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SKIING Scene: Your Body for a Bed

posted: 10/01/1999
by Paul McMorris

Sad to say, but the ski-bum scene has a seldom-mentioned dark side: male sex predators who prey on the transitory females flocking to ski towns each winter. Here's how it works: With ski stars in their eyes and nearly empty bank accounts, college-aged women from around the country roll into town looking for seasonal employment. Within days they find work. Problem is, their hourly wage doesn't cover the rent.

Your friendly neighborhood predator then makes his offer: "Come share my place. No rent¿we'll work something out." Women who accept the offer soon learn that the free bed comes at a great personal price: self esteem.

"Many of these women use their bodies as barter to keep from freezing to death," says Ron Griffin, a priest in training at St. John's Episcopal Church in Breckenridge, Colorado. "They're part of an invisible underclass in an area of affluence."

Since 1998, Griffin has been hosting free Saturday-night community suppers as a safe harbor where newcomers can network with locals, particularly about affordable housing. Other nights he takes his supportive message beyond the church. "I spend as much time in bars as I do in church," says the former Grammy Award¿winning Nashville record producer. "I tell them, 'Since you didn't come to my house, I came to yours.'"

Griffin hopes to open a low-cost youth hostel for those in need, but he lacks funding. To help out, call St. John's at 970-453-4264.

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