Know the Code.
Remember when every chair lift tower had a sign on it, sponsored by the National Ski Patrol or Coppertone, reminding us almost subliminally of the skier and boarder - Snow Riders Responsibility Code.
1. Ride in control.
2. The downhill rider has the right of way.
3. Look up hill when entering a slope or starting to ski.
4. Stop safely off to the side of the run.
5. Always have fun. (My personal favorite)
Where did those signs go and why did they go away. Is this information intuitive, outdated or did the corporate lawyers warn the resorts that they were incurring increased liability by stating the code. There were a few others minor items about and lift operations and using runaway straps but these are the top five. Now the only place you can find them is on the napkins in the lodge where you buy your 25 dollar hamburger.
Years ago I was riding with my young nephew Lucas and I taught him these recommendations. He committed them to memory and dutifully followed them for the rest of the day. On the last chair lift ride, he asked me innocently and honestly, ‘Uncle Matt, does anyone else know these rules?” I’m afraid not.
Does anyone else notice the surprisingly lack of etiquette that pervades the resort riding experience. Is it just me growing old and crotchety or is it the increased crowds using our modern high speed resorts. There seem to be more people and more diverse crowds everywhere, especially at the resorts. Different visitors, nationalities and age groups have different expectations and protocol but it is not just the French, who lean on you in the lift line or the teenagers, who are temporally oblivious to all others.
We locals are not used to riding with so many other people on the same run, half of them going sideways. I need lots of room and don’t like to ride next to someone I don’t know intimately. My turns are random, wide and swooping, as I often think the snow is better on the other side of the run and I actively pursue it. My personal slope Comfortable Carrying Capacity (CCC is the safe design of a slopes capacity) is one person - me, while the corporate models CCC is more like 10,000.
I wind up riding around yelling at people to GIVE ME ROOM, or looking at them and asking ‘Really’ or ‘Seriously’. Those are my new riding words, followed by ‘Whatever’. It used to be ‘Kowabunga’ or ‘Dude, watch this’, but times have changed and so have I.
I was riding the other day with Matisse, a ten your old beginner, when another rider shot across the run and hit him hard, helmet to helmet. To his credit the other rider stopped and sincerely apologized and made sure Matisse was alright. When we left I asked Matisse what he learned from the experience. He said defensively, ‘I had the right of way’. I asked him how that was working out for him. ‘Not very well’ he replied sheepishly. ‘Have your head on a swivel, all the time’, was all I could advise. It’s like riding bikes in Manhattan, the best offense is a good defense.
I have also found that if you wag your pole tip towards oncoming riders they tend to give you more room. When I stop, I hide behind trees and signs because who doesn’t know of someone who has been hit when they were just standing there minding their own business. I talk to people up hill and down of me and I sing and make noise so they really see me. I signal now when crossing a slope or putting on the breaks.
All I am asking is that everyone take personal responsibility to Know The Code and to live it. The resorts should help by posting signs and reminding us constantly so that The Code is second nature to us all, locals and visitors alike. That is not so hard to do and they can easily reduce their liability and could probably make money doing it with advertising and good will. Snow Riding, like driving a car, is a social contract and responsibility we all share and must respect with our attention and diligence. Let’s keep skiing and boarding fun, civil and safe for everyone.
Other recommendations we might live with:
ü Inform others when passing; ‘left side, right side, front side or back side.’
ü Your blind spot is your responsibility, check it often.
ü If you look up hill and see someone approaching you rapidly, let them by.
ü No texting or talking on the phone while skiing. Focus.
ü Keep your music low enough so you can hear those around you. Turn it off in the backcountry.
ü Don’t clog up the entrance to the maze of the ski lift.
ü Don’t go up to the front of the line and then turn around and look or wait for your friends.
ü Don’t use other skiers as a moving slalom course.
ü If I can hit you you are skiing too close.
ü No wall hits on crowded cat tracks. Please.
ü Don’t hit me on the head or crotch by putting the safety bar down unannounced.
ü If you hit someone, stop and see if they are all right, need help or want your name and address.
ü Don’t cut lift lines or rope lines.
ü Carry Transceiver and shovel in back-country, slack-country and side-country. Buddy up.
ü Do not traverse big bowls. Pick a fall line and ride it.
ü Do not drop in on top of other skiers in big bowls. Ski them one at a time and get out of the way.
ü Do not boot hike in someone else’s ski up-track. It ruins it.
ü Do not up-track thru good skiing or dangerous terrain. Cut one uptrack.
ü Say thank you to lift attendants and ski patrol whenever you can.
ü Always have fun and thank god for every day you can ski. It is a privilege and a blessing.