Ski Etiquette 101

by Kirsten Dobroth | February 26, 2018

March officially marks the beginning of Spring Break month for families and college students across the country, which typically means one last surge of skier and snowboarder traffic before the hills starts to die down for the season, so we’ve compiled some of our most important pieces of skier etiquette to keep in mind for you next trip (and for locals to refresh) before you hit the slopes.

Cat Tracks 101

It might not come naturally to think of the rules of the road as you’re cruising around the slopes, but when you’re mobbing down a cat track, you’re actually on a mountain highway. Think about it; would you stop abruptly in the left lane of the highway, or cut across all lanes of traffic without looking to get off at your stop? If so, you’re most likely a terrible driver, although the majority of us would probably say no, and it shouldn’t be any different on a cat track. Check who’s around you before you make moves to get off at the run you’ve been eyeing, and never stop and wait for people in the midst of the cat walk.

Be Aware of the Pack

The official code might say that downhill skiers have the right of way, and they most certainly do, but that doesn’t abdicate downhill skiers from being aware of those around them. Uphill skiers might have an eye on you, but they don’t know your next move, so if you’re hugging the lefthand side of the slope, at least peek over your shoulder to see if it’s a good time to cut across the slope.

Puff, Puff, Pass

No smoking, please! First off, even if you live in Colorado, many ski areas are on federal land, which makes it a huge no-no if you get caught toking up on the hill (and if you don’t live in Colorado, states like Utah and Wyoming have pretty strict rules on pot use). Secondly, whether it’s marijuana or cigarettes, if you’re on a chairlift or gondola with people you don’t know, they probably don’t want to inhale whatever you happen to be. If you need a smoke break, ask on-mountain staff where would be an appropriate place, and NEVER ditch butts anywhere but a receptacle that’s meant to handle them.

Hitting the Bar

Sure, we get it, some people don’t like heights, some people have little kids, some people like to rest their skis on the foot rest – it’s fine if you need to put the bar down, but give your fellow chair lift riders a bit of notice (a friendly, “Bar down!” is always appreciated), as it’s never fun to get smacked upside the head from a bar you didn’t see coming.

Enjoy the Ride

My colleague here at, Dan Giesin, covered some of the finer points of chairlift civility, another umbrella of on-mountain behavior that should be mandatory review for anyone visiting ski resorts over Spring Break. Along with some of his friendly reminders of letting people get through who aren’t waiting for other skiers, throwing away trash at designated trash cans, among others, keep in mind that everyone’s trying to have a good time. Locals have a heightened responsibility to be the ambassadors for their ski community; it might be frustrating to suddenly have your mountain inundated with tourists, but that’s all part of living in the mountains, right? A friendly reminder goes a long way, too, if you notice someone breaking some of our guidelines for mountain etiquette, try to keep a smile on your face, and if all else fails, just keep calm and ski on.

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