. Although no one would say Stiber has grown up, he did eventually move out of the van and into a series of “dumpy, moldy, but still like $700 a month” Vail-based accommodations before moving to more reasonable and “less repulsive” digs in Avon. Today, Stiber—who has wild blue eyes and a stream-of-consciousness manner of speaking—lives in an apartment with a roommate; races bikes and motorcycles professionally; and skis to stay in shape for his fat-tire pursuits. He still works for Charter Sports (early on he helped the company move into mountain bike rentals)—but he does so now as a general manager of two of the company’s stores.
Stiber’s long-term affiliation with Charter Sports underscores what many longtime mountain-town residents say about thriving in expensive environments: It’s all about cultivating relationships and making yourself valuable to others. Do that, they say, and both you and your bank account will begin to flourish. In Stiber’s case, he gives full credit to Charter Sports for supporting his lifestyle. Not only did the company allow him to take split schedules, it also fronted him bikes, offered him health insurance (Stiber has more scars than he can count), and gave him season lift passes. He says he doesn’t make a mountain of money, but he does well enough to buy what he needs—including a lot of toys. “You have to live in Vail to have the job that gets you outside every day,” he says. “I owe a lot of what I’ve got going on to Charter.”
At nearly 40 years old, though, Stiber knows the end of his professional racing days may be near. He’s also aware that he may need to think about a career beyond ski, snowboard, and bike rentals if he wants to fund some of his grander dreams (like financing a race car team). With his communications degree, his extreme sports experience, and a few emceeing gigs under his belt already, Stiber is considering trying to move into action sports commentating. But he says he’ll never give up the reality he’s built for himself in what he calls “La-La Land.” “If that pipe dream came true and I was working for Fuel TV,” Stiber says, “I don’t think it would matter where I lived. I would still choose to live here.”
If calling motocross doesn’t happen for Stiber, there’s little question he’ll still find ways to work hard and play hard in Vail. About a year ago, Vail legalized ski biking—mountain bikes equipped with skis instead of studded tires—and Stiber has already been contemplating ways to expand, and capitalize on, the sport. “I’ve been talking to Lenz Sport Bikes,” Stiber says, noting that Lenz is one of his racing sponsors. “We’re talking about getting a fleet of bikes in Vail this season for people to rent.” That may or may not come to fruition, but it seems pretty likely that Stiber will be on the hill either way. And who could blame him? A sport that combines two of his favorite things—skiing and biking—is just another reason to hit the slopes.