Skiing is one of the world’s most popular winter sports. What was once seen as a luxurious pursuit for the elite has been democratised over the years by inexpensive equipment, snow cannon and a proliferation of resorts in countries as diverse as Australia, Japan, Bulgaria and Scotland.
Despite dire predictions of worsening snow records caused by global warming, more people take up skiing every year, which is great news for the sport as a whole, but does carry with it some problems. The most obvious of these is overcrowding.
In-demand resorts can often be swamped, especially during peak season, and busy pistes can be dangerous. This is why encouraging skiers and boarders alike to follow a common code of etiquette while on the slopes has never been more important.
Some of the following rules broadly correspond with those set by the International Federation of Skiing, while others are more informal and relate to simple courtesy. But they’re worth keeping in mind to ensure you have a hassle-free, fun skiing holiday, and that you don’t prove a danger to yourself or others.
Heed the dress code
A big part of being safe on the mountain is bringing the right equipment with you. That doesn’t just concern your skis or board, bindings and boots of course. You need to dress for the weather conditions, with warm, layered clothing.
It makes sense to always have a charged phone in a secure pocket, bottled water, a form of identification and a helmet. 25 years ago, they were a novelty. Today it’s rare to see anyone skiing without one.
More experienced skiers relish the challenge and plush snow that you often find off-piste, but leaving the piste carries its own set of dangers. At the bare minimum you ought to leave room in your backpack for an avalanche transceiver, a shovel and a probe, and if you don’t know the route, you should be skiing as part of a group or with a guide.
Most bottlenecks tend to form either at the top of the pistes or around the lift stations. A long lift queue is annoying, but why make it any worse? Some advice here is blindingly obvious - don’t cut the queue, or attempt to change lanes as this will just rile fellow skiers.
Ensure when approaching a lift that you begin to slow down well before you reach it, otherwise you risk ploughing into people.
When your turn approaches, be ready so that you don’t hold things up. If you’re skiing, have your poles in one hand and your lift pass in the other so that you can take your seat promptly. Don’t wait for other members of your group to join you - you can always reconnect at the top.
Naturally there’s a lot of fun to be had in whipping down a slope at top speed, but if you’re not in full control, able to turn or stop when you need to, then you’re no better than a cannonball, and about as welcome on the piste.
Going too fast when you’re not ready to do so, or the situation doesn’t suit it, means that you’re probably incapable of avoiding a collision with rocks or other people. If you want to open up the throttle then you need to be confident that you have enough room to manoeuvre and that you’re confident in the conditions.
Respect the environment
Essentially, leave the mountain as pristine as you’d like to find it. So don’t litter. If you smoke, carry a tin for your butts. Resist the temptation to hack at tree branches with your poles, and if you do encounter any wildlife, keep a safe distance.
If you see someone taking a bad fall, or arrive in the immediate aftermath, then you have an obligation to stop and check if they need any help. You don’t need to be trained in first aid to ski, but it’s common decency to look out for others. That’s another good reason why carrying a phone with you while skiing can come in very handy.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a beer or a glass of wine when you stop for lunch. But too much alcohol impairs your responsiveness as well as your decision-making. It’s also worth noting that many insurers will not pay out if you have an accident after drinking alcohol.
Stop and go safely
Before launching yourself off down the piste it’s essential to check that you’re not about to put yourself in the path of someone else.
When it comes to stopping, either to check your map, take a photo or catch your breath, you should ensure that you and anyone else in your group are off to the side of the piste, leaving space for others to go past and not causing an obstruction.
If you’re on a narrow piste then it’s best not to stop until it widens out a little, and if you take a tumble in a dangerous place, do your best to get clear as soon as possible.
Share the space
Respect the line of those ahead of you at all times. The downhill skier always has the right of way. Don’t cut people up, and have patience with novices if they’re obstructing your run. We were all first-timers once. This especially applies when you’re overtaking a ski school group, which may well contain young and inexperienced children. Give them as much space as possible.
Warning signs are there for a good reason - your safety. If a trail is closed off, or a reduction in speed is advised on a section of the piste, then you ignore this at your peril. Similarly, pay close attention to weather reports.
Respect the mountain
All of the above can probably be summed up with one golden rule. Have respect for the mountain, and the other people using it, and you should be just fine.
Now to book yourself the perfect ski holiday to test your new skills see our 2020 / 2021 season selection. We've got some fantastic offers for the start of the season including short breaks from £300pp, FREE lift passes in Val d'Isere and FREE places in Altitude Lodge, Les Gets.