Ski Bum Advice: People You Meet on a Chairlift

As I approach my fourth decade of skiing, a few truths about the art of sliding on snow come to mind. First, there is no such thing as a bad day of skiing – every day on snow is what you make it. I can still remember having a blast racing giant slalom in a driving rainstorm while wearing a black garbage bag over on the Wetside of the state as a kid. Second, I do not have the knees of a 20-year-old anymore. Or a 30-year-old for that matter. But I sure am looking forward to knee-replacement surgery. And third, the types of people you might ride with on a chair never change. Next time you ride with a stranger, see if you can identify them by these characteristics.

  1. Fiddler on the Chair: From the moment you load to the second you unload, this person is non-stop activity. Every pocket in his or her jacket will be opened and closed at least eight times. Lip balm will be applied a minimum of five times, appearing from any one of their 20 pockets. Goggles will be removed, cleaned and replaced twice. For every five minutes on the chair, they will make three phone calls, send 10 text messages and update Facebook twice.
  2. The Mute: The utter silent response you receive when you ask the initial “So how’s your day going?” when you first load should say it all. Doesn’t matter how great the conditions are or how amazing the weather is, all you are going to get out of this person is crickets. Even offering a tidbit of beta on your secret stash will not work to provoke conversation. “If you’re looking for some fresh, poke your nose into skier’s left of C5 in the Glades – should still be some turns left.” Chirp…chirp….chirp.
  3. Chatty Cathy: The name here does not denote the gender of the skier at all. The blathering begins when this person appears next to you in a long lift line right after you yelled “single.” This will turn out to be the longest chairlift ride of your life. Conversation begins with the type of equipment he or she has had for the last 20 years – every single piece, right down to the socks. Next comes the most epic days they have had in the mountains, which is always followed by a long-winded commentary on the worst seasons ever, and their causes. The torture session concludes with a lengthy dissertation of his or her skiing experiences with their respective ex-significant others. You are so exhausted when you do unload that you have to head to the lodge for a shot of whiskey and a nap.
  4. Captain Ego: No matter how proficient you may be on skis, this person is going to enlighten you as to just how much more awesome they are. On a powder day, they will point out some perfect tracks clearly visible from the chair as being theirs. “See those there – I put those down this morning since I was on the first chair.” If it is a groomer day, the cleanest set of railroad tracks on the hill will belong to them, and you will be forced to listen to a 10-minute lecture on how they make turns like that. “I guess it all started when I was 10 and almost made the US Ski Team.” You start to wonder how much it would hurt if you hurled yourself off the chair. //

Brad Northrup is a former ski industry professional and ski bum. He is no longer allowed to ride with strangers on the chair.

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