The Dirt Bag Ball. PHOTO: JEFF CAVEN

Words: Kim Kircher

It’s 7 p.m. and Sid Kurtz is still wearing his ski boots and a bright orange hat, emblazoned across the front with the words “Dirt Bag King 2012″. He motions to the Snorting Elk bartender for another beer. As elected Crystal Mountain royalty, Sid drinks for free. In the 32 years here, Sid, age 53, has figured out how to slime the system. He’s never worked for the ski area but he once spent an entire season living in the employee-only cat crew dorm, claiming he worked as a “grooming inspector”. His job, he claimed, was to ski all day and check his roommates’ work. They believed him. Thriving in a ski town, where resources and housing are limited and expensive, requires a certain amount of low-profile couch surfing. Dirt bag royalty like Sid, who spends most of his winter skiing, not working, have perfected the lifestyle.

Abbie Bodette, reigning Dirt Bag Queen, has arrived at The Snorting Elk and is immediately surrounded by friends. She, too, wears her Dirt Bag Hat and surveys the room. She started skiing at Crystal at age two and became a ski instructor at 15. Now she works at a ski shop, and still calls Crystal home. Abbie has lived in a flood-prone, three-bedroom house with 13 guys, often sleeping under her desk at work rather than return home. She spent several seasons in a 224 square foot “room” with a boyfriend, two dogs and no running water. When Snorting Elk patrons leave behind pizza remnants, Abbie has been known to snag the leftovers and call it dinner.

Every March, the Crystal ski patrol crowns a new royal couple at the annual Dirt Bag Ball. Candidates campaign in the preceding weeks, buttering up patrollers with beer, homemade pie, and the occasional poem. The night before the event, patrollers cast secret ballots, all but a few finding out the results along with the other revelers at the ball. The lucky duo are draped in royal capes and knighted with locally knit hats from Wapiti Woolies. They are given season passes and free drinks at both ski area bars for the following year. Around Crystal, being called a dirt bag is high praise. As Sid and Abbie work the crowd at The Snorting Elk, drinking pints of free beer and occasionally snatching leftover pizza, its obvious that here at Crystal Mountain the highest ranking royalty are the ones living closest to the dream. According the Sid and Abbie, the lifestyle is worth it. From first chairs to secret stashes, local ski bums live like kings.

12th Annual Dirt Bag Ball
March 30, 2013
Theme: Glamour, Glitter & Gold

Time: 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

Cost: $25.00
Raffle tickets: $5.00