Chairlift Chatting: The Good, The Bad, The Weird

chairlift chatting

Chairlift chatting…or yelling?

“Son, are you prepared to meet Jesus?”

braveskimom logoMy boyfriend, now my husband, turned to look at a man to his right. Through dumb “luck,” and their position in line, these two were riding a chairlift together at Crested Butte.

As my boyfriend looked at this unassuming skier seated next to him, it crossed his mind: Was this guy going to push him off the chair? Was this the day he was going to, in fact, meet Jesus?

Best Friends For a Few Moments 

Chairlifts are oddly intimate places. Sitting hip to hip, trying not to get boards entangled with skis entangled with poles, they are one of the few places I can think of where strangers regularly speak to one another.

Not on buses, not on trains and seldom on planes, do people who never met smile sincerely and start asking questions.

heated chairlift canyonsBut on a chairlift, we all seem to talk. Chairlift chatting is part of skiing and riding.

Here’s how it breaks down:

The Darn Bar

There are two ways to start a chairlift conversation by mentioning the safety comfort  bar. The first, all too common, involves grabbing the bar and pulling it down immediately, crashing it into the helmets of your fellow chairlift passengers.

Please note this is neither safe, nor friendly. Plus, this conversation starter ensures that no one will talk to YOU, the over-anxious bar deployer.

Instead, the other skiers and riders will sigh, mutter or audibly curse you. Then, they will turn to one another, backs to you and begin chatting about the epic snow conditions.

A better strategy: Wait until everyone is comfortably situated and in a nice, friendly voice say “Do you mind if I bring the bar down?”

Now you’re part of the party.

How’s Your Day Going?

My son calls this “juicing” and according to him, there are rules.

1. Always assume the skiers and riders on the chairlift are experts and ask them questions about sick lines. Since your question assumes they know what a sick line is, you flatter your chairlift companions and if they know where the sick lines are, they may tell you.

If in fact they’re actually beginner skiers, you’ve put them at ease and you can have a friendly conversation.

2. The flip side: if you turn out to be the better, more experienced skier or rider, it’s now up to you to scare the dickens out of your chairlift partners.

Sick lines, sicker falls, near misses, epic fails and huge air: the more scary details you can work into a conversation with a big smile on your face and enthusiasm in your voice, the better. And when it’s time to get off, depart confidently, with a big “enjoy your day!”

Depending upon which side of this conversation you find yourself, you’ve either just juiced someone, or been juiced yourself.

park city chairlift in heavy snow

Earbuds In, Mate.

This is an easy one. If the earbuds are in, there’s no talking to be done. Smile, turn away, and enjoy the view.

Another Kind of Bud, or Basic Inappropriate Behavior 

While asking someone if they’re ready to meet Jesus may seem appropriate to some, it’s a bit weird.

So are rude jokes, blatant pick up lines and offers to share a joint with strangers who are clearly moms, skiing with kids.

The most uncomfortable conversation I’ve had on a chairlift?

It went like this:

“Are you a nurse?” (Asked by an older man with a northern European accent.)

“No.” (My reply.)

“That’s too bad. Are you a nurse?” (Asked of my friend who is lucky to be seated next to me, but not next to said older gentleman.)

“No, but I work in a hospital, is something wrong?” (She is very kind and replies with sincere care.)

“Oh, my hands are cold and I hope one of you will warm them up.” (Said with a laugh. Met with silence.)

“Later today, do you know where the party is?” (Really guy, that’s your next line?)

snowy steamboat

It’s a Small, Small World

While most chairlift conversations are pleasantly forgettable, sometimes the stars align and a simple hello can lead to random connections, reunions with people not seen in years (and unrecognizable under helmets and goggles) and new friends and ski buddies.

That’s the best part of chairlift chatting: sharing a passion and departing with a smile and best wishes. Even if you don’t continue skiing together, or never meet again, for just a few minutes, you’re BFFs.

Just don’t go weird. 

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Comments

  1. says

    You are so right….What is it about sharing a lift that’s so different from sharing an elevator ride, or god forbid, a 4 hour flight? Maybe a lift ride is “just the right amount of time” to engage a bit and have a nice chat, while knowing that there’s a graceful exit to the conversation just a couple of minutes away. No matter, I love the moment and it’s amazing the places the conversation can go.

    • says

      Funny, isn’t it? But I think you hit the nail on the head – there is always a graceful exit and no awkward moments trying to extricate oneself from the conversation.

      Thanks!

  2. says

    My weirdest: Three old guys and a twenty-year-old guy, all strangers, share the chair. The talk swiftly and strangely turns to prostate exams and the vexing medical question, Should you get one? The three oldies are all up on the subject. They discuss it with vigor while the young guy sits there, mouth open, head shaking. He can’t believe the alternate universe he’s unwittingly stepped into when he got on the chair.

    — jules

    • says

      And that was a universe he had never even contemplated. What’s a prostate to a 20 y-o? Or to me for that matter?! Yikes! Funny story, thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    Hi there !

    Really enjoy your posts!!

    With this last one – about “meeting Jesus” – thought I would share this with you. The Catholic lay-preacher we had in the village, was moved to a larger community a while back, but comes to visit regularly. And the one occasion he was in a local supermarket chain, and this very over-zealous lady crept up to him (he was wearing civilian clothes – no collar) and bible in her hand asked him: “Do you know the Lord?”

    He has a wicked sense of humour – and he replied: “why yes, I do – very well actually !” You should have been here earlier – he was shopping right here buying large quantities of steak pies !” The poor woman did not know quite what to do ! I had to laugh – and said to him “shame on you!”. He looked at me, and said: “if you ask dumb questions – you’ll get a dumb answer”.

    Enjoy the day.
    Regards
    Jonathan

    • says

      That is so funny…and so true…(about asking dumb questions and getting dumb answers…not about the Lord buying steak pies!)

      Thanks for sharing! Take care and enjoy our Northern ski season which is fast approaching!

  4. Paul says

    Enjoyed your blog today and agree that chairlift encounters can run from fun to weird. Don’t know if it is my age, but people talking loudly on their cells on the chair really bugs me!

    • says

      I hear you…at least I hear you when I’m not surrounded by loud cell phone talkers. On a chairlift, in a restaurant or in a store, I don’t like overhearing other people’s one-sided personal exchanges, either.

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Richie Silver says

    Love todays blog-one guy once told me he owned the domain name Texas.com—-wonder whatever happened

  6. says

    Here are my thoughts on this topic: http://www.wi-ski.com/empty-chairs/

    I can not say I’ve had a creepy conversation on a chair (though I’ve had one such conversation in a pub in Tipperary Ireland), the worst they get is one sided and usually they are with teenagers.

    I don’t listen to music while skiing for the same reason I refrain from doing so while bike riding, I want my ears to be working on detecting threats from behind.

  7. Diane says

    Best chairlift experience… I found a long lost second cousin on a chairlift when I worked for Park City. We had on our name badges, hers said she was from Buffalo. I said, “My dad is from Buffalo. He went to PS 66 for elementary school.” She said, “My dad went to PS 66 too!” Turned out that our dads were cousins.

  8. says

    Great topic! Unfortunately, I can’t think of a chairlift story at the moment. I’m usually alone, in ski areas with a lot of teenagers, who prefer to hang out with their contemporaries. They let the old man jump ahead in the line.

    The closest I can think of when it comes to a lift story is from a lift line. When skiing in Colorado with my brother-in-law said, when we were near a lift line, “Hey, it’s the Backstreet Boys!” They were nowhere to be seen.

    He made a few young women turn their heads, though.

    On the point of earbuds: I find it annoying to start talking to someone only to realize that they’re in their own little musical world.

    • says

      What was that you said? Oh, let me turn down the music. I can’t agree more about earbuds, except when I don’t want to interact with the person next to me! I’ve never done this on a chairlift, ’cause I don’t ski with music, but I’ve done it on an airplane!