The 11 Unspoken Rules of Powder Skiing
Don't be the Jerry that breaks these
Powder skiing used to be elitist—in a good way. Weighting and unweighting turns in deep snow on skinny skis required a choreography of strength (the snow torqued on your knees and core), skill (the grace to de-camber a ski and then ride that energy return up and out of the snow), and a not insignificant lifestyle choice (to get the skills and strength, you had to ski a lot). Then came fat rockered skis and cheap mega-passes, which made skiing powder both technically easier and more financially accessible. And we’re fine with that. But with massive storm systems bearing down on the Rockies, it’s a good time to go over some rules that will help us all get along out there.
Apologize to Your Loved Ones in Advance
Winter is short and getting shorter, and with ever more powder skiers in the mountains, competition for untracked snow is Darwinian. The term powder panic undersells this effect. It’s more of a powder rut. We behave recklessly, like rutting elk. It’s been shown that ripping powder, like sex, lights up the limbic system in our brain and can make for bad decision-making.
Wear Whatever the Hell You Like
Nobody should care if you ski in a furry costume, glaciated blue jeans like Dick Cheney, or a $1,500 kit from Arc’teryx. Gaper gap? Totally fine, if a bit uncomfortable.
It’s become an unfortunate powder-day trend for skiers to get to the lift well before opening bell, place their skis in the first spot in the corral, and then walk into the lodge for a coffee and a cruller, thinking that their skis are reserving their rights to first chair as the line piles up behind them. With apologies to a buddy who is notorious for this tactic, this type of injustice will not stand. Please pick up your skis in the creek.
Get Off My Skis
I want to get on the lift, too. Just because it’s a powder day doesn’t give you the right to smack your board or skis down on my ski tails. Our skis are expensive parts of our personal space. It’s also not OK for you to traverse over my ski tails as you alternate in the lift maze.
Wear the Coat, Don’t Let the Coat Wear You
This is a special rule for ski patrollers, ski-school instructors, and any mountain employee flying the colors. If you got some sort of special early access to the hill, you’d better make sure we don’t catch you making ugly tracks in that pristine snow. Represent the mountain.
Don’t Be a Bottleneck
Societal rules exist because common sense doesn’t. So here goes: If I just caught up to you on a boot-pack or a traverse from a hundred yards back, it’s because I’m faster than you. Kindly step aside, just as I gladly step aside for those faster than me. Fail to heed this rule and you risk being subjected to so-called Teton Pass turtling, in which the skier behind you tugs you off balance, depositing you on your back in the snow.
Whoop, but Don’t Yee-Haw
Skiers have gone back and forth on this controversial subject for generations, but here’s the final adjudication: if you must let forth with climactic utterings as you shred, please contain them to single and rare onomatopoeic-locator yips and whoops from within the trees. No yee-haws, please. The board has decided, however, that it will accept the “whe, whe, wheeeee!” of the Geico pig.
Put Away the Selfie Stick
Unless there’s 30 inches of blower and the face shots are spilling over your head, you look ridiculous filming yourself in low-angle powder. That sound from the chairlift is heckling.
Beers are for Après, and Après Means “After”
Locals at one Colorado resort took the time to create an elaborate sign mocking me for raising this point in 2018. But I’m sticking to my guns: powder skiing is a marginally dangerous and moderately athletic pursuit that’s performed around other skiers and young children. Why would you get a buzz on before the day even starts? Pocket beers scream poseur.
Wear Your Avalanche Beacon—Just Not in the Bar
Wear that beacon in the backcountry. Hell, wear it on those monster in-bound days, too. Just put it in your pack when you get to the bar.
Winter is indeed challenged by climate change—and climate-change deniers. Donate to Protect Our Winters (POW), and help it empower the youth vote to cast aside those who would refute science. Let’s save powder days so that future generations can share in the glory of our misplaced priorities.