“Son, are you prepared to meet Jesus?”
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.
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.
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?)
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.
- iPods While Skiing: Yes or No? April 14, 2011.
- Ski Etiquette: The Skier Responsibility Code, Plus Five, February 16, 2011.
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