Ultimate Snow Sports Bum has two faces | SierraSun.com

Ultimate Snow Sports Bum has two faces

Paul Raymore
Sierra Sun
Photo illustration by Josh MillerThe Sierra Sun's Ultimate Snow Sport Bum contest has concluded with the selection of Frank Bragg and JP Silva.

The nominations have been collected, the votes have been tallied and the results are in as to who will be crowned the “Ultimate Tahoe Snow Sports Bum” this season.

In the end, two candidates rose above the others, both uniquely qualified to bear the crown. Two candidates who are different in many ways but united in the one thing that matters most ” a passion for sliding down snow covered mountains.

So without further ado, your 2004-05 Ultimate Tahoe Snow Sports Bums are: Frank Bragg and JP Silva.

Anyone who skis Northstar regularly has probably seen Frank Bragg and his crew of friends eating lunch at one of the picnic tables near the Ski Patrol shack at the top of Mount Pluto.

Bragg’s the one who will often pull out a collapsible lounge chair in the same spot on Mount Pluto to catch some rays after he’s made enough runs that day to get his adrenaline fix.

A single, 70-something cancer and acute pancreatitis survivor, Bragg typically skis between 150 and 200 days per year, supplementing his usual routine at Northstar with trips to Sugar Bowl, Alpine Meadows and Squaw during the winter and New Zealand, Argentina and Chile during the summer.

Bragg has been coming up to Tahoe to ski since 1954, and has lived in Truckee full-time since building his house in Sierra Meadows in 1992 – a move that has allowed him to dedicate even more time to his passion for the slopes.

But still, Bragg is at a loss to explain what drives him to ski six days a week all season long.

“I’ve been trying to figure that out for years. Whether it’s the speed or that every turn is different …

“When I get up in the morning there’s never any decision as to what I’m going to do that day ” it’s just pull on the ski equipment and head up to Northstar,” he said.

So far Bragg has racked up more than 1.4 million vertical feet this season at Northstar, and he’s not even close to being done yet.

Those who know Bragg well ” and that includes seemingly the entire Northstar Ski Patrol and hundreds of other regular skiers at the resort ” have been amazed over the years at Bragg’s drive to ski, even in the face of broken ribs, punctured lungs, head and neck cancer and acute pancreatitis. But Bragg doesn’t see anything odd about doing what he loves, even in the face of hardship.

“I always say I’m a walking time bomb, what with all the cancers, the acute pancreatitis … But I always stress to handicapped people that they’re not really as handicapped as they think,” Bragg said.

So Frank Bragg has earned the title Ultimate Tahoe Ski Bum. But don’t just take our word for it. Below are some of the things his friends said in their nominations:

My nomination as Truckee’s Ultimate Ski/snowboard bum is quite different than the usual person we think of.

– This person is not a young dude, but is a senior skier.

– While being retired, he still cuts, sells cords wood in order to get his senior pass and vertical plus to Northstar and trips to South America or New Zealand to ski when it is summertime Truckee.

– He still drives an old red Jeep Wagon with a ’49’rs emblem on the door (got to ski, not have a new car).

– Ski suit? No, no – it’s 1959 Haggar flared bottom pants and a wool jacket or orange fleece from Argentina as the attire of the day.

– You never (unless it’s 15 degrees or less) see him wearing a hat. Helmet? You’ve got to be kidding!

– Goggles? Ha! It’s only sunglasses and that’s when the sun is shinning.

– A new pair of Volants is required each year, unless there is a need for two pairs in a year, which has happened.

– He skis Northstar 5-6 days a week, racking up his usual two to three million vertical feet per year.

– When injured, like last year with his left clavicle broken and a punctured lung, everyone asks, “have you seen Frank yet?” “No, it’s only been two weeks. He’ll be back next week.” And sure enough, he was. Or like this year when he fell and broke two ribs, he was back on the hill, without telling his doctor, four days later.

– He enjoys skiing with his buddies until a female skier comes by that he knows… then he’s gone.

– You will see him everyday between 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the table by the ski patrol shack. Or, if the sun is out, on his lounge chair that he keeps up there.

– Lanny Shorts

I would like to nominate Frank Bragg for “The Ultimate Ski Bum of 2005” contest for the following reasons:

– Skis one to two million vertical feet each year.

– During summer months skis South America and New Zealand ski resorts.

– Is on first name basis with Northstar ski patrol, lift operators, doctors and nurses at Tahoe Forest Hospital.

– Is almost a factory representative of Volant skis: He owns six pair, two new pair this month.

– Wears “Haggar” ski pants and never a hat.

– Ski jumped over a car near Mt. Rose in 1953. Original picture hangs in the lodge at Sugar Bowl ski resort.

– Drives late 1980’s red Jeep with “Forty Niner” sticker on rear door.

– Currently skiing with two broken ribs.

– Maintains chaise lounge for afternoon naps at top of Mount Pluto at Northstar.

– Don Bennett

If you like the recent improvement to Diamond Peak’s terrain park, then you’ve got 22-year-old JP Silva to thank.

Silva, who started skiing when he was 4 and took up snowboarding at age 9, recently approached the Diamond Peak management about letting him take over maintenance of their terrain park ” essentially inventing an on-the-hill job for himself that allows him to ride five days per week and get paid to do it.

With almost 150 days riding at Diamond Peak, other local resorts and in the Tahoe backcountry this season, Silva certainly qualifies as the Ultimate Tahoe Snowboard Bum of 2004-05; however, the former Sierra Nevada College, current Truckee Meadows Community College and future University of Nevada, Reno student hopes to graduate soon with a degree in business and a minor in marketing, meaning he may not be a “bum” for all that much longer.

For the last four years though, Silva has been living the Tahoe lifestyle to the fullest ” sharing a house with three girls (none of whom ski or ride as evidenced by their nomination of Silva) and doing his best to ride as much as possible.

So JP Silva is our Ultimate Tahoe Snowboard Bum for 2004-05, and below is the letter that won him the title:

The funny thing about the list of items on the “You Might be a Snow Bum If” list is the fact that most of the things on that list describe my roommate JP.

If there is a chance of snow the next day he will try to rationalize why he has to take the day off from life to snowboard. If there is a chance of snow he will check to see if it is more than six inches ” if so school is canceled for him for an unofficial snow day. Even if there are five inches of snow he will probably say “that five inches is close to six inches, which is good enough for me,” and once again will make it an unofficial snow day.

Our kitchen cabinets, as well as the window sills and sometimes the living room floor, are covered with his snow-gear-repairing stuff. It must be hard for him to live in a house filled with girls who don’t know anything when it comes to snow or snow-related activities.

We’ll ask him what “eproxy” is (I still have no idea) and why he’s bandaging his board like that? We’ll ask him why he has to iron his board, or what jackets go best with his outfits? He’ll laugh and humor us, all the while thinking that he doesn’t wear “outfits.”

When a CD with awesome music comes out he’ll ask me to make him a tape so that he has something when he rides. When he goes to the store he’ll buy Starbursts to hide in his pockets to eat while he’s on the mountain.

The first day of resort openings he’ll be the first one up and ready to head out for a day of powder. When time permits on his way out he’ll even take out the trash or shovel the walkway. He is a multi-tasker who loves the snow, we girls hate playing in the snow with him because oftentimes he’ll get overzealous and we’ll have snow all down our backs, all the while plotting our revenge against him.

And as for his car? Don’t get me started on his car. The only reason why I can recognize his car in a parking lot is because of all the stuff in the back of it. And I can’t even list the stuff! There are boards and bindings among other things, as well as some sort of rack for holding his stuff down. He has also somehow managed to find a way to incorporate snow into his job (we think he made up his own position).

I don’t know how he manages to handle waking up early to be in the cold, answering random snow questions for his clueless roommate, receiving numerous injuries from snowboarding, driving in his gear packed car, and still manage to have a smile on his face when he knows that it will dump. Call it insanity… I call it passion.

– Melissa Prem

Honorable mentions in the Ultimate Tahoe Snow Sports Bum contest:

– Jeff McKitrick: “He has been able to remain jobless and careless for the majority of his 42 years. He looks and skis like he’s in his 20s.”

– Kevin Costello: “Kevin’s obsession with skiing began when he was 12 years old in front of the TV set watching the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley… After college Kevin landed a job in education and the year round school schedule allowed him 75-100 days a year skiing. His license plate reads 1WLDSKR… Today the old ski bum enjoys Squaw and Alpine on a regular basis and takes in some cross-country skiing in areas like Tahoe Donner, the Royal Gorge and ventures into the back country areas of Pole Creek and Independence Lake.”

– Johnny Magee: “Johnny has been ruling the backcountry of Donner Summit and the halfpipe/kickers of Sugar Bowl since he was a child. When he was in Junior High in Grass Valley he used to sell his lunch to the other kids to raise $5 so he could go ride at Donner Ski Ranch. Now Johnny works graveyard clearing the roads and parking lots of Donner summit… but still rides every day. Johnny is the ultimate snow bum, a model Tahoe resident and a great friend.”

– Jesse Laplaca: “Lives to shred, workin’ the bowl at nights and eatin’ tacos for cheap! He’s the one who loves the snow all winter. Shoveling makes him happy. Cold beers, floor space… he’s down!”

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User