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Skiers need to learn some basic etiquette

On a recent Saturday, I was skiing at Kissing Bridge. I never ski on weekends. I'm retired and have the luxury of skiing on weekdays. I have the place to myself, get a spot in the first row of the parking lot and often ski untracked powder.

The downside is a shortage of companions to entertain with ski stories while riding up the chair, like the time at Alta Peruvian Lodge in Utah. We were in the outdoor pool after a day on the hill. Suddenly, an avalanche poured down off the mountain, rearranged the cars in the parking lot, filled our room with snow and buried our clothes.

But as I was saying, I like to ask kids how long they've been skiing and then wow them with how long I've been at it. I tell them how I started on 9-foot wooden boards with a leather toe strap and skied down snow piles in our back yard. Or I share the story about the time I skied up to Lake Colden on Mount Marcy, solo. It was 10-below and Pete Fish, the ranger, made me move my tent because I was too close to an unoccupied lean-to when he and I were the only human beings in 15 miles.

But I digress. I went to Kissing Bridge on a weekend because I was desperate to ski. The week before, we were in Vermont at Mount Snow. The wind was blowing 50 miles an hour so the lifts were shut down -- after we had bought our tickets.

So I braved the crowds in Colden. The parking lot was jammed and there was a lift line. I rode up with three snowboarders -- all wearing iPods -- and had to talk to myself.

The hill was thick with ski lesson groups, hot-doggers and families teaching toddlers. At the bottom, the run narrows into a chute where skiers converge. I considered avoiding the chute but thought, I'll do it carefully.

I was skiing cautious, short swings to one side of the chute when, wham, a freight train blind-sided me. I went flying and landed hard on my right side. The packed snow was deep so it was not like hitting concrete. Nothing broke but everything hurt.

A teenager in a brand new white helmet and black goggles came into focus. He was staring at me from 20 feet downhill.

"Sorry, I didn't see you," he said.

"You didn't see me?" I yelled.

At that moment, if I was 65 years younger, I would have knocked him on his keister -- if I could have gotten up.

"Where the heck [I'll paraphrase] were you looking, you stupid blankety blank?"

The young gentleman stood his ground calmly and asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I am all right! What the heck were you thinking?"

He said politely, "Do you want help?"

His politeness made me sick. I yelled, "Yes, you can help me."

He clambered up to me holding out a hand.

I yelled, "The reason I'm letting you help me is that I want to make a point with you before you kill someone. Skiers are going downhill. So, to not bump into anything, they look down hill. If you pass other skiers, it is your responsibility not to hit them. You can see them and they can't see you. Got it?"

He had me half-hauled up out of the snow; tottering on one ski. If I fell again I'd look like a real schlump. By sheer force of will I stayed upright.

I gritted my teeth and barked, "thank you," at the polite teen.

Anyway, I got a story out of it.

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Larry Beahan, who lives in Amherst, wishes skiers would be more careful on the slopes.