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PowderPeople | Miles Clark - Winter all year

About bikini girls and year-round freeriding - PG in conversation with an exceptional ski bum

by Marius Schwager 02/21/2012
Winter all year round: Who doesn't dream of freeriding all year round? Even pro riders go to university or work in the summer. Miles Clark, a ski bum from California (USA), is living his dream. He lives in Squaw Valley in winter and spends his summers in the Argentinian Andes. PG spoke to him (over a bottle of Argentinian red wine) in Bariloche (Argentina) about his life in permanent winter.

PG:Hi Miles, three sentences about you: Who are you, what do you do, and why are we doing this interview?
Miles Clark: My name is Miles, I'm 33 years old and from Northern California. I'm a small-time pro skier, a mountaineering guide, and a writer/editor with I started skiing at 18-years old and skiing has been the one constant in my life since that time.

PG:Most readers will surely ask, "how the hell is it possible to ski all year round?" - tell us your secrets - the real secrets! How can you make a living?
Miles: To be honest, it's tough to ski year-round and make a "living," but there are ways to do it. As of right now, I've lived in year-round winter for 3 years and I've used a bizarre concoction of occupations and unemployment to make it happen.

The first summer I came to Argentina to ski (2009), I had no job the entire summer and was accruing debt each and every day. But, while I was in Argentina that first summer, I met the owners of South America Snow Sessions and the owners of Those meetings paid off. The following summer (2010), I came back to Argentina and worked as a mountain guide for South America Snow Sessions. The summer after that (2011), I worked as local reporter, writer, as well as editor for in Argentina.

PG:What's your timetable for a standard year?
Miles: I definitely don't have a "standard year" set up just yet. Since graduating college in 2001, I've worked as a carpentar, mountain guide, writer & bartender during the summer months. In the winter months, I've always made sure I have 6 months to do nothing but ski. My winters are actually pretty standard (Lake Tahoe, CA), but my summers have been extremely varied (Alaska, Washington, Argentina, San Francisco).

During winter, I move to Lake Tahoe, CA on December 1st. I ski in Tahoe (with a bit of ski oriented travel in North America) throughout the winter until June 1st. That hasn't changed since 2001. The past 3 summers I've spent skiing in Bariloche, Argentina. But before that, I'd spend 4, 5, or 6 months each summer working to make enough money to return to Tahoe and take 6 months off again.

Another semi-standard part of my year has been a fall surf trip. Each fall, I try to take a one month tropical surf trip. These trips generally have to be somewhere cheap. I've been lucky enough to surf in Indonesia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, California, and Hawaii on these trips.

PG: You studied Molecular Cellular Biology. How come you don't have a steady 9-5 job with a regular paycheck every month?
Miles: Yes, I studied Molecular Cellular Biology in college. I had always planned on being a medical doctor. I even took the Medical College Admission Test right after college and was all set to head to medical school. I decided to take one winter off before going to medical school to live and ski in Lake Tahoe. Needless to say, I got hooked on skiing, never went back to school, and have spent the past 10 years traveling, working wherever I can, and skiing.

So, yes, I did have the desire for a secure lifestyle when I was in college. Then I spent 10 years doing whatever the hell I wanted, which created no life security whatsoever. Recently, most likely due to age, the insecurity of my lifestyle began to bear down on me a bit. That's right about when I began working year-round for UnofficialNetworks. My position at UnofficialNetworks has given me life security while at the same time allowing me to ski year round and have more fun than you can shake a stick at. I feel extremely fortunate.

PG:If you were to change something in your life, what would it be and why?
Miles: If I could change anything, and I know this sounds incredibly selfish (shouldn't I be saying "help the poor, feed the hungry, save the Earth, spend more time with my family?"), it would likely be to spend more time in and around the ocean. The thing is straight magic. I often have a hard time deciding which is more fun: surfing or skiing. But, there is so much more to the ocean than just surfing. In an ideal world, I think I'd ski 8 months per year and surf 4 months per year. Or maybe even split it right down the middle: 6 and 6.

PG:What are the negative points about skiing all year?
Miles: The negatives don't really exist in any tangable form if you're truly a ski freak. If you really want some sort of "negative", it's obviously that you miss out on summer. Summer is amazing. Missing out on baseball games, bikinis, outdoor summer concerts, beach time, sunshine, BBQs, warm beer, the ocean, and heat is noticable at times when you're freezing your ass off in August. But, when you're in Argentina in August skiing 3-foot deep powder with your buddies, getting faceshots, partying with Argentines, making new friends, drinking fernet, speaking Spanish, skiing new zones, traveling, stimulating the crap outta your brain, and enjoying new cultures, you don't really miss summer at all. The scariest part of skiing in South America is that you often just completely forget it's summer all together. You're just happy... and skiing.

PG:Winter all year sounds really lovely. You mentioned the bikins and the heat. Don't you feel cold sometimes, miss the sun or at least some beach bunnies in sexy bikinis?
Miles: Yep, the bikinis are certainly one of the main things missed. But, that said, I don't know if anywhere has more beautiful women then Argentina. They may not be in bikinis, but they are well dressed, sophisticated, gorgeous, and fun to be around despite their obvious over abundance of clothing.

PG:Skiing in South America is a big dream for most freeriders. Whats the (biggest) difference between skiing in the US and down there?
Miles: The differences can be large. The main thing to do in South America, is to open your mind. South America is nothing like Europe or North America. South America is a continent of developing nations and things run very different down there. You have to open your heart and mind and accept things exactly as they are. Things may not run as smoothly as you're used to, but once your mind is open enough, you'll realize that the ruggedness is the most interesting aspect of a trip to South America.

A few fun tips for skiing South America

PG:What are your expert-tips for our readers, who dream about skiing year-round - or even just skiing a lot?
Miles: Okay, here's a few fun tips for skiing South America:
1. Commit to a summer in South America. Don't think about it or dream about it - do it and do it now, while you're young. You'll never regret it. The first time I came to South America to ski was the most interesting trip I've ever been on. Save up almost enough money for the entire summer, put the rest on your credit card, convince some buddies to come with you (or better yet, go alone and really experience South America), rent a room for the summer in a ski town, buy a season pass, study Spanish, and ski everyday. Just go.
2. the season is short in South America. You don't need to show up until July and it's pretty much over by October 1st.
3. Don't come for less than 1 month, and if you only come for one month, come from August 7th - September 7th.
4. Americans have got to get a Credit Union debit card. Credit Unions don't charge to take money out of foreign ATMs nor do they charge money conversion fees and they pay you back for the fees ATMs charge you. Normal banks charge around $5 usd to take cash out of ATMs as well as a 3% conversion fee and they don't reimburse you for the fees charged by ATMs. A Credit Union will save you hundreds of dollars in South America. (Editor's note: Credit cards with free withdrawals worldwide are available in Germany, for example from Comdirect, Postbank and some other online banks)
5. Learn as much Spanish as you can while you're in South America (Spanish is the 2nd most spoken language on Earth - 20 countries have Spanish as their official language). Live with South Americans if you can, date South Americans if you can, take Spanish classes if you can, study Spanish for 30 minutes every night, and spend as much time learning Spanish as you possibly can. If you're a European or North American and you can speak Spanish, many more doors will be open to you in South America.
6. If you have time & money after ski season, go to one of these destinations: Iguzu Falls in Brazil/Argentina, the Amazon River Basin in Peru/Columbia/Brazil, Pennisula Valdes in Argentina (penguins, whales, dolphins, orcas, elephant seals, emus, lamas, armadillos, patagonian hares, flamingos).

PG: Nobody stays young forever. Responsabilities grow and maybe there will be some little Miles's to feed in the future. When will you get a serious life? Will you ever?
Miles: Ah, the dreaded life security question. It's true, there's no avoiding it. After 10 years of ski bumming, you're going to find yourself in your 30s, broke, single & with essentially nothing to show for yourself.

Serious girlfriend: Forget about it.
Successfull Breeding: Difficult without serious girlfriend.
Real World Job: No way in hell.
Money: Ha, you're lucky if you aren't in debt.

This all adds up to a feeling of insecurity, sleepless nights, and the big question "what am I going to do with my life?" We all know we can't simply be a broke-ass ski bum our whole lives, we've got to find something to get us through. For me, the solution was always to go back to school. I moved to South America in 2009 with the idea that it would be my last big hurrah before I took the GRE (graduate research exam), went to graduate school, got a real job, and started my "real life." Of course, that trip to South America backfired violently. During that trip, I ended up making the connections that would allow me to acquire some security while continuing my disgusting ski bum lifestyle. I hope that every die-hard ski bum encounters something that allows them to keep living the life they choose.

Some information about Miles

Name: Miles Clark
Facts: I didn't like pizza until I was 18 years old. I broke my face in 3 places in 2011.
Sponsors: Atomic, Helly Hansen, Backcountry Access, Bern, Hestra, Dragon, Osprey Packs, Leki, ClifBar
Mountaineering guide for Rainier Mountaineering Inc. Have successfully guided to summits of Mt. McKinley (Alaska), El Pico de Orizaba (Mexico), lots of Mount Rainier in Washington State, and more. Graduated from University of California at Berkeley in 2001. Degree in Molecular Cell Biology. Grew up in San Francisco Bay Area in California.
I've skied in California, Nevada, Utah, Alaska, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, British Colombia (Canada), Alberta (Canada), Argentina, France, Switzerland, Italy.
"Job": Writer/Editor for

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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