Carving Out an RV Life on the Slopes

A guy on skis doing a trick jump at the bottom of a mountain next to an RV.

I grew up in a small town outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania, just 10 miles from Roundtop Mountain Resort. That’s where I learned to ski. At first, I tried snowboarding, but after four years, I still wasn’t very good. One day, I swapped with a friend who wore the same size boots–he took my snowboard and I tried his skis. It was such a natural fit that I bought his old skis off him the very next day. 

Within my first week, I was hitting terrain park features, learning to handle jumps and rails. It quickly became an obsession; all I wanted to do was think about what trick I could learn next. You could say I had a one track mind. My closest friends became the people I skied with throughout middle school and high school. We traveled together to Colorado, Vermont and Oregon to extend our ski season beyond the bounds of Pennsylvania winters. 

When I graduated, I moved out to Colorado for college, but I wound up leaving after one semester. I moved back home, taking classes at a community college and working at the local ski resort the rest of the time. I saved up all my money to plan a ski trip to Oregon that spring. 

When the time came, I drove my car across the country, packed full of camping and skiing gear. I planned to be gone for a month, so as I made my way to Oregon, I stopped off in Colorado and Utah to ski with friends. Mt. Hood was my ultimate destination. Every year in the spring, hundreds of skiers make their way to Mt. Hood, Oregon to camp in the woods and ski together. I’d meet up with a few friends and camp out for the first time in Mt. Hood National Forest, spending our days skiing and our nights catching up. 

Quickly, we learned how unprepared we were for the rain and cold of camping on Mt. Hood. I’d brought just a sleeping bag and a tent, neither of which were waterproof. After a week or two, most of my friends had left, driven out by the crazy weather, but I didn’t mind it too much. I spent my days skiing in one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen, and the rain seemed to stick mostly to the base of the mountain, leaving the snow pristine.

Despite the cold camping weather, it was the best month of my life. Every day, I woke up in beautiful wilderness, made breakfast with friends, and spent the rest of the day on the mountain. We hung out and grilled lunch together, drying out our gear in the sun and laughing about all our attempts at new tricks we’d tried so far that day. At night, we made big fires and big dinners, drinking and swapping ski stories. Being surrounded by people who shared my passion felt unreal. I made so many good friends that spring, people from all over the country.

When spring pass came to an end, I wasn’t ready to leave. I decided to stay in Oregon, and found work right away. One job was working for a friend’s uncle near Mt. Hood, and his uncle let me live on a boat he kept in the local marina. The boat was a yacht from the 80s he’d been fixing up, with a bedroom, bathroom, small living space and a smaller kitchen. It changed the way I thought about what kind of housing I needed. And that’s when I first had the idea to find a RV to live out of. 

I lived on the boat for two months, saving my money and researching RVs. With a small loan, I purchased a used RV. Although it was nearly 25 years old, it had everything I needed, just as the boat had: a bed, bathroom, kitchen and living space. My friend’s uncle let me park the RV on his property while I worked for him all summer, saving up enough money to hit the road the following winter.

I left Oregon in November with no clue what to expect spending winter in an RV. Making my way to Summit County, Colorado to some of my favorite ski resorts, I skied every single day for four months. Most of the time, I just camped in the back corner of a ski resort parking lot, which allowed me to wake up, make breakfast and hit the slopes right away. I reveled in my awesome, stress-free lifestyle, living off savings and getting to do what I loved most.  

In the spring, I headed back to Oregon to meet up with my friends again at Mt. Hood. They all camped around the RV, and when the cold, rainy days came, we’d pile inside camper to watch movies and make dinner on my stove top. Having that old RV made camping out at Mt. Hood warm and cozy where the previous year had been cold and wet–without taking away from the fun of hanging with friends after hours.

One day the following summer, Deviation Ski and Snowboard Works contacted me. As a small company out of Portland with a handful of employees, they craft quality handmade skis and snowboards right here in the U.S. They were looking for someone to help them demo their products at ski resorts across the country. After taking a trip to Portland, checking out their factory, and getting to know them better, we decided to team up. We would plan out a ski trip, going from resort to resort to demonstrate their new products, with my RV serving as our housing for the duration of our travels.

Winter came back around, and their team manager and I hit the road. We took Deviation’s company Jeep and my RV for an itinerary that spanned 22 resorts across eight states in three months. 

We made it through eastern Oregon, Utah and Colorado before life threw a wrench in our plans–my 25-year-old RV overheated and blew out its motor going over a steep mountain pass in Colorado. It cost more to fix than the RV was worth. We spent a few stressful days debating whether or not our trip was over, or if we could continue on, somehow. 

I have the freedom to follow the weather, my friends, the snow. The freedom to follow my dreams. I can’t imagine living any other way. 

An RV driving up a mountain in golden light.

And then, I found another RV. I’d been casually researching the Thor Motor Coach Ace 27.1 for a while, thinking it would make the perfect new home in a few years. I found a 2013 model in a city just a few hours away from where we broke down. Immediately, I noticed how much more well-suited it was to winter travel, with additional room to exercise on bad-weather days, a better furnace for below-zero nights and more room to bring friends with me on my trips. The 2013 Thor Ace 27.1 looked like a solid investment, so I pulled the trigger. 

We resumed our trip, having only lost a few days of travel. Traveling into Utah, Montana and Canada before heading back to Mt. Hood for the spring, the Ace earned its stripes. I had smoother drives, more space, and updated amenities I didn’t know I’d wanted until I had them. As much as I loved living and traveling in my first RV, my Thor has cemented my dreams of living on the road for years to come.  

When I was 10 years old, I became obsessed with vans and trucks you could live out of. Call it a premonition, because I’ve been living full-time in my RV for two and a half years now. I have the freedom to follow the weather, my friends, the snow; the freedom to follow my dreams. I can’t imagine living any other way. 

Ryan Barrick drives a Thor Motor Coach Ace 27.1.

Ryan's Favorite Ski Resorts