Join Mailing List
Events, New Releases, Workshops
Featured Book: For Ski Season
SKI BUM by Colin Clancy
Still a Michigander at heart, Colin Clancy lives in Utah with his wife Amy, toddler son Jackson and two dogs Daisy and Matilda. Baby brother is due to arrive her on Earth shortly. Colin spends his free time outside (skiing, fly fishing and hunting) and drawing and painting in India ink. SKI BUM is his debut novel.
Review by: Victor R. Volkman, Marquette Monthly
Ski Bum is the debut novel from Michigan-born novelist Colin Clancy that is about how some 20-something friends navigate a single winter season in a fictional Colorado ski resort. The protagonists are a mix of ski bum dilettantes, just in it for a lark, and a few that are seemingly “going pro”, which is to say doing a circuit of ski resorts from Colorado to Argentina and on to the Alps to stay on top of the snow season year-round. My father, now deceased, told me on at least one occasion that he was in fact a “ski bum” and had met my future mother at some resort in Michigan in the late 1950s. As a small child, the concept itself was never explained to me except for some arcane references to recipes for making tomato soup out of purloined ketchup. The Dictionary of American Slang, 4th Ed. Offers up this concise definition which sums it up nicely: “A person who frequents ski resorts habitually, often doing casual jobs, for the sake of skiing.”
The story unfolds in the first-person narrative of Jimmy as he dodges his upcoming academic probation at Western Michigan University following a calamitous Fall semester. Jimmy does what any self-respecting sophomore would dream of – chucking it all and driving west, just like the lyrics of an old Bob Seger tune would dictate. He arrives at the fictional Silver Mountain as a greenhorn ski bum, but is quickly assimilated into the resort’s junior ski teaching crew. The experience is loosely based the author’s own tenure at the Copper Mountain resort, just 25 miles out of Denver. These “teachers” are basically babysitters for kids aged 3 to 13 as they struggle to even standup, much less ride a towrope. In fact, poopy-pants are a more likely the worse outcome rather than a sprained ankle.
In true Rom-Com style, Jimmy falls in love with Kylie, the very first girl he meets at the Silver Mountain ski school. Kylie is just a few semesters short of an art degree in New Hampshire while Jimmy has not completely committed to graduating, as you might surmise. This becomes the background conflict for the inevitable struggle when two young lovers split by geography try to decide whether they have a future or not. Although the love story runs its course throughout the madcap antics of the ski school crew over this season, I might argue that the bigger narrative is closer to a “bromance”. Young men on their own for the first time in their lives are naturally seeking a tribe of belonging and Jimmy is no exception. Whether it is a stint of military service, or as told in this book, mix of crappy service jobs, the bonding takes place between alcohol-fueled misadventures one after another.
The other members of the crew, nearly all men, include Bill, the diehard dropout snowboarding ski bum who will follow the snow season to South America in the Spring; Ryan, a spoiled rich-kid from Seattle who is expected to follow his daddy into business; Derek, a.k.a., “Muppet” is a good-time guy who got his business degree from University of Michigan and lasted only a couple months in the corporate world; Paul, a barrel-chested adult ski instructor who was promoted to head of the kids ski school and has been miserable ever since. Bill’s paramour Arelia, who has come for the season from Argentina, rounds out the crew but is just a foil for her guy in the plot.
The best thing about Ski Bum is the pure poetry of delight surrounding the ski scenes. It is the closest thing you’ll ever see in prose to a classic late 20th century Warren Miller film like “Steep and Deep” or “Ski People” which were stapes at high school and collegiate ski clubs. Clancy puts you on the mountain as you experience with all your senses the amazing rides, from the burn in your thighs to the joyful feeling of your friend’s snow wake hitting you in the face, it’s all there! Like the apocryphyal Eskimo, Clancy really does know two dozen ways of describing snow from the thrill of fresh “pow” (powder) to the dregs of a slushy spring ski, it’s all on paper now. It would be hard to pick out my favorite passages, but I’ll share just a couple. In many cases, the ski lingo is so deep it was impenetrable to my alpine ski experiences—but the sheer poetry rises about the need to know each word for me. Our hero is often skiing to clear his mind of troubles, a situation that any dedicated amateur athlete can relate to whether you’re a runner or a skier. Here’s Jimmy’s first run on the slope:
“The bump run dumped onto a cat track where Bill slowed for a second, making sure I was with him before pushing off onto a cruiser. I hit the smooth snow and opened it up, my turns changing from tight weaves into long flowing carves. I made wide arcing turns on the gentle slope then picked up speed as the trail steepened. I felt the edges of my skis digging into the hardpack underneath the fluff and I got low, my inside leg bent on each turn so that my hand and the handle of my pole skimmed the top of the snow. I passed Bill and then dumped speed as I remembered I didn’t know where I was going.”
Clancy’s appreciation of the ski experience reminded me most closely of the prose-poetry in John Highlen’s as he describes the joys of canoeing in Touching the Wild U.P. I’ll leave you with one last passage from Ski Bum:
“Find a steep and let it take you—play on the slope’s every undulation—don’t just carve into the butter snow with your inside edge, but bury the outside edge of your inside ski so that even your pinky toe generates immense power. Get lost in the speed; embrace it. Let the carve take you so deep that your skis are completely on edge, perpendicular to the snow so that your boot buckles and knee skim the corduroy surface, followed by a thigh—maybe even your ribcage, forearm, hand, and pole. Fly along the top of the snow, inches off the surface without touching it. That’s when it’s time to come back the other way.”
Let Colin Clancy’s Ski Bum take you on an adrenaline and alcohol-fueled ride through early adulthood as this group of fun-loving kids pursue their love of skiing and brotherhood in equal measures. As Jimmy says, “In the bumps I found my Zen” and even if you don’t know a “soft corduroy” from a “cruiser”, Clancy will be your tour guide and warm your heart on any winter day.
Truth of Why
Publishing New Voices
With pride we offer new authors a platform that gives them the chance to get their quality book out there to appreciative readers without the elitist, closed door fight of catching the attention of a big house publisher. An independent publisher like Van Velzer Press can offer its authors much more attention and assistance to ensure the best version of each book makes it to the printing presses.