Let’s Talk About Chairlift Conversations

by Dan Giesin | December 20, 2023

One of the great and lasting beauties of skiing — perhaps even the most beautiful thing about skiing — is its individualism.

The essence of skiing lies in the exhilarating experience of gliding down snow-covered slopes, feeling the freedom of movement and connecting with nature.

At its core, the sport is simply you encountering the all-encompassing joy of being in the mountains.

And chairlifts, perhaps the greatest invention in the history of Alpine skiing, are among the quickest means to attain this nirvana.

There are times, however, when you must encounter another aspect of modern-day resort skiing — other people.

And nowhere else on the hill is this situation more pronounced than on a chairlift.

Sure, you are bunched together with your fellow humans in the queue leading up to boarding the chair, but in the lift line you can still maintain a skosh of individualism, or at least the fleeting feeling of it, as you shuffle toward your uphill conveyance.

But once on the chair, you’re stuck.

A Place of Intimacy

Let’s face it: Chairlifts are intimate places, with up to seven other skiers and boarders — depending on the size of the chair — sharing your space. And in close quarters.

But unlike many other public conveyances, such as subways, buses or airplanes, people on chairs — total strangers even — have the urge to engage in conversation with their seatmates.

Most of the chatter involves exchanged pleasantries and other banalities, but sometimes these minutes-long rides can produce lively conversations and humorous anecdotes. 

And on rare occasions, they can result in friendships — if only lasting for one run — forged 50 feet in the air.

As with any other rules of public discourse, there are niceties and no-nos involved with chairlift chatter. What you talk about — and even how you talk about it — can make the difference between a pleasant trip up the hill or a seemingly interminable ride where you cannot get off the chair fast enough.

Keep It Pleasant 

Among the topics of conversation that would fall under the former category is something so insignificant but so totally harmless is probably the most obvious: the weather. If nothing else, most skiers often consider themselves being a bit of a meteorologist and discussions about the prospects of snowfall — or lack thereof — are a common interest.

Conditions on the hill is a solid topic, as is talking about which runs you’ve been on and which slopes seem to be in the best shape.

Another sure winner — and for me  the most intriguing conversation opener — is “Where ya from?”. Which then leads to the follow-up query, “What’s your home hill?”. Comparing and contrasting geographical specifics can make even the longest chairlift rides feel shorter. 

Even discussions on equipment is a safe and oftentimes intriguing conversation.

NSFC (Not Safe For Chairs)

On the other hand, there are certain topics of conversation that can leave some people, if not most, squirming and should be discouraged.

One of them is oversharing. No one, particularly total strangers, wants to hear about your latest sexual conquest or how you nailed that big contract or how badly your kids were behaving this morning.

Loud and obnoxious behavior — particularly a constant bombardment of F-bombs — should be punishable by banishment from the hill. But that’s just me.

Also be aware of who your fellow travelers are. Some youngsters feel uncomfortable holding a conversation with older folks. And vice versa.

But remember, no matter how lively or how wretched the chair chatter is it will only last for a few minutes and then you can be back to where you really on the be:  Alone on the hill.

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