What is a powder day clause and why do you need one?

First tracks at Loveland Ski Area, Colorado. Photo by Mitch Tobin

A powder day clause is an element of one’s work arrangement, either formal, implied, or secret, in which the party is entitled to blow off their job and go skiing when there’s fresh powder. Common in ski towns and among ski bums, it’s also called a powder clause.

Before going any further, let me note that I’m not a licensed attorney and you should consult a real lawyer if you’re actually interested in drafting or altering your employment contract.

Let me also say that if you’re a past, current, or prospective client, this clause has not and will not interfere my ability to deliver on my promises and serve your needs.

Now that the caveats and preambles are out of the way, it gives me great pleasure to share my own powder day clause, which I created when forming Sea to Snow LLC and hanging out my shingle as a communications consultant.

Powder Day Clause Example
The powder day clause I created when forming my LLC.

I’m a sole proprietor, so it was pretty easy to convince the boss man to let me have a powder clause. In light of climate change and my own life expectancy, I structured the clause so that the snowfall necessary to trigger a powder day ratchets down over time.

There are actually companies with many employees who have a powder day policy. Liftopia, which is a great place to get lift ticket deals, notes on its career page that “mandatory ski days” are one of the perks and benefits.

Powder day clause variation from Liftopia
Liftopia offers mandatory ski days as an employee benefit. Source: Liftopia

It’s interesting that the company makes the ski days mandatory. I wonder how they enforce it? “Selfies of you on the slopes must be submitted to H.R. by 5 pm Friday!”

My own powder day clause is totally optional, and truth be told, there are plenty of days when there’s enough snow to invoke it but I’m too busy with the day job or other obligations. But I’m glad I inserted it into my LLC’s operating agreement as a reminder that there are only so many powder days left to enjoy.

Maybe I’m rationalizing here, but I actually think it has made me a better employee and consultant because it forces me to work extra-hard when there’s snow in the forecast. Skiing and snowboarding inoculates me against the winter blues and is like a magic elixir in curing work-related burnout, which saps productivity. There’s a bunch of peer-reviewed research showing that time away from the office doing something like exercising in nature is a boon to creativity and health.

Let me close by offering two more inspirational quotes from some of my favorite writers. Below is a quote from beat generation author Jack Kerouac that I noticed hanging on the wall at Fire on the Mountain, a restaurant near my house in Denver.

Powder day clause inspiration from Jack Kerouac
Painting with a Jack Kerouac quote. Photo by Mitch Tobin.

The other quote related to the tension between work and play comes from author Edward Abbey, whose writings about the desert and American Southwest influenced me greatly as a young man. Abbey, a guru for many wilderness advocates, advised his adherents to beware of burnout:

Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.

This post originally appeared on SnowSlang, a multimedia blog and glossary of skiing, snowboarding, and snow-related terms. Follow us on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. And check out Snow News, our free email newsletter for snow lovers.

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