Staying Happy and Safe on the Slopes

While it may not be the first thing on your mind when you hit the slopes, there is a clear etiquette regarding skiing. Most practiced skiers adhere to it without even noticing. One of our interns, Cassie, is a passionate skier. She combined her love of skiing and her knowledge of etiquette to bring us this insightful look at best practices for being polite on the slopes. She’s highlighted advice from experts and provided some of her own tips for staying happy and safe on the slopes.

The Golden Rule

My dad’s number one rule for life in general certainly applies to skiing as well: Be aware of your surroundings! Knowing where you are and who you’re around will help you through just about any situation on the mountain.

1. The skier in front has the right of way. This rule is often one of the hardest to adhere to and understand. Though you may be in control while the person in front of you is skiing erratically, it is your responsibility as the skier in back to react to what happens in front of you. In the case of a collision, no matter who cut who off, the skier in back is always the responsible party.

2. Help others who need it. Everyone has a “yard sale” now or then…skis everywhere, poles 50 yards up the trail, and it always seems like you’ve swallowed more snow than you thought possible. If you’re a passer-by, assess the debris field and help. It’s always nice lend a hand so the downed skiier doesn’t have to hike back up to retrieve their gear.

3. No skiing on closed trails. This is never okay—always respect trail restrictions and other official instructions. Trails are closed for a reason, and cutting a trail will most likely lead to finding yourself in a spot that isn’t fit for skiing, putting you, and anyone fixing the trail, at risk. It can also result in your ticket or season pass being taken away. If skiing in the west, mind the ski area boundaries—cliffs, avalanches, and other not-so-fun features may lurk on the other side. If skiing in the east, there’s a good chance the trail that is closed hasn’t had snow made on it yet, or it may just be a bad day to ski it. It’s unlikely the mountain is withholding great skiing from you, at least not without excellent reason! The ropes are put up for skier’s safety and to maintain trails, so please, stay within them. Stay “on piste” (read: on trail)!

4. Lift line cutting. Line cutting anywhere is just plain ol’ bad manners. Everyone wants to ski, but we all have to wait at some point. Be patient and your turn will come!

5.  Speed control. The experts at say, “If you want to ski fast, make sure you do it in control and use common sense to judge the situation—is a crowded beginner trail really the right place to test how well your new skis handle speed? There is a time and a place for skiing fast, and the best place might be a NASTAR course or your ski resort’s designated trails.” If you’re looking to find a race course, make sure it’s designated for the public. Jumping into any race course you see could end badly when the racer just up the hill comes flying around the bend. Remember the golden rule—be aware of where you are and what’s around you. It’s fine to let your skis rip, but make sure you’re in the best place for it.

6. Be aware of lessons. Everyone was a new skier once. It’s tough enough to learn a new sport, but it’s especially hard when people go whizzing by you. Most lessons are in a slow ski zone, but it’s still smart to be aware of who’s around before you let your skis run—that golden rule again!

7. Share the trail! When a trail gets busy it can be tough to anticipate where people are headed. The best thing you can do is to put the brakes on a bit, pay extra attention to others, and hope that the people around you are doing the same.

8. Lunchtime. The same goes for lunchtime and getting dressed. On a busy day or weekend the lodge can be a crazy place. Often there’s not much room to breathe let alone eat or take your boots on or off. So if you have extra space at your table, share it! Who knows, you may meet a new friend!

9. Chairlift and gondola etiquette. Everyone’s had one…the awkward gondola ride. Though you can’t control the others around you, the best way to have a friendly ride is just to be polite yourself and hope the other riders follow suit. Nothing is more awkward than trying to ignore the other people riding with you, so give them a hello or some sort of acknowledgment as you get in. Your ride will be more enjoyable and they might even give you tips on where to ski. The biggest no-no for gondola and chairlift rides is smoking! Be courteous: In that small a space no one wants to breathe in cigarette smoke. One more helpful tip: Warn the other riders before you put the bar down on the chairlift. No one wants to get hit in the head!

And a ski bum’s #1 rule:

No friends on a powder day!