Excelling at the art of skiing or snowboarding is complicated! Here are some tips for beginners or first-timers on honing mountain manners. Mountain etiquette is not always intuitive and just like outdoor/trail ethics, abiding by a few simple rules will keep everyone happier—and more importantly, safer—while skiing or snowboarding.
Lift Line Merging
One of the most basic principles of skiing and snowboarding is lift line management. If there is no attendant to sort you out, know that in North America, lift lines are organized so that as two lanes merge into one, groups of riders must alternate. This seems like an obvious thing, but it's always a bit surprising to see the number of guests who appear oblivious to the flow of line logic. Be polite, alternate and everyone will have a great day.
Also, do try to avoid knocking the person’s equipment in front of you. We all pay a lot for our ski and snowboard equipment, there’s no need to jostle the person in front of you. It just takes a little awareness and courtesy to avoid clomping on the person ahead of you in line.
Safety Bar Blues
When boarding the lift with strangers (or even friends and family), you should always allow everyone to collect themselves and ask before deploying the safety bar. Wait until the chair has exited the bottom terminal and let everyone know that you’d like to put the bar down.
Multiple times I’ve had my noggin clonked by an over-eager bar buster. Simply ask so that your fellow riders have a moment to situate their skis, poles, board, knees, children, appendages, etc. to avoid injury, bumps and bruises. This is another great reason to wear a helmet while skiing or riding! Nearly all of my noggin knocks have occurred from chairlift bars or getting clonked by other people’s equipment on the tram.
The mountains here in Utah are BIG! As such, our friendly ski patrols will often set traverses to help guests reach more remote terrain. There are a few things you’ll want to remember when approaching a traverse. This will make the mountain safer and more enjoyable for you and those around you.
Hiking to bigger terrain can be a rewarding experience as the lure for fresh tracks pushes you onward. There are a few things to remember about hiking that mainly relate to safety.
Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum
I hate to be a spoilsport here, but blasting music from crappy speakers while waiting in line is indeed considered rude by most folks. Subjecting everyone in line to your taste in music is a pretty selfish way to live your life. Many come to the mountains to enjoy the scenery, escape and recharge. Being forced to listen to someone else’s tunes is not relaxing. If you simply must, then enjoy your music while riding the chairlift, but please do not subject the rest of us to your dreams of DJ greatness while hiking, skiing or waiting in line.
On an added note, skiing or shredding with headphones is not safe. By doing so, you endanger others and yourself. If you are committed to jamming, consider using just one headphone or keep the volume relatively low.
Know the Code
The golden rules of skiing and snowboarding are simple, straightforward and designed to keep everyone out of the medical clinic!
Be the code.
Live the code.
We are the code.
Though it is a tenant of The Code above, it’s worth an extra mention that you should always be aware of your surroundings. This is yet another reason to avoid wearing headphones while skiing or shredding. We’re working with a lot here, equipment that slides, gravity, steep hills, blind rollovers and speed. It is critical to remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Much like driving, pilots who employ defensive driving techniques are involved in fewer accidents. Be a defensive shredder or skier. It’ll keep you and others safe!
The powder in Utah is world famous. We have excellent snow quality and what sets our state apart from other areas is the sheer quantity of snow we consistently receive. There is a downside to this bountiful harvest and that is the reality that more than likely, you’re going to be driving during a snowstorm. Many of our roadways employ traction laws and navigating during a blizzard can be downright treacherous. Here are a few tips:
Idle Free is the Way to Be
We can all do a bit better to address air quality and pollution issues. One of the simplest solutions is avoiding idling your car. If you’re waiting for the lifts to spin, waiting for your tardy friend in the carpool lot or just mindlessly scrolling through your phone, turn the key! You’re dressed in ski clothes. Leaving the car off for a few minutes is not going to make you cold.
Venturing into uncontrolled avalanche terrain is simply put: it’s a matter of life and death.
You should never venture beyond the boundary of a ski area without proper avalanche equipment, an avalanche education, the knowledge of how to efficiently perform a rescue and a current avalanche forecast. The beautiful, untouched powder beyond the boundary line is deceptive. It LOOKS amazing and resort guests are often lulled into a false sense of security having safely skied in-bounds all day, thanks to the tireless and daily avalanche mitigation techniques utilized by our incredible Ski Patrollers. You'll find a great overview of backcountry awareness and education resources here.
For a healthy dose of how serious avalanche mitigation is and the risks that Ski Patrollers undertake on a daily basis, please refer to our History of Avalanche Mitigation article. Don't believe me? Watch the Utah Department of Transportation shoot down an avalanche above Highway 210 in Little Cottonwood. Avalanches like these are not survivable. If you don't know what you're doing, you don't belong in the backcountry.
The terrain beyond rope lines is either NOT controlled for avalanches or it has been purposefully closed by Ski Patrol because avalanche conditions have been deemed unsafe. Additionally, terrain beyond ski area boundaries has not received the same amount of skier compaction as the terrain inside the resort. The weight of skiers and snowboarders repeatedly skiing the same runs within the resort has a tendency to compact the layers of snow, making them safer and less prone to avalanching. The terrain beyond the boundary rope has had neither skier compaction nor regular avalanche mitigation (aka Ski Patrol deploying explosives to trigger and release avalanches on purpose). The weight of a skier alone is enough to trigger an avalanche. If you are without gear and a partner who knows how to perform a rescue, your chances of survival plummet. Read more on ski resort gates and boundary lines here.
If you want to experience the bliss and solitude of backcountry travel consider a guided Interconnect tour with Ski Utah. It’s an amazing and safe way to experience backcountry exploration! Snowbird also offers backcountry cat skiing and helicopter skiing - info here.
Please refer to above for the reasons as to why ducking ropes in Utah is wholly inappropriate. At many ski areas across the US with less consequential terrain and thinner snowpack, ducking ropes isn’t viewed as a serious offense. Ski Patrol may turn a blind eye as folks duck ropes for some slightly fresher tracks. This is not the case for skiing in Utah. Ducking ropes in Utah is a serious offense that can result in prosecution and loss of pass privileges. We've got an awesome article here that helps break down the different signage you may encounter at Utah resorts.
Causing an avalanche, becoming buried by an avalanche, placing rescue teams in dangerous conditions and injury or death are simply not worth ducking a rope. In Utah, the consequences and realities of venturing beyond the resort boundary are very serious. Don’t be a violator. Follow the rules, and you'll live to ride another day.
Thank a Patroller
You can't imagine how much a little thank you means to these folks in red who work hard to provide an amazing experience for you! They endure relentless cold, black toenails, howling winds and all manner of discomfort and danger to ensure you have a safe and wonderful day. The same can be said for everyone who works in Mountain Operations. Heck, if you see a liftie, a cat driver, a snowmaker, a snow forecaster, a snow safety officer or a tram driver, show them all a little love and express some gratitude.
The History of The Greatest Snow on Earth - Click Here
What is a Lake Effect Storm - Click Here
10 Ways to Reduce Ski & Snowboard Trip Hassles - Click Here