Ski Etiquette 101: Good Manners on the Slopes

Few things are as exhilarating as skiing, but in the excitement of schussing down the mountain, it is important to be respectful to those around you.
Ski Etiquette 101: Good Manners on the Slopes
(Volker Meyer/
Bill Lindsey
For most people, a day spent on the ski slopes is a way to enjoy some physical exercise while recharging their spirits and mental batteries—and more people are enjoying it than ever before. According to the National Ski Areas Association, ski areas reported over 64.7 million visits during the 20222023 season. Some of these enthusiasts, such as Robert Redford, actor and founder of Sundance Mountain Resort, are drawn by the exhilaration of the sport. “I used to race cars,” he said in an interview with Roger Ebert, “but skiing is a step beyond that. It removes the machinery and puts you one step closer to the elements. ... It’s a complete physical expression of freedom.”
But freedom doesn’t erase the necessity of good manners. Unless you have your own mountain, chances are good that you’ll spend your day interacting in close quarters with all the others on the mountain in search of excitement and adventure. Adhering to skiing etiquette will keep everyone safe and help them have a great time.

Be Considerate of Others

The first thing you should do on the mountain is to be aware of your surroundings, wherever you are. When pulling into the parking lot, resist the urge to linger in front of the hotel or resort entry as you unload your equipment and luggage. Use luggage carts so you don’t hold up the line. Once inside, send just one person to the registration desk while the others wait nearby. Be aware of your equipment at all times, whether you’re waiting in line or carrying your skis through the hotel lobby, so that you don’t accidentally hit anyone or knock into things.
Carry this consideration into all of your interactions during your trip. Take a breath and smile at the workers, from the desk clerk to the wait staff at the restaurant and all the people you encounter at ski rental stores, cafes, lift ticket kiosks, and ski patrol personnel working the slopes. Remember that they’re there to do a job, not to play, and that many rely on tips to supplement their pay. While every worker doesn’t need to be tipped, be generous to those who provide a valuable service and do so with a great attitude, especially if they assist you daily. 

Brush Up on Your Ski Skills

Once you’re on the slopes, proper manners are even more important. A skier rocketing down a steep slope is like a projectile, and they need to tightly control their momentum lest they collide with another person, tree, or other immobile object. Lessons help. Many resorts and ski operations have instructors who  provide lessons for every skill level, from first-time schussers to those who have a lot of experience but want to expand their skillset. It may have been a while since they were on skis, so a refresher course or two is in order. There is no such thing as having too many skills, and taking lessons is an indication of wanting to be even better.

Choosing Your Color Run

After taking cues from an instructor, it’s time to choose your run. Ski runs are classified by color to indicate their skill level, so it’s up to the skier to know their limits. Unfortunately, there is usually no way to keep anyone from using the wrong run other than common sense. Persuading another skier—or being persuaded yourself—to “step up” to the next level before having the requisite skills can put both the unprepared skier and everyone else on the run at risk.
A run with a green marker is ideal for children or first-timers. Green runs tend to have lots of wide-open space and the gentlest inclines. 
Blue runs are considered “easy,” with maybe a 25 percent incline, and as such, they’re a great place for beginners to build confidence while they practice turning and stopping. In Europe, red runs are intended for skiers with intermediate skills—not experts yet, but who have mastered the basics. They tend to have about a 40 percent incline and are often narrower than green and blue runs. 
A black run is intended only for use by skiers with “expert” skill levels; they may not be groomed, may be full of moguls, or are otherwise laid out in such a way that only very skilled skiers should use them. A double or triple black marker indicates a particular run is only suitable for extremely experienced skiers.
Remember that there is never a valid reason to venture onto a closed run. The run may be closed for grooming or because the conditions were deemed unsafe for skiing; ignoring the sign puts the skier at risk of injury and puts undue pressure on the ski patrol to locate and assist the skier should their friends or family declare them missing.

Observing Skiing’s Right of Way Rules

Whichever color run you choose, you will eventually find yourself overtaking another skier on the slopes. In these situations, manners expert and blogger Emily Post wrote that “the skier in front has the right of way.” This is perhaps the most basic etiquette rule for skiing, and must be adhered to for safety reasons. 
When approaching a skier from behind, the rule of thumb is to pass them by a wide margin to avoid startling or scaring them. Inconsiderate persons may be tempted to closely zoom past, but this could easily result in a two- or multi-person collision or cause the person who was passed to fall.
Avoid whizzing by another skier when they have their skis in the “V” shape—called a snowplow—to control speed. Make sure to give them lots of room. It can be tough to develop the confidence required to get the most out of every run, and it takes longer for some than for others. Respect everyone on the run and where they’re at in their skiing abilities, and resist the urge to show off.

Lend a Hand to Anyone Who Needs It

When someone does crash, nearby skiers should slow down to check if they need help getting back up or if the ski patrol needs to be called. When assisting someone after a crash, be sure to offer encouragement and compassion, recognizing that it’s all part of the journey and that courage is found in the willingness to try again.

Don’t Cut the Line

Line cutters and those who hold a space for latecomers are some of the least popular people at a ski area, for good reason. Everyone gets to board the lift in due time, so by cutting the line, a skier identifies themselves as a bad sport. This reputation might follow them all day and perhaps into after-ski events as well. In contrast, those who wait patiently for their turn to get on the lift have the opportunity to visualize the run or get acquainted with those around them.
Remember that getting onto a chairlift can be daunting for new skiers, so be willing to assist them in hopping aboard. When skiing solo, look for other single skiers to share the lift so that more seats are filled and the line moves along more quickly. 

Après Ski

When all is said and done and another fun day on the snow is coming to an end, slow down and take a moment to enjoy the scenery. A day spent skiing should have everyone in a relaxed mood, so share the moment with those around you, even if they are strangers. For today, at least, they are your comrades and unofficial teammates. Doing your part when it comes to ski etiquette will not only help them, but will also help you.
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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