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6 Things NOT to do on Your Ski Vacation

November 22, 2013

With Vail opening today (yay!), I thought I’d post a sequel to my 10 Tips to get the Most out of Your Ski Trip.  This one focuses on all of the things I wish people knew not to do on the ski hill. This isn’t intended to be a rant; rather, think of these as friendly hints to have a harmonious time on the hill.

Beaver Creek Aspens

1. Don’t be afraid to look like a tourist. In case you haven’t noticed, skiing and snowboarding are very expensive sports.  No need to make them even pricier by buying new gear every year.  You might not feel as “cool” in your get-up from 8 years ago as you would in last season’s neons or whatever the heck is going to be in style this season, but who cares?  I’ll let you in on a secret:  most people will be able to tell that you’re a tourist no matter what you’re wearing.  And unless they’re pretty obnoxious people, they’re not going to care either way.

Same thing goes for your equipment – while you might want to upgrade if you’re still skiing on sticks that are two feet taller than you, from season to season the technology doesn’t generally change that much.  Heck, I haven’t even upgraded to rockers yet.  Think about how much more cash you’ll have to spend on your actual vacation if you aren’t routinely shelling out hundreds on new gear.

Only have a one-piece suit from the 1980s? Pretend that you’re wearing it ironically and you’ll instantly be stylish.

On a related note, don’t be afraid to pull out a trail map or ask for directions.  You, your companions, the other skiers on the mountain and the ski patrollers will all be a lot happier if you make sure you know where you’re going than if you accidentally end up somewhere you don’t belong and become a danger to yourself and others.  On that note…

2. Don’t ski or ride recklessly.  This should go without saying, but unfortunately it doesn’t always.  I know that it can be nice to let go of a little of your every-day responsibility on vacation.  But when it comes to responsibility for your personal safety and the safety of those around you, it’s really never ok to take a break.  This is a bit of a touchy subject for me ever since I broke my ankle a few years ago when a snowboarder who was riding way above her skill level flew out of the trees and T-boned me.

Yes, I’m now that grouchy lady who yells at people on the mountain to slow down.  But I’m not really telling you to slow down, per se.  I love to ski fast!  Just don’t go any faster than you can handle.  If you can’t stop quickly, turn at any moment and see what’s going on around you, you’re going too fast.  And parents, remember that your kids will follow your example and ski/ride accordingly.

back bowls

3. Don’t be cheap.  Hear me out. I know that if you’ve shelled out for a ski trip, you have already spent quite a bit of dough. And if you’re not made of money, you are probably trying to save here and there when you can. I totally support that. In fact, take a look at my 10 Tips post for some helpful hints.

But don’t cut corners when it comes to compensating and tipping the people who make your wonderful vacation possible. For instance, if you take a ski or snowboard lesson, realize that the instructor is probably only making about $10 an hour and relies heavily on tips. During the year I taught ski school at Beaver Creek, I can’t tell you how many times wealthy clients who dropped $700/day on a private ski lesson neglected to tip at all or tipped minimally (after telling me how much they enjoyed their lessons). In most cases, I like to think that they just assumed that if they were paying that much for the lesson, the instructor would be compensated generously. Not the case, at least for Vail Resorts instructors. Similarly, don’t forget to take good care of your servers, bartenders, valets, etc. They work hard over the winter season to be able to afford to live here!

4. Don’t forget to take turns in the lift line.  Alternating is a very important, if lost, art.  Be patient and wait your turn.  If you’re new to the sport, just watch what the few rows of people ahead of you do and follow suit.  We’ll all get up the mountain soon enough.

Vail Back Bowls

5. Don’t stop in the middle of a run.  This is actually one of the most dangerous things you can do on the hill.  If you’re skiing with a group, it’s expected that you’ll need to stop and re-group every so often.  Just choose your stopping places wisely.  Tucked off to the side or in front of a trail marker are both good options.  Right smack in the middle of a run or around a blind corner are excellent places to get run into.

6. Don’t forget that you’re in one of the happiest places on earth.  Seriously, where could you be that’s more beautiful and more fun?  Whenever you hit a snag (Johnny’s hands are cold and he won’t shut up about it, you made a wrong turn and found yourself out of your league, you forgot your socks and had to buy a new pair for $40), look around and remember how lucky you are to be on this trip.  The current “crisis” will be barely a memory when you’re sitting around the fire tonight reminiscing about your favorite run of the day or that awesome wipeout your husband had.

back bowls woo hoo

So hopefully I haven’t managed to dampen your excitement about your upcoming ski trip!  Where are you going?  What are your do’s and don’ts?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2013 2:17 pm

    Yes…If you dont want to look like a tourist then dont complain and tip because all of us locals tip like 50% and never complain about anything…except tourists not tipping and complaining. 🙂

  2. November 23, 2013 11:33 pm

    Love this, so helpful for working my first season at Whistler and never having skiied or boarded before now! Just a quick side note- your list starts with number 5 instead of number 1:)

    • November 24, 2013 3:38 pm

      Oops! That’s what I get for re-ordering the list at the last minute. Thanks for the heads up! And enjoy your season at Whistler – I hope it’s as fantastic as my first season in the mountains was 🙂

  3. November 24, 2013 2:25 am

    Great post!! I love skiing and miss it so much!! Nothing compares to skiing down the down and breathing in the cool mountain air!! Love tip #6!!

    • November 24, 2013 2:26 am

      Opps…it should have read ‘skiing down the slope’

      • November 24, 2013 3:40 pm

        Haha – skiing down the down sounds like fun too 🙂 But yes, it’s hard to beat! I just had my first day on-mountain today and it was wonderful. I somehow forget year to year how magical it feels to be up there cruising around.

  4. February 1, 2016 10:31 am

    #3 is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There is no way I am giving a tip after spending $700 on a lesson. That’s implying that you should be paid a tip to do the job. If the ski instructors think they are being compensated unfairly, they should take it up with their management instead of expecting a handout from their customers. Making $10/hour as a skiing instructor is very different from making $1.50/hour waiting on tables in a restaurant. Just because you work in a service industry does not entitle you to tips…even if you think you are being underpaid.


  1. Do as the Locals Do | Peaks and Passports

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