Ski Etiquette: The Skier Responsibility Code, Plus Five

The first time I played a round of golf, I ended up in tears. Not because of my terrible score, but because a good friend corrected me on a point of “etiquette.” Apparently, while putting, I stepped on her “line” — the imaginary line where her ball would travel across the green and directly into the hole for a par.

As a newbie, how was I to know there even was a line, let alone that the weight of my footfall could actually change this line and thus increase her score by one measly stroke? Hardly a matter of life or death, or even worth mentioning, I thought as the frustrations of the day caught up with me and I began to blubber. I’ve had a hard time taking golf and golfers seriously ever since that experience.

Not that etiquette doesn’t have its place. I believe that good manners and social graces are necessary for life in a civil society. I don’t want to live in a Lord of the Flies-type jungle. I like to use and to hear “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome,” especially from my kids. I think it is important to not eat like a barbarian, even in one’s own home, and to excuse oneself after belching. I also like good manners on the ski slopes.

New West Snow Blog recently ran a post about a skiing/snowboarding tragedy at Wyoming’s Hogadon Ski Area. On December 24, a young male snowboarder plowed into a mom and daughter who were stopped on a run. He was killed, as was the five-year-old daughter. The mom was injured.

Aside from describing the facts of the incident, the article was interesting because of the comments it elicited. Almost every comment contained a similar theme: when you are skiing or riding, you are not alone. You have to pay attention to your surroundings and others on the slopes. Slow down. A matter of personal safety? Definitely. A matter of good manners? That too.

Etiquette is commonly defined as a “code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to conventional norms within a society, class or group” (Wikipedia). When we participate in skiing and riding at a resort, or even in the backcountry, we are participating as part of a common group in an common activity. Hence, the “Code.”

My guess is that most everyone already knows the Skier Responsibility Code, or at least thinks they do, but a refresher is always good. So here goes:

  • Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
  • People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  • You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
  • Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  • Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  • Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
  • Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

Unlike etiquette in golf, the skier/rider responsibility code can be a matter of life and death. Slow down, pay attention, and remember you are not the only one out there on the slopes.

A Few More Points of Etiquette from The Brave Ski Mom….

I take the above code very seriously and I hope you will too. But of course, I couldn’t just let this post end without adding in my own two cents. So, based on my lifetime of skiing and the experiences I’ve had as a ski mom, I offer up a few more points of etiquette for your kind consideration.

1. Small children and beginner skiers make erratic moves. Please give them a wide berth. They are unpredictable. If you are on a green, beginner run, slow down and get far away from kids and newbies. Actually, anyone on any run can be unpredictable when skiing. Give yourself, and everyone else, plenty of room. .

2. Like to dart in and out of the trees or have a child who enjoys darting in and out of the trees? Please slow down upon reentry onto a run and look uphill to make sure you are not going to merge onto someone else. We’ve all seen kids come flying out of the trees and miss a collision by the tiniest margin. Well, when I was a kid, I saw the collision. It wasn’t pretty, yet the adult who was run into was very gracious. People aren’t so gracious these days.

3. While the Code instructs you to stop where you can be seen and where you are not an obstruction, please take this one step further and stop downhill from a tree or a sign. If someone is out of control, they will hit the tree or the sign instead of you. Stop on the very edge of a run, not in the middle and please never stop below a roller or a rise.

4. Wait for your buddies outside of the lift maze. If you are with a group, please wait until your group is together before entering the maze. If it is a busy day, there is no way they can catch up with you, pushing past other duos and quads. Even if it isn’t a busy day, you don’t want to be stuck at the front of the line holding everyone up and looking around for your girlfriend, child, husband or Aunt Alice. If you do find yourself at the front of the line without your partner(s), please step aside and let others pass while you wait. It is not a race.

5. Enough with the F-Bombs, already. Yes, the F-Bomb has become an ubitquitous component of the English language, capable of being used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective (I can’t recall having heard it used as an adverb yet, but I am sure that is coming). But despite its common usage, it is STILL RUDE. Remember when you are skiing or riding, you are in mixed company. If you wouldn’t want your children, your mom or your Aunt Alice to hear you drop the F-Bomb, don’t drop it. For many of us, skiing is a family sport and we don’t want to hear the F-Bomb, the S-Bomb or any other bomb you may feel helps you express how cool you are. Yes, you are cool and yes, you are having an epic day. Congratulations. Now please keep it to yourself unless you can clean it up.

Thank you.

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