Snow sports etiquette

A Guide to Ski Etiquette

Are you heading for the slopes this winter? Don’t leave for the airport without reading our essential guide to ski and snowboard etiquette.

You are stood at the top of a snow-covered mountain with the sun beating down on your back, ready to launch yourself into the perfect run. All of a sudden, a snowboarder whizzes past, cuts in front of you and forces you to stumble sideways. The winter wonderland exhilaration instantly evaporates, leaving you feeling annoyed, angry and even fearing for your safety.

I know we have said it before, but wherever there are people, etiquette will apply. Skiing and snowboarding are no exceptions and a few easy-to-follow rules will ensure that everyone makes it to the bottom of the slope without any unpleasant incidents or altercations.

All snow sports carry an element of risk but this can be reduced and managed by adhering to the principles of ski etiquette and keeping courtesy, empathy and personal awareness at the forefront of your mind.

Who has right of way on the piste?

The skiers or snowboarders ahead of you always have the right of way and it is your responsibility to avoid them. To further reduce the chance of collisions, make sure you leave ample space between yourself and others. Never prioritise speed over control, especially if the terrain is icy or visibility is low.

Do not create obstructions on the slope

Try not to stop suddenly or in a place where you are likely to obstruct other skiers. In particular, be aware of not stopping below a rise where it is difficult for people to see you. Parents are responsible for making sure that their children stay safe and do not create a hazard on the slope. If you do need to stop mid-run, try to do so on the side of the piste, rather than in the path of oncoming skiers.

Similarly, when you set off downhill or merge into a trail, the onus is on you to check that the path is clear. Think of it as joining the motorway; you need to give priority to traffic already on the road, wait for a safe opening and match your speed to the other cars in order to fit safely into the flow.

Safety first

Always respect trail restrictions and other official notices regarding ski area boundaries. They are there for skiers’ safety and ignoring them will put you, and others in your group, at risk. If changing weather conditions require you to slow down, do not be tempted to push on regardless as the consequences could be dire.

Alcohol and skiing are a potentially disastrous combination and drinking on the mountain should be approached with caution. Depending on your tolerance levels, a glass or two of wine with your lunch should be fine but resist any urge to overindulge. You wouldn’t get behind the wheel of your car after half a bottle of wine and the same sensible limits apply to skiing or snowboarding.

Helmets should be worn at all times and, when you are on the ground, make sure you carry your skis at an angle so you do not accidentally bump them into other people. As a polite gesture, true gentlemen might like to carry the skis for their wives or partners.

Practice proper lift queuing etiquette

No one likes long lift lines but in peak season they tend to come with the territory. The rules of snow sports etiquette are simple: join the back of the queue, move forward in a timely and organised fashion and be ready to get on or off the lift when it is your turn.

Do not try to reduce the waiting time by cutting in on other people. Use respectful language while you are in the queue and do not talk loudly on your mobile phone. Respect other people’s personal space and make sure you do not run over the top of other people’s skis and boards in your eagerness to get onto the lift.

If you are with a group, do not let half-empty chairs go past while you wait for one that can fit all of you. Always fill the available seats and arrange to meet the rest of your party at the top of the mountain. Greet the other people on the lift when you get on and if any of them are keen to chat, use the time to practice your small talk skills.

Be mindful of beginners

Everyone has to start somewhere and even the most experienced skier or snowboarder was once a beginner. While most lessons tend to take place on the slower slopes, make sure that you are always aware of who is around you. Use common sense to judge the appropriate speed, and if the piste is crowded, find a more appropriate place to put your new skis to the test.

If someone has fallen, make sure you stop and ask if they need assistance and help them to retrieve any wayward skis or poles. Being thoughtful and kind should always take precedence over your desire to get to the bottom of the slope as fast as possible.

A note on apres ski

The rules of ski etiquette apply even after you’ve left the piste. A large proportion of accidents happen on the ground so remain vigilant off the slopes and beware of icy patches and uneven terrain masked by snow. Put your skis, boards, boots and other equipment away properly so they do not become a trip hazard for other skiers.

Respect the culture of the country you are visiting and ensure your manners and behaviour are appropriate at all times. Show consideration to the people who live and work in the resort, especially if you are out late at night.

As always, the Golden Rule applies whether you are at the top of the mountain, hurtling down the piste or queuing up for an après-ski hot chocolate: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Follow this mantra and you will ensure that your manners are as on point as your parallel turns.

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