“Ski bum” and “commitment” are not concepts that are typically considered synonymous, but they are for Johnny Love.
Love relishes the fact that he has been making the most of every winter in Aspen since 1993, doing whatever he can — working late-night hours behind the bar or painting houses in the summer — so he can find himself in the middle of as many storm cycles as possible.
“It’s hard to be a ski bum,” Love said while riding the Bell Mountain chair up Ajax this week. “You have to have a lot of unique circumstances come together to make it work.”
Love grew up in New Jersey and Rhode Island, taking the ski bus to East Coast hills for night riding. He remembers how, on his first ski trip west to Sun Valley, Idaho, he was transfixed by the huge cones of snow that would remain gathered on tree branches, even if it hadn’t snowed in days.
He eventually visited Aspen and decided the town was the place for him. His first job here was in Snowmass, which was sporting a 108-inch base when he showed up mid-winter. Every day he’d head out to Rock Island with his new buddies to send it off cliffs into the fresh pow.
“We didn’t think there was anything better,” said Love.
The way he sees it now, at 45, he’s in too deep to want any other kind of life. And why would he? Love gets to commune every day with the mountains and the smiling people that populate them.
“It’s hard to live a life after that,” he said. “It’s too beautiful.”
Working in the local restaurant and bar industry, Love comes into contact every day with visitors from the rest of the world who are blown away by the awesomeness of Aspen, and want to talk about it with him.
“It gets drilled into you,” he said. “You end up here and you are lucky. ... I know ski bums sitting in a cubicle in St. Louis” who yearn to be in a place like the Roaring Fork Valley.
Love owns an impressive streak of recording at least one ski day every month for 112 consecutive months. Normally the summer skiing fix comes from Montezuma Basin at the foot of Castle Peak, but Love will go to St. Mary’s Glacier on the Front Range if need be. But standing at the bottom of Little Nell, he pointed to another guy who’s got 150 straight months. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the person.
“These are very quiet people in life,” Love said. “They inspire me to keep going.”
Love works hard to find the right balance. Married almost nine years, Love and his wife own a place in Carbondale, where they have lived for about seven years. He was reluctant to leave Aspen at first, he said, but Carbondale has grown on him. It’s a real mountain town, he said, with the inescapable beauty of Mount Sopris providing the backdrop.
Still, it’s hard to plan for the future when you are a ski bum, he said.
“Because you have no money,” he quipped. And even when you do, “you are going to [spend] every ounce of it.”
“If you have money, you better pay off something, or get your teeth cleaned, or buy health insurance. Buy new tires for your car,” he said.
That brought up the fact that he has been busing it up from Carbondale lately, since he needs a new tire on his car. But as soon as he can afford it, “I’ll be back in the vehicle life, living the dream.”
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