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