The Art of Being a Ski Bum with John Egan

Believe it or not, there is an art to being a ski bum. Especially if you are going to make a career out of it.

It’s a hard profession and one that require a level of resourcefulness, dedication and self-discipline. Extreme skiing legend John Egan has made skiing the center of his life for 38 years. His career is full of first descents that have taken him around the globe.

As his younger brother by six years, I’ll never forget his transformation from a Massachusetts kid who loved to ski to competing as a pro skier in just two years. His mountain life accomplishments are unmatched by the skiing mega stars of today.

In the span of his career, he is the only skier to compete both on the World Pro Mogul Tour and the World Pro Race tour in the same year. He has skied in over 17 Warren Miller Films, logged 50-plus first descents around the globe, been on the forefront of heli-ski operations in locations such as Greenland, Russia and has been sponsored by resorts, car companies and ski manufactures for the last 35 years.

Jeff Ginnis, a Sugarbush local, says about skiing with Egan: “I’ve skied with John for over 20 years, it’s still exciting and an adventure every time. With him I’ve poached the Austrian Ski Teams course, fearfully gone deep into The Andes back country, shredded 3 foot deep Wyoming powder over cliffs I never saw, all following John Egan. And that’s just a little taste of what it’s like. To this day I’m never sure if this an actual ski day, a dream, or a Warren Miller movie I’ve ended up in.”

When skiing with John, one of the first things people see is the speed and the commitment to the fall line he brings to the sport.

Tom Richardson, who has skied with John since 1978, had this to say about skiing with him in the early days: “John is happiest on his skis on any mountain in any conditions. He is the most balanced-centered skier I have ever seen, always pointing them straight down the fall line at extreme speeds over any terrain.”

His passion for the sport is addictive, and he credits his skiing style to the people he met in Sugarbush back in late 1970’s.

“At the time the resort was filled with so many pros from Austria and all throughout Europe. They were skiers that showed me the importance of technique, but also had a flare and a style of their own. I think that allowed me to explore my own personal style,” said Egan.

Since then, he has mentored skiers who have gone on to race on the World Cup, Olympics, the World Freeride Tour and X-Games.

Jesse Murphy, owner of Vermont North Ski Shop in Warren, Vermont, says of Egan: “He has been a giant influence in my ski life and career as a ski bum. His understanding of how to balance and fly through gravity has given me some amazing experiences and feelings. I was a lucky kid to meet him at 10 years old and to continue to crush it with him for over thirty years. By far he is the biggest influence in my skiing.”

Giving credit to where credit is due, it was was his connections with Warren Miller, the North Face and other ski companies that launched our career as the Egan Brothers in the late 1980’s. By the time I joined him as his sidekick, he had already been a pro for over 10 years.

In most of the films, I skied behind him. Because I learned to ski by watching him for so many years, skiing behind him in a movie was like watching my own shadow. I could tell as we approached a cliff or entered a chute what his next moves were going to be just by how he planted his pole or pressured a turn. It was amazing how he handled the obstacles in front of us. With all the snow spraying off of his skis, all I had to do was hang on and keep up to make it look good for the film.

Since the days of the Warren Miller movies, Egan continues to ski with hundreds of people a year at Sugarbush Resort and around the world.

John Hansford of Salt Lake City explains, “watching Johnny Egan storm down a slope filled with powder is like watching a comet speeding across the sky.”

Robert Forenza, one of his original ski bum friends from Sugarbush, sums it up the best: “I’ve skied with John for 38 years, his style then is similar to how it is today, he skis with zero fear. If John was a porpoise we all would all be following him through the waves of the ocean.”

Listen to the John Egan Art of Ski Bumming Interview on Edging the Xtreme on RadioBDC.