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March 6, 2024

Marvelous Photographs of Young Women Working on Ski Resorts in Aspen in 1971

Most people’s notion of ski bum is a shiftless young male who spends most of his time searching for good powder, but the ski bums of Aspen, Colo. aren’t like that at all. They are prettier, for one thing, and many of them have lived in the resort town for more than two years. They consider the skier’s life not a parenthetical experience but a real alternative to urban existence, one free from pollution, noise and the frustration of having to choose between marriage a a less than satisfying job. The only problem they have in Aspen is finding a way to survive.

With 900 newcomers arriving every year in the 1970s, there was a sharp shortage of both jobs and housing. But the air was fresh and clean and the longer the women stayed, the prettier they seemed to look. At the moment in 1971, six out of 10 new arrivals were women—but when the word got out the ratio could change fast.

Tubing was a popular sport at Snowmass Mountain. The women piled into old truck tubes and race down a 40-yard course. The slope was iced to give additional speed and there were hay bales at the bottom. Jeeps provide both transportation and sport at Aspen. Even in 20° weather they were used without tops.

Women come to Aspen from all over the country and they all want jobs, but for each good position there are 40 applicants. Housing is practically nonexistent and prices are tourist-level high. So Aspen women learn to improvise. They share food, apartments, clothes and even jobs—anything to be able to afford $250 for the most important expenditure of all, a season lift ticket.

When the snow melts in April there is hiking, mountain climbing and trout fishing to while away the months until winter, or (to those who can afford it) Mexico for the spring and Laguna Beach for the summer. The women figured why wait until you’re 40 to have fun. “I felt guilty at first coming out here because I was having such a good time,” one said, “but not anymore.” They consider Aspen home and try to make sure they didn’t lose their  apartments if for any reason they had to go away. “The reason we stay,” said New Yorker Chris Elkins, “is that there’s a real sense of community. People are easy to meet and they let you be what you want to be.”

(Photos by John Dominis / LIFE photo archives)




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