Finishing school on the slopes – my ski etiquette tips
Not many people know that I was sent to finishing school. Yes, shock horror, jaw dropping secret and very much not expected of someone whose job is to throw themselves down a mountain with guts, ‘ballsy’, rugged skiing.
However, those who do know me are well aware that I am often partial to exaggeration!
I have to admit, I’ve bent the truth slightly. I was merely sent on a week ‘crammer’ course for my 18th birthday. Instead of getting the much anticipated, banged up yellow metro which had been my brothers’ first car, my ‘gift’ was being sent to a place to be taught how to walk with a book on my head, how to arrange a household and yes, even, how to exit a low riding sports car without flashing my underwear. All very trivial stuff to an 18 year old tom boy who just wanted to spend all day on the slopes!
Nevertheless there were some areas that have helped ‘polish’ me. Social etiquette was of the utmost importance and a big focus of the course. In the dictionary etiquette is ‘the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.’ So since making my ‘profession’ being a ski racer, what have I learnt about etiquette on the white stuff?
What time should one be ready for the first ski of the day?
Now we have all been on holiday and gone down to the pool after breakfast to see that the only free deck chairs face the parking lot of next door’s hotel. The frustration. The annoyance at those ‘keenos’ who have already reserved the best spots. Well thankfully unlike its summer holiday counterpart, in skiing the earlier the better. First lift riders are seen with respect (especially those who you just saw still partying away a few hours previously!) We all know that the perfectly corduroy groomed pistes don’t hang around all day – quickly they become cut up and bumpy. So whatever happens, however hung over or tired you are invest in those first few lift rides then as soon as the world and their aunties join in, go home and take a siesta!
Is it frowned upon if one were to queue in the singles line to get to the front and then magically join ones friends?
Now to accomplish this without annoying others you would have to have some pretty perfect timing. As long as both lines are moving and you aren’t causing an M25 scale traffic block then there is no harm in trying this sneaky maneuver!
Can one reasonably resort to violence when one’s brand new skis/board are being stamped on by the very absent minded, careless skier stood behind in the queue?
I think giving a loud “Excuse me!” then a ski shuffle should suffice. It was probably an accident, plus you don’t want to make a lifelong mortal enemy of someone who could somehow end up sitting next to you on a painfully slow, two-man chair lift!
Conversation on the chair lift – is one allowed to make conversation with random strangers or should one stare straight ahead?
Definitely – chairlifts are made for chatting, use them to find out which pistes are in good nick, which restaurants are recommended, which cliffs are safe to drop off. I remember someone writing to me a few years ago about meeting their wife on a chair lift in Park City. Now if this brave gentleman hadn’t braved the awkward silence and seduced his future wife with his great chat then his life would be far different!
Is a little playful barging and pushing in the queue discouraged?
With all the testosterone on the slopes bought up through the speed and danger this is inevitable. I find it rather irritating and expenses unnecessary energy – energy I would prefer were spent laying the skis over achieving big angles!
How does one deal with the zigzagging slow piste-absorbing turns of a beginner or group of beginners?
In this situation, first you must remember that we were all beginners once. Respect beginners as they need to build confidence. Don’t forget their likelihood of being out of control and not able to stop on demand – in this situation the responsibility of passing them safely is solely down to you. Wait for a safe passing situation and consider it as a chance to sneak in a few off-piste turns before safely joining back onto the piste in front of them!
If one is of the above-mentioned ‘beginner’ level, how can one avoid infuriating the more experienced skiers behind one?
Don’t worry about them – focus on you, what you need to do to be safe, enjoy your learning and build your confidence – it is up to them to ski past you!
When can one sip their first glühwein?
Hmmm now this is rather dependent on your technical ability and alcohol tolerance! I would say beginners should have their lessons, do lots of practice based on their teacher’s advice. Then when you feel your legs getting too shaky to learn any new skill, one little drink could actually boost your confidence and dare I say help relax you! For pros who are out there pushing themselves and taking risks, in my opinion, I wouldn’t advise a drink until the end of the day so that your focus isn’t impeded. Leave the booze for your post ski review bragging session!
How tipsy is too tipsy to ski down from the après ski bar?
Actually I have a good story here – when my brother was captain of university skiing one of his team mates got so drunk that skiing down was not an option. He quickly learnt his lesson when they bungy-cord-strapped him (in rather less clothes than he started with) to the front of a piste machine. He was forced to make his way back down at the snail pace of 5mph giving everyone else ample time to laugh and take photos! Pretty sure he never got that inebriated whilst trying to ski again!
Should one help or ignore the child wailing at the top of the mountain?
If the cause of the pain is apparent, for example, a lost ski, a snowy mitten then it is courtesy to help, especially if you are unable to locate the responsible adult. Again remember that at some point in a snowy white out we have all found ourselves scared and alone and being saved or having at least company would have made the situation a lot better!
Lastly, a few quick Do’s and Don’ts
- Look behind you when taking a sharp right whilst walking with your skis on the shoulder
- Check the weather forecast before you leave the hotel
- Remember to buckle your boots for control
- Bring your camera for some spontaneous shots of you and your friends (altitude does make you rather silly)
- Dance on tables with your ski boots on… a recipe for disaster!
What are your best ski etiquette tips? Share yours in the comments below!