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Basic Ski Etiquette and Safety Tips for a Cool First-Time Trip

by Leap on December 16, 2019 Vail

When you’re new to skiing, knowing when to go, what lift tickets to buy and where to stay is just the beginning. Did you know there’s a whole other language to skiing? And, don’t froget proper ski etiquette (as my wife Flora continually needs to remind me). Here’s what you need to know to be respectful, speak the language and have fun.

Basic Ski Etiquette and Safety - Kid Ski Lessons

Basic Etiquette for Skiing and Snowboarding

  • If you’ve never skied or snowboarded before, take a beginner lesson. It’ll make the time on the slopes more fun for you and likely less of a distraction to others.
  • You learned this one in kindergarten: Be kind to those around you.
  • Be aware of everyone around you.
  • While on the slopes, anyone in front of you has the right of way. It’s up to you as the one behind to ensure you don’t go careening into skiers or boarders in front of you.
  • You wouldn’t cut off another car while driving (you wouldn’t, would you?) so don’t do it to a fellow skier.
  • Read the posted signs on the mountain. They’re not just there for decoration and are meant to keep all skiers and boarders safe and aware of the rules.
  • Stick to the runs that you’re comfortable with. This may mean that your group splits up or that the more experienced skiers need to tone it down on a green (beginner) run.
  • If you need to stop along the way down the mountain, don’t stop in the middle of the run; pull off to the side instead. Make sure when you pull off that you’re still visible to other downhill skiers so that they don’t accidentally run into you.
  • Be patient. If you’re a new skier, give yourself some time to learn and adjust to this new adventure. If you’re a seasoned skier, give those newer skiers some time to figure things out. Remember, you were once new to skiing, too!

Basic Etiquette for Getting On and Off Ski Lifts

Basic Ski Etiquette and Safety - Ski Lift Safety - Ski Lift Lake Tahoe

  • Leave your skis on.
  • When you queue up to get on the lift, remember that you’ll only have a few moments to get into position (when you’ll need to lean back into the chair). You’ll likely see a lift gate. When it opens, move immediately to the spot indicated by the lift operator so that you don’t hold up the line.
  • Your ski poles should not be on your wrists when you’re on the lift. Just hold both your poles in one hand and keep them somewhat in front of you.
  • Don’t smoke while riding the lift.
  • Getting off the ski lift is a bit of an art. As you approach the top station, be ready to get off the lift quickly. As you’re beginning to stand while coming off the lift, there will be a flat area where your skis can glide followed by a gentle decline so that you can move efficiently out of the way of people behind you. Also, don’t use your ski poles to get off of the lift. They’ll just get stuck in the snow.
  • If you fall getting off of the lift, try to move out of the way as quickly as possible.

Basic Skiing Vocabulary

Now you know some basic rules of the slopes, but what’s up with this skiing lingo? As a new skier, it’s important to know how to talk the talk. Seeing a “six-pack” is not a great set of abs and getting in a “run” is not your morning jog. Wondering what it all means? Here’s your alphabetical list of helpful skiing terms.

Alpine Skiing: Skiing downhill.

Apres-Ski with Kids - Scene

Aprés Skiing: Having absolutely nothing to do with skiing, this is the eating and drinking part after you’ve spent a day on the slopes.

Artificial Snow: It’s not always snow that falls from the sky that covers the mountains. Sometimes resorts make some of their own snow in addition to Mother Nature’s, often allowing them to open earlier in the season.

Base: The lowest point of ski resort.

Bunny Slope: The area of the resort designed for newbies.

Chair Lift: The contraption you sit on that brings you up the mountain.

Dump: Slang for LOTS of snow.

Face Plant: Yep, you can do this while skiing and I’m certainly guilty of it.

Freestyle Skiing: Definitely for the more advanced skier and involves more “tricks” than anything else.

Gondola: An enclosed chair lift.

Hardpack: Not what you want to hear about the slope conditions for your upcoming ski vacation. Rather than soft snow, hardpack is snow that has become hard and is extremely uncomfortable to fall on.

In-Bounds: Pretty much what it sounds like. Staying on the actual ski trails at a ski resort. Head out of in-bounds and you’re “out-of-bounds.”

Lift Ticket: A purchased pass that allows you access to chair lifts at one or more resorts. (Undercover Tourist can help you decide which one is the best for you!)

Magic Carpet: Think of this as an outdoor inclined moving walkway.

Moguls: Bumps in the snow which are often on more challenging runs.

Nordic Skiing: Also known as cross country skiing, this is mostly on flat tracks of snow and can become quite the workout!

Powder: Another term for snow.

Packed Powder: The best type of snow for skiing.

Quad: A chair lift that holds four people.

Rope Lift: Similar to the idea of a magic carpet (see above), skiers hold onto a handle on this moving rope and are gently pulled up the mountain.

Runs: These are the skiing trails. They come in four main types: green (easy), blue (intermediate), red (difficult), black (advanced).

Six-Pack: A chair lift that holds six people.

Ski-In/Ski-Out Accommodations: Accommodations where you can literally strap on your skis and head out the door to the slopes instead of hopping onto a bus or parking your rental car.

Snow Grooming: The process of “combing” over the snow to make it more enjoyable for skiers. (See “snowcats”)

Shred: Slang for skiing.

Snowcats: Nope, not actual cats. These are huge vehicles driven over, up and down the slopes to groom and refresh the snow for the next batch of skiers.

Tracks: The marks left by skiers. 

Don’t froget! Undercover Tourist can make your entire skiing vacation easy to book. With lots of lift ticket, hotel and rental car options, we can help you plan a hoppin’ vacation in no time!

Keep Hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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