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  • Group Skiing

    Snow Culture and Etiquette

June 2018

The Dos and Don’ts of Skiing and Snowboarding.

So you’ve been to the snow before, you’re progressing from beginner status, you’ve got yourself a stylish jacket and splashed out on a lift pass with lessons included. But what are the rules of the mountain? I mean, where should you stop if you really need to, halfway through a run? What if you need to go to the toilet? Do people still say ‘gnarly’? While there are no regulations set in stone, there are a number of unwritten, common sense rules that will keep everybody on the slopes safe and happy. We share just a few of the most important ones.

Right of way

Much like driving, there are rules relating to who has right of way: it’s the skier or snowboarder in front of you. Of course, this means that you need to have the skills to stop, to avoid obstacles and to keep a safe distance between yourself and other people.

Which leads to the next rule: understanding your own abilities. Don’t take on a black run before you can effortlessly complete a blue. If you don’t know what trail colours and symbols mean, here’s a quick rundown:

  • Green Circle: These indicate beginner runs, which are very wide and gently inclined.
  • Blue Square: If you can parallel turn on your skis or link turns on your board you’re ready for intermediate blue runs!
  • Black Diamond: Steep and challenging, for experts only.

You should always be in complete control of yourself and your equipment, unless you want to host a yard sale - which is when a skier or boarder wipes out leaving their stuff strewn across the slopes. Modern skis have “brakes” so if they do come off you don’t lose them to gravity down the hill, whilst most snowboards usually come with a leash - use it!

There are two exceptions to the rule relating to the skier or rider in front having right of way:

  1. If you’ve stopped and aren’t visible to oncoming skiers and riders: In this case, you can’t really blame anyone for running into the back of you. Always pull up to the side where you can be clearly seen by everybody else.
  2. If you’re merging onto a trail: In this instance, you have to give way to oncoming traffic just like you would on the freeway. Look uphill and take your time before pulling out!

Respect for the terrain

Again, just like in real life, you should observe signs and warnings. If a trail requires you to slow down or keep out, respect that. Weather can change in a matter of seconds in Australia’s alpine regions, as can surface conditions. It’s likely that the resort and park rangers know local hazards and risks better than you so follow their instructions.

While helmets and wrist guards are not compulsory in Australia, they are highly recommended to minimise your risk of injury. Because nothing cuts a holiday short faster than a concussion or broken wrist!

If you see or are involved in an accident, lend a hand to the people involved or alert resort staff.

Never ski or board under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Always take all your rubbish off the mountain with you.

And if you need the toilet, refer to your trail map. Restrooms are generally located in the main village, some resorts have on-mountain facilities - make an effort to use them because nobody wants to come across yellow snow!

Chairlift manners

Prior to using any type of lift, you should know how to load, ride and unload safely. Of course, you should also be aware of where you’re going so you don’t end up at the top of a slope you can’t handle. This is where a trail map comes in very handy.

Whilst waiting for the lift, don’t cut the queue - most people will just stop you if you try anyway - and definitely don’t run over other people’s shiny boards or skis.

If you don’t get to ride the chair with your mates, just share with a stranger. You’ll meet up again with everybody at the top, we promise! If you hold up the queue and let half-empty chairs or t-bars pass by, be prepared for a lot of dirty looks.

Lastly, be nice to the liftie - they’re there in all weather conditions to make sure you get on and off safely.

Embrace diversity

You’ve probably heard skiers complain about how “boarders cut up all the fresh powder” and conversely, boarders complain about “skiers passing too close”. The rivalry between both sports is old news! So be polite on the slopes - after all, everyone is here for the same reason as you.

Local lingo

So do people still say “gnarly”? Not really, it’s a bit old school However, there are plenty of terms that give snowsports their special character, but you don’t necessarily need to use them yourself to “get with it”. Here are just a few of the popular ones you might hear bandied around the mountain and what they mean:

  • Air: This is when you make a jump on snow. The bigger the air, the bigger your skill level needs to be!
  • Après: The day’s over so it’s time to party! “Après” means “after” in French, and the term covers all social activities that take place at a resort after a day skiing or snowboarding.
  • Backcountry: This covers any terrain outside a resort’s patrolled boundaries that is away from prepared ski runs and out of bounds. Favoured by expert-level skiers and riders to avoid crowds. If you go backcountry always tell friends or family of your plans.
  • Bail: Eject, fall over or fail. As mentioned above, a “yard sale” or “garage sale” is when you bail spectacularly, leaving your gear all over the slopes. It can also mean ‘to leave’.
  • Booter: A jump made to launch off. Can be natural but usually man-made.
  • Box: Found in terrain parks that you can slide across on skis or on a snowboard.
  • Carving: Advanced skiers and snowboarders use the edges of their skis or snowboards to turn down slopes, which is the most efficient way to travel downhill without burning off too much speed.
  • Dump: Fresh snowfall. And lots of it.
  • Edge: The sharp, metal strip found on the sides of skis and snowboards. Critical for carving.
  • Elephant Snot: When the snow gets sticky and slow making it hard to get through.
  • Freeride: A style of skiing and snowboarding off-piste involving doing big turns or tricks on natural terrain or in a terrain park.
  • Grooming: This is what a snow groomer or piste-basher does at the end of each day to smooth out the trails in preparation for the next day.
  • Liftie: A person who operates a ski lift and usually is a treasure trove of local knowledge.
  • Line: The route on a run or off-piste that a skier or snowboarder takes.
  • Mogul: Bumps made of compacted snow, which require skiers and boarders to turn tightly around them.
  • Piste: A groomed ski run. Off-piste is anywhere else!
  • Piece of Pizza: Pointing the front of your skis inwards to make a wedge shape in order to slow down.
  • Powder: Dry, light and fluffy snow.
  • Pucking: See ‘dump’
  • Rail: A metal bar, found in terrain parks, which skiers and snowboarders can slide along.
  • Shredding: Riding the terrain downhill (usually on a snowboard). A ‘shredder’ is a ripper snowboarder.
  • Shred Betty: A bit old school, but can mean a female snowboarder that rips.
  • Snowplough: See definition for “piece of pizza”.
  • Twin-tips: A type of ski with curved tips at both ends, designed for performing tricks like going backwards.
  • White-out: When you can’t see anything due to heavy snowfall or thick fog.

The final word

If you finished reading this guide, you’re obviously concerned about committing a faux-pas or being “that person” that all other skiers and snowboarders secretly judge. Don’t worry about it - all you need to do is stay alert, respect everybody around you and most importantly, remember to have fun!

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