Even for the best of the best, skiing for a living is one tough gig. For one, sponsor budgets aren’t what they used to be, and, well, the costs of skiing and traveling the world can add up quick.
In order to keep a ski career going, some skiers have picked up extra work, or “side hustles,” working all summer, to play all winter long. It’s not a strategy that works for everyone, but for some, it’s the perfect recipe for guilt-free powder shredding year in and year out.
From fishing to food trucks, here are five pro skiers making that side hustle shuffle work.
McKenna Peterson – From the Bootpack to Boat Deck
When McKenna Peterson isn’t chasing deep pow from British Columbia to Japan with film crews like Warren Miller Entertainment, she is earning her next year’s turns on the high seas. Every summer, the 31-year-old captains the FV Atlantis, her family’s 58-foot fishing boat, in the waters off Alaska.
The pro skier has been working the boat since she turned 17, but took the reins of the family business after her father's tragic passing two years ago.
To keep the operation afloat, she has hired a crew of fellow skiers, including her brother Axel, to work hard all summer, and ski all winter long.
Hazel Birnbaum – From Slaying Pow to Serving Pops
Freeride World Tour skier and Tahoe native Hazel Birnbaum was searching for a good, stable summer job to offset the costs of winters on the road. What she cooked up was more delicious than she could have ever imagined.
Capitalizing on the massive crowds that spend their summers by the nation’s second deepest lake, Birnbaum has started Sweet Spokes Pops, an organic popsicle company that uses only locally-sourced ingredients. Riding a bike retrofitted with a solar-powered cooler, Birnbaum is a regular at markets around the lake, selling unique flavor combinations like apricot and salted caramel, peach jalapeño, and honey lavender.
But, the best part of the gig? “Nobody wants popsicles in the winter. It's the perfect ski bum job,” she says.
Cody Townsend – From Boosting Cliffs to Building Belts
Sick of stiff, awkward belts holding up his ski pants, pro big mountain skier Cody Townsend set out to create a solution. It just so happens that his solution has become the archetype for active belts worldwide, the flexible belt company known as Arcade Belts.
Started by Townsend and his two friends Tristan Queen and David Bronkie, Arcade has revolutionized the belt game, producing elastic-based belts designed to work with an active body rather than against it. It’s a concept that has worked for the company for over 10 years, and one that has boosted Townsend’s skiing, as well as his powder fund.
Michael Shaffer – From Finding Lines to Fighting Fires
When pro skier Michael “Bird” Shaffer isn’t skiing, he is busy protecting the mountains he calls home. Raised in the fire-prone regions of eastern Washington, Shaffer spends his summer months captaining a wildland firefighting crew, battling blazes throughout the state.
While this job comes with its risks, he also says it gives him a new appreciation for the terrain he skis (and more than a few backyard stashes). Plus, with long hours and high pay during summer months, Shaffer is able to focus his energy on snow-sliding all winter long.
Yu Sasaki – From Freeride World Tour to Food Trucks
Food has always been good to Japanese freeskier and Freeride World Tour competitor Yu Sasaki. In fact, when the Hokkaido-born freeskier decided to make the move to Whistler back in 2010, it was food – or more appropriately, a job in the food industry – that got him in the door. Awarded a work visa to cook at Whistler's popular Samurai Sushi, Sasaki eventually moved farther east, where he opened up his very own Japanese food truck in the powder paradise in Revelstoke.
Because he makes his own hours, Sasaki shuts down shop for the winter before hitting the festival scene with his rolling kitchen every summer. Seems like a pretty sweet deal.
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