For nearly three months now, I’ve begun each day by watching the sun rise over frosty peaks, gone snowboarding several days a week, dined on great meals and sipped unique brews, all while somehow managing to save money.
Leading up to this season at Keystone Resort, I tried to prepare myself financially, but the weather dependent nature of the business made this task quite difficult. After a week of training in November, a lack of early season snow made work scarce, as I went 8 full days without a shift. But, as Thanksgiving approached, business began to improve, and given my lack of expenses, by Christmas I had escaped the red and entered the green.
My biggest monthly expense is of course, rent. But at only $360 per month, my employee housing accommodations are easily covered with just a few days work. Next in line is food, which I estimate to run me about $300 per month. These two, and a few other miscellaneous expenses such as board maintenance and beer, which come out to around $100 a month, leave me with about $750 worth of monthly bills.
Like any resort, Keystone’s restaurants are rather pricey, but my 50% off employee rate makes lunch reasonable, and I prepare most other meals at home. And my lack of car, for all of its inconvenience, has allowed me to save money on insurance, fuel, and maintenance.
Aside for a few six day weeks around Christmas, for the most part, I work five days a week, with two days off. If I get a full-day lesson during each of these days, I end the week with 30 hours, but outside of peak season, the odds of this are slim to none. Much more likely to occur are a couple of half day lessons, a couple of full-days, and a day without work, which all sums up to about 22 hours of work. My hourly rate of $11 per hour keeps me afloat, but the tips, oh the tips, are what allow me to save.
Initially mentioned at orientation, the potential for gratuity was one aspect of the job that I had failed to considered. And because an adult lesson at Keystone costs nearly $200 a day, for my first few weeks, I felt uncomfortable accepting money from my students. But, as my confidence as an instructor grew, and my lessons improved, I learned to graciously accept all that was offered. Now, not everyone knows to tip, and I’m sure not everyone leaves satisfied, but on numerous occasions throughout the season, my end of day cash has outweighed my hourly earnings.
The instructor life is far from glamorous; I’m currently writing this from my bottom bunk as proof, but when considered as a whole, it really is a wonderful experience. For three months now I’ve lived in a place that most people save up to visit for a week at most, I’ve logged 50 days on the mountain, and haven’t spent a dime on lift tickets, I’ve enjoyed good drinks and great food for half the price of the tourists, and I’ve saved up money to be spent on travel. Would I do it forever? No, but then again, that’s part of its beauty.
Two years ago I was just beginning my “career” in finance. A cubicle job, that came with a cubicle life, I was making 40k a year, and saving none of it. My luxury apartment ran me $1,300 a month, and my other expenses took the rest. I worked ten hour days, and spent my time off dreading the return. I was depressed, confused, and unrelentingly frustrated, by how mislead I’d been by society.
Often times we're told or influenced into paths that aren't our own, we're fed fallacy about our futures, and we're discouraged from finding ourselves. We spend sleepless nights stressing about things that don't really matter, we spend years saving money to purchase things, and we spend lives without ever living. With every big decision comes sacrifice, but I'm here to tell you it's worth it. Oh, how good it feels, to be free.