Not Knowing Where To Ski
Perhaps the number one issue when showing up at a new resort is where and when to ski terrain. I’m not suggesting that you can’t find the signature terrain. I’m talking about finding the best lines in the terrain and knowing the best times to ski them.
When I was younger and traveled to ski resorts, I can’t tell you how many times I got there and just started to ski. I had a map, what more did I need? I didn’t really know where I was going or what I was doing. I loved exploring and discovering the mountain. I missed tons of great terrain. I spent hours on runs that skied poorly. I couldn’t have been more inefficient.
You’ve heard it a hundred times in hundreds of contexts. Ask someone in the know when you go someplace new, or do something you’ve not done before. Traveling to Italy? Where will you go? Ask locals, friends who’ve been there, read a tour book or take a tour. Buying your first pickup truck? What kind? Ask friends who owns pickups, read reviews, take a test drive. Having your first child? What do you need to know? Ask family and friends with children, read parenting books, do some babysitting.
Problems When You Don’t Know Where To Ski at a Resort
When I started spending ski season’s in Taos, I learned lessons that many visitors never learn. I learned that any day offered some type of good skiing. Even in poor conditions (poor coverage, bad visibility, ice, slush, etc.) you could find good runs. The issue was when and where.
It involves knowing where to ski given current conditions, the time of day and the aspect of the run. Where and when does the sun first hit the ice and soften the snow? What glade runs are best in foggy or snowy weather? What steeps are skiable when coverage is poor? These lessons are associated with how a mountain skis.
Problems Not Knowing How A Mountain Skis
If you don’t know how a mountain skis, here’s what can happen:
- Miss great terrain or lines
- Spend in poor conditions
- Ski runs at the wrong time of day
- Risk higher rates of injury
Expert Tips When You’re New To A Resort
I knew all about mountain tribal knowledge from my years skiing at Taos. On my GNASA I made it a point to find those who knew their mountains the way I knew Taos. Below are techniques you can use to do the same.
Talk to Locals
Finding locals at a resort is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. The easiest way to find locals is to ask people around you. For most locals, their home is a badge of honor. After all, you’re visiting for a reason, and they live where your vacationing. Acknowledge that with something like, “Wow, your so lucky to live here! What’s it like?” If they start talking, you’re in.
Ask them where they’re skiing and questions about when to ski certain areas. Ask them about their favorite lines. I would offer locals lunch or beers if they’d show me around. Note: I would always tell locals I was from Taos. That indicated that I could ski. On great days, locals are there to ski and don’t want to be slowed down or try and explain powder rules to someone they don’t know. Anything you can quickly say to alleviate that concern goes a long way.
If you’re shy or don’t like asking everyone around you if they’re a local, find out where the locals hang out. Every resort has a place where locals get their morning coffee or breakfast burrito. Ask a ticket seller, host or someone in a resort jacket where it can be found. Go there. Ninety percent or more will be locals and they’ll be saying hi to their local buddies.
Ask Ski Patrol
Every mountain has ski patrollers. Ski patrollers keep the mountain safe. That includes avalanche prevention, opening and closing terrain as conditions change, and aiding injured skiers. No one knows more about a mountain than patrol. They’re there hours before a mountain opens and get condition reports all day long.
Many are friendly. But they can be busy, especially when condition are volatile. They have lots of work to do in storms or when conditions are bad. When they are busy, they look it. They might be on their radio. They move fast and with a purpose. When things slow down, they tend to move slower and look more relaxed. Things often slow down for patrollers mid-morning when they’ve made their rounds and before they start getting lots of calls about injured skiers.
Find a patroller mid-morning or one that looks relaxed and ask them, “Have two minutes?” They’ll let you know. Tell them your ability and what you like to ski. They’ll usually point you in the right direction. Another option is to find the patrol shack and bring food at lunchtime: cookies, pastries, energy bars. Tell them you’ve brought gifts for their great work and ask them to tell you about the mountain. Someone is usually up for talking.
Take A Lesson
“One of the ways I create a positive experience for my expert students is knowing where and when to ski terrain.”
As part of most expert level lessons, you’ll get a mountain tour. At the very least, you’ll have an opportunity to ask your instructor about the best terrain and lines. It’s what instructors do. Take advantage of their knowledge. After class, see if they’ll join you for lunch.
Take A Guided Lesson
Many resorts offer tours of the mountain. These can be hit and miss. It really depends on who is in the tour and the ability of your tour guide. If its free, ask the tour guide. “Where will you take us? Can you show us a certain area? Sometimes you get lucky and the group is small and able and the guide wants to ski. Free terrain guide!