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Category: ski safety

Chairlift Chats

Part of my love for skiing is the people… skiers bring such contagious energy to an otherwise chilly snow sport. From first chair to last and flowing into aprés ski, there’s a kinship among alpine enthusiasts.

One of my favorite aspects of skiing is meeting new people on the lifts, striking up conversations within the confines of our 5 minute ride up the mountain. I have met some rally “cool” peeps in my ski travels…. pun intended. Hey chairlift chats really do keep you warm, or at least distract you from the chill. Besides, there is so much to learn from fellow skiers. We share the same passion, serious commitment to our gear, our ski fitness, our  desire to travel to new peaks, and our love of skiing snowy covered mountains from fall to spring, from nearby to far far away.

My kids would eye-roll when I’d engage in a chair chat with our new quad sharing neighbor. Now they’re grown and they do it too. It’s a great way to pass the time (5-10 minutes) on your ascent, be it in a cozy gondola where its downright awkward not to talk (god forbid someone fart), a bubble covered chair which is very conducive to good acoustics, or an open air chair (btw: a better place to “pass gas” as my mum would say).

On chairlifts, I have met colleagues- literally – people I went to college with at University of Vermont- on a Gondola in Vail and the quad at Stowe. I have connected with friends of friends and sent selfies to mutual friends from a chairlift in Park City, ran into (not literally) my brother’s first roommate in Big Sky, and extreme skier Dan Egan. I’ve met pro ski racers (Ted Ligety), the snow reporter looking for someone to photograph in the fresh snow for the day’s social media post  (yes, that’s happened 3xs),ski reps from Atomic, Rossi, Parlor, Liberty, Kulkea – good peeps to know, right?! Sure beats sitting in cold silence. Don’t you think?

A natural starter topic is to chat about the weather, a classic ice breaker – you can bitch about the cold, or boast about today’s snow, pontificate the forecast. Is today a “Top 5” day or what?!

Ski equipment is a conversation magnet for alpinists…we’re gear obsessed as a ski society. Hey, how do you like those skis in the powder? But do they hold a grip on the hard pack? Those heated gloves you are wearing – “cool” – but how warm are they – I want to know for how long, how much, how effective, worthwhile or not? So much to share, learn and laugh about in this finite ski world with infinite possibilities. And on it goes…

My favorite ski topic: ski resorts you’ve visited and where’s your favorite ski destination… best ski day ever? The topics are endless, the lift rides are not – endless – so if there is no social synergy, you’ll be unloading soon.

Friendships have formed with these folks on the lift and in lift line, ever-early Wayne at Sunday River, Mark & Ken at Gondi 1 -Vail Colorado, Darian at Sugarbush (she rips)…. The list goes on…. I love these skiers (and snowboarders – I don’t discriminate one plank vs two) for their friendliness and openness to discussion, and their dedication to our mutually beloved sport.

Technology has me concerned, specifically – ear buds, skull candy, and cell phones on the slopes and how they’ve isolated and even eliminated the natural flow of conversation among everyone- including skiing “strangers” who could easily become buds. You can at least share a laugh and an engaging opinion or outlook given your commonality as the 4% that ski and ride. My kids laugh (or eye-roll) when my “hello” goes unanswered to my chairlift neighbor because their ears are filled with music-playing wires. Or worse, I respond to my chair neighbor’s question “hey how are you doing?” only to discover they are on their cell phone talking with someone else not present… literally not present.

In Switzerland, chairlift and gondolas rides are surprisingly quiet. I guess the Swiss are conservative and not very chatty. Greg and I always try to engage… in The Alps its become a game, even with our limited German. We’d love to hear more about skiing Europe from the genuine source…. but we haven’t scored very many Swiss friends…yet. One Swiss gent said, “We’re too tired between ski runs to talk”…. hmmm. Ski lift conversations give me energy, its not tiring- its engaging, I am infused with passion from like-minded ski fans. Downloading details on a recent ski trip is anything but a downer, it’s an upper for me while riding uphill. Hearing about an epic adventure from a ski friend is not only interesting but inspiring…. So many resorts to visit – love to get the firsthand perspective to help steer future trips.

I hope technology, which has so many benefits (RFID lift tickets, vertical tracking, weathercasting…) doesn’t erode the social aspect of skiing. I love to ski, and I love to talk to equally passionate skiers. Isn’t that why we love après ski (aside from the quenching libation and music)?

See you on chairlift in the future and perhaps we can become friends too – not like “facebook friends” but like in IRL (in real life). Cheers to chairlift chats.

 Copyright 2019, by Heather Burke of FamilySkiTrips.com

What NOT to say to a ski friend

“Don’t get hurt”, “be careful”, “don’t break a leg”, “I worry about you”, “don’t let anything happen to you”. This is what hear when I go skiing, from friends, whom I treasure and adore… clearly they care about me too.

But…

I don’t need extraneous fears and doubts in my head, especially when I am skiing. What I need is confidence and positivity…that’s all.  I know the tight rope I walk between safety and risk when I’m skiing, I know it very well. No one is more protective of me than me! My adventures and my risks are highly calculated.

I am never “not careful”. Greg and I put safety in our skiing above all desire to adventure, to ski untracked, to conquer new unknown snow terrain.

Skiing is my element, the mountains, the snow, the high alpine, its my environment, my choice of passion. Skiing is my zone, but in order to have the best (safest) skiing, I need to be “in the zone” – strong, ready, resilient, confident, courageous, prepared, present. There is no place here for self-doubt, for Debbie-downers pointing out the obvi…yes skiing comes with risk. I have read my lift ticket and season pass disclaimers, have you?

Ski resorts’ legal waivers clearly state “skiing has inherent risk”.  We could talk endlessly about risk versus reward, in skiing and in all sports and activities.

Instead I’ll just proclaim skiing is safer than texting and driving,  ponder that instead of my choice to ski and how risky it may be.

Yes, I’ve heli skied with a pack of testosterone charged men in Bella Coola, gone out of bounds in The Alps (as they say in France – it’s better to be off-piste than piste-off– lol). I have bobsledded the Olympic track in Park City (now that was dangerous), skied the speed trial run at Verbier, cat skied the remote Monashees (with a pack of salivating Sugarloafers), and look …I’m still here to write about it. Because I take great care… of myself, my surroundings. I have immense respect for the weather, the mountains, ever-changing snow. I have been educated on slides, tree-wells, avalanches. I also have the utmost respect for those who work in the ski biz, from liftees to groomers, to patrol and 1st responders.

Last but not least, I love my own body and know its strengths and weaknesses.

Don’t wanna get injured… been there, done that. Don’t wanna die either, haven’t done that – not ready – so much more to explore, so much life yet to live…  I also want to LIVE life to the fullest, not from the safety of my home, the sidelines are not for me …thank you.

Would you tell an Indie car drive “don’t crash” or the crazy Wallendas “don’t slip and fall”? At our summer camp in Maine, my sis in law shouted “don’t fall” just as the waterski boat pulls and you are getting up on water skis. Hey, thanks…didn’t need that seed planted right now. When my friend Mary announced she’d be climbing to Everest Base Camp, I gave her only positive encouragement, not “you could die” because she knew that. Proud of her… delighted to hear of her adventure firsthand.

I enter every adventure with thoughtful consideration and caution, a heady approach and  acknowledgement of worst case scenario, but also enthusiasm and a vision of best outcome – as a goal…which we often achieve. Visualizing our safe outcome, with proper preparation and fitness, is highly effective, especially at high altitude. Self-doubt, or voices in your head telling you not to get hurt, does not play in your favor. There is no room for uncertainty when you are in a steep white room, untracked, unknown…you  need your best self. I channel my nerves and anxiety (yes, I do get nervous) into positive energy, along with a quiet little self pep talk.

I will digress to say I am so blessed to have friends who genuinely care about me, my health and wellbeing, as I do them. Friendship is such a gift… caring about another human being that’s not your family, but someone you choose to share with, and laugh with, is one of life’s greatest gifts….perhaps the best of all! Because friendship… well, you earn it…the trust, the experiences – from the silly to the sublime, the camaraderie, the crazy, the loyalty, the acceptance and appreciation of knowing each other quirks. I love my friends! #iloveus

So my friends, next time you want to say “don’t get hurt”, instead say “have fun” or “I look forward to seeing your ski photos” and “let’s celebrate when you get back”… “go get it”, “do what you love”. I will in turn be as supportive of my friends’ crazy (ok, risky) passions and pastimes: running (oh my knees), sky-diving (OMG), making candles (hot wax – yikes), sunbathing (burn baby burn),  beach boot camp (ok – not so risky – just sandy, early morning and not fun).

I’ll be skiing (safely) with good vibes, thank you very much, it’s what I love, it challenges me, makes me happy, healthy, accomplished, vibrant.

Do what you love, love what you do, know the risks, picture the rewards, life is an adventure… go get yours…

By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke
Family Ski Trips Luxury Vacation Guide

 

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