What do you do when there’s powder falling, but it’s miles from where you’re staying? Well, that’s easy. Just move your hotel. No, we don’t mean change hotels, we mean make your hotel actually move to meet the snow.
This is the brilliantly simple concept behind The Nomads’ Bus, one of the coolest new accommodation options we’ve heard of in ages.
Described as “the world’s first powder-chasing mobile hostel”, it’s a 12-metre-long American school bus converted to sleep up to five guests and a filmer in total comfort.
And of course, carry them to wherever the snow is falling the next day.
Tim Boffe, who’s the brains behind the project alongside his girlfriend Valerie, explains: “We were travelling round the world in 2012 and we ended up in Guatemala in Central America and we saw these school busses and we thought ‘that would be fun to live in one day.’
“Then one night Valerie came up with a movie called Tiny Living – it’s these two people from Canada who made a little cabin on the back of a trailer and they put it behind a big truck.
“I had worked in Val Thorens for eight or nine seasons and Val had worked in Switzerland and in France. We’d met in the snow and we were keen to get back to the snow.
“I’d always thought the one thing missing from life in Val Thorens had been being able to go wherever and whenever there is good snow. And we’ve always liked exploring. So we thought ‘let’s build a powder-chasing hostel.'”
The idea is not just a smart one, it’s also timely. As Tim explains: “The climate is changing, I’ve seen it evolve in the last 30 or so seasons, there’s a lot more extremes.
“Sometimes there’s no snow and sometimes the next week there’s a metre in Italy or two metres in Austria or something. It’s a bit all over the place.”
“With this project we also want to focus on sustainability, so our grandchildren will still be able to enjoy riding knee-deep pow!”
Which is partly why Tim and Val are keen to keep the bus as eco-friendly as possible. As their website puts it: “With this project we also want to focus on sustainability, so our grandchildren will still be able to enjoy riding knee-deep pow!”
To this end they’re installing solar-power on the bus, as well as a composting toilet and insulation provided by EcoMat.
Their cosy wood-burning stove is “the most powerful, clean burning stove presently available” and they’ve pledged to offset all the emissions from driving with donations to CarbonFund.org.
“We’d volunteered on some eco projects and when we realised we wanted to do something back in the snow we wanted to keep true to our values regarding sustainability.”
But first they needed a bus. The pair raised funds for the project on Kickstarter and soon had the money they needed to buy the bus. But where does one go to buy something like that?
“We started out looking on websites like Craigslist in the US and eBay and stuff and then ringing people. In the end I found one on eBay, a guy from a small town near Nashville in Tennessee.
“He was in charge of running the busses for a school district and every year he sells a couple of busses.
“He was such a nice guy – he actually drove the bus for us because at that point I didn’t have my license and we had no insurance in the US. So he drove it all the way to Florida for us where we were getting it shipped from.
“He had a daughter who had to do a softball tournament somewhere in Florida, but it was still like a 500km detour. But he said: ‘I’ll drive it for you because I like you guys and it’s a good project.’
“That’s kind of been the thread running through this whole project – people just getting involved and helping out.”
“I’m doing a lot of [the conversion of the bus] myself, but basically I’m always trying to find somebody who knows a little bit more than me and then I’ll help them as much as I can. I’ve learned so much during this project.”
“We’d never done anything like this before, either of us. Well, we made a chicken coop once but I don’t know if that counts…
So once it’s all built, what are their plans? “Well the idea is to visit resorts quite a lot [you can see the pickup points where they’ll be basing themselves on their website] but also just to drive somewhere and park up and if there’s snow around that we can just explore that would be great.
Tim has not only “the highest guiding qualification in Belgium”, but also an equivalent qualification in France, for which he had to take a mountain guides’ exam.
And once the season’s over? “In July and August we want to go downhill mountain biking and rafting with our guests and all these sorts of things. And then we’ll go to the surf coast in September and take bookings for surf holidays.”
Sounds pretty idyllic doesn’t it? Berths on the bus currently start at €50/night for the most basic option not including food, or €700 for the 7-day “all-in” option, including food and lift-pass.