Skier’s bucket list

A list of milestones for hardcore skiers and riders. This “Skier’s bucket list” is a gathering of personal achievement goals for those who are serious about skiing and snowboarding. When I started taking skiing seriously again as adult, it took ahold of me and I decided to make it more than just a hobby and thus it became my lifestyle. These were some of the accomplishments I set for myself, and maybe this list will help serve as a baseline for others to be inspired to create their own list, and start checking things off. 

Skiing as a lifestyle

Many purists might say that creating goals or lists around skiing would detract from it’s enjoyment and that you should just “go, have fun, experience nature.” While I certainly understand and appreciate that standpoint, I have always found skiing to be a challenge, and for me, adding goals and things to strive for while skiing gives me even more joy and encourages me to ski even more and become a better skier! Below is/was my skier’s bucket list and I can proudly say I’ve achieved almost every item on it… but still working on the last 2, they take a level of courage and determination that I have yet to muster. ~Zack Phelan~

Skier’s Bucket LIst

Worthy achievements for any hardcore skier or snowboarder:

Snowy chairlift

#1: Grab 1st chair on a powder day

They say the “early bird gets the worm,” and if you’re an avid skier or rider that proverbial worm is fresh tracks in some glorious powder! Lift lines can swell on powder days and powder fever is a very real thing. To grab the very first chair up the mountain is a brag-worthy accomplishment that every true powder hound has done at least once in their life. Have you had the honor of 1st chair?

Ski log

#2: ski 100 days in a season

I get it, most folks have real jobs and one solid ski trip per season plus a few weekends here and there is about all normal people can fit in to their busy lives. But for those of us with alternative job types or those willing to work in a ski town, a 100 day ski season is a worthy goal to try to attain. Many ski bums achieve 100+ days a year by finding seasonal labor during the Summer/Fall, which leaves their Winter/Spring wide open for crushing laps and skiing powder whenever they feel like. 


#3: Ski 1 million vertical feet in a season

Most mega-resorts including those that run off of the Epic and Ikon Pass have their own tracking system in place either via GPS or through gate scanning on your pass. For other resorts, downloadable apps such as Ski Tracks & Slopes use GPS to calculate your vertical while skiing/riding. If you’re a fiend for the stats like I am, then hitting a million feet in a season is a worthy milestone for many a hardcore skier or snowboarder and is the sign that you’ve had you fair share of turns around the slopes.

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Stateline Gate

#4: Hit The gated terrain

O.B. Gates: Most larger ski areas have it, and even a few smaller ones too. The “side-country” gated terrain can be daunting for newer skiers looking to graduate to a little “out of bounds” skiing/riding. Your first trek through a gate and into the unknown is quite a thrill to remember and is usually done with a more knowledgeable friend to guide your way and some Avy gear on your back just in case. Once you stray to the outer reaches of your ski area, the sky’s the limit and skiing takes on a much different and more adventurous feel to it. 

#5: Go Snowcat-skiing

Once you’ve mastered your home resort’s off-piste offerings and you really want to get to the goods without all the hassle of skinning or hiking, there’s no better treat than snowcat-skiing! Thousand+ foot pure powder laps, then jump inside the warm cabin and let them drive you back to the top to do it all over again, few things are better. Snowcat-skiing is offered as an add-on at several ski resorts throughout the American West, and there are also several more stand alone pure back-country areas that offer multi-day packages as well. If you’re serious about your powder skiing, this is definitely an experience to put on your list.

#6: Go Heli-skiing

The “holy grail” of skiing, heli-copters can go where no snowcat or chairlift are able and can offer the type of skiing adventure that is a once in a lifetime experience for most folks. Prominent in the far Northern reaches of the North American continent such as British Columbia and Alaska, heliskiing is an expensive and risky venture to be sure, but one that is quite possibly the most rewarding and adventurous thing a skier could ever do. Experts only here, and this is something to be earned, because boy…. what a ride it is. 

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#7: Ski in a foreign country

As an American, I guess you could technically count Canada as skiing in a foreign country, but to truly get a diversely amazing experience while enjoying some new slopes and terrain I would suggest heading “across the pond.” Skiing is prevalent is almost every country in Europe, and Japan has more ski areas than any other single country in the World. Seeing different trail signs, crazy lifts, and immersing yourself into the cultural idiosyncrasies of a foreign land can be a life changing experience, one that transcends skiing.

Charlotte Pass

#8: Ski in the Southern Hemisphere

When our lifts close in North America, it’s usually not long until they’re roaring to life in several countries South of the Equator. Countries like Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia have medium to large ski areas with decent infrastructure. Experiencing the slopes and the ski culture on the other side of the globe is definitely an awesome experience, and what better way to extend your season and ad another month or 3 to your ski calendar. Oddities such as South Africa, Lesotho, and Antarctica offer skiing adventures like nothing in U.S. 

Ski the Calandar

#9: Ski the calendar

Arguably the most difficult achievement on this list. “Skiing the calendar” means to ski at least on day in each of the calendar months. Europeans can achieve this easily at one of many glacial ski resorts, but most of us North Americans would need to get fairly creative by either hiking in the Rockies or the Cascades to earn some turns the hard way, or hop a plane to the Southern Hemisphere and enjoy some lift served laps in another country.

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Heavenly Village

#10: Live in a ski town

It takes a hearty soul to pack it all up and trade a life in the city or the ‘burbs for life in a mountain town. Living in a ski town is expensive, weather can brutal, communities are tight knit and your reputation can make or break your existence there. No pro sports to go see, no mega-stores or shopping malls, just small neighborhood shops and bars. Ski town life is a trade off, but those willing to sacrifice what most folks take for granted are rewarded with unprecedented access to some of natures finest gifts. Being able to walk out your door every day and go skiing, or snowshoeing or snowmobiling is an amazing experience and one I’d recommend to any avid skier or snowboarder to try out at least once in there life, even if you go back to the city after a season or two.

Pond Skim

#11: Participate in a pond skim

What better way to celebrate the end of an awesome ski season than to put on a funky outfit, grab your skis and try to glide across a little pond without eating absolute shit in front of dozens of your friends and ski town locals that are chomping at the bit to see if you wipe out! Most good ski towns have a pond skim event in the Spring, and daring pass holders can sign up to test their metal in this “sink or skim” competition that usually yields some pretty cool prizes, plus some definite bragging rights too.


#12: Get laid in a gondola

Akin to joining “the Mile High Club” for frequent fliers, to be lucky enough to get lucky in the cabin of a gondola would certainly be an achievement of unique, daring, and maybe a little disgusting proportions. To get a gondola car to yourself or just your ski group is difficult enough these days, but to grab one with your significant other and have the time, the guts and the lust to pull off a quickie would become a feat of legendary quality.


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