We can dream of untouched powder fields, empty lift lines, and tranquil days spent on the slopes. Oh, we can dream. But we live in Colorado, an international ski destination where locals and visitors alike jockey for fresh tracks every day (did you see those opening day crowds at Arapahoe Basin?). There are a lot of us out there, and while resorts do a commendable job managing crowds, there are invariably a few folks whose behavior makes us want to holler profanities right there on the slopes. We’re looking at you, backpack-Bluetooth speaker guy.

If we can all agree to a few basic rules, everyone’s experience on the mountain might be better. From merging trails with care to keeping some distance in the lift line, let these etiquette principles guide your behavior on the ski hill this winter.

Don’t Stop in Blind Spots

One of the most dangerous things you can do on the slopes is stop in the middle of a trail where uphill skiers can’t see you—on the blindside of a big roller, for example. People can’t avoid what they can’t see, and you’ll risk serious injury to yourself (and others) if you take a breather mid-mountain in a blind spot. Instead, move off to the side of the trail, and be sure you’re visible to anyone cruising down above you.

Leave Beginner Trails to Beginners

Many people learn how to ski and snowboard in Colorado, and thankfully, our resorts’ expansive terrain provides what beginners need: dedicated areas to perfect their pizzas, French fries, and faceplants. What beginners don’t need, though, is Johnny Shredsalot screaming past them at 60 miles per hour. If you’re trying to set a personal speed record (and if you are, come on, really?) find relatively empty terrain where you won’t risk hurting someone—or discouraging them from coming back.

Yield to Downhill Skiers

If you’re ever wondering who should yield to who on a ski hill, it’s relatively simple: People ahead of you always have the right-of-way. The downhill skier or boarder isn’t looking up the mountain, so they can’t safely avoid people heading toward them. If you collide with a skier below you, you’re at fault. One caveat: If you’re merging onto a new trail, always look up the mountain and be sure you’re not cutting directly in front of someone.

Don’t Duck Ropes

Ski patrollers in Colorado have enough to deal with these days without bozos ducking ropes and skiing closed terrain. If patrollers have roped off part of the mountain, it’s for a good reason. Maybe they’re mitigating avalanche risk, maybe they don’t have enough personnel to patrol that zone, or maybe a lift is broken and skiers would otherwise be stranded. Patrollers don’t make decisions arbitrarily, so respect the boundaries they set.

Your Skis Can’t Hold Your Place in Line

Getting first chair has always been an achievement, but there’s been a growing—and concerning—trend on powder days lately. Some people, rather than get in line early and brave the cold while they wait for the lift to start spinning, place their skis in the line and then leave. They’ll get coffee, eat breakfast, do their morning constitutional, and expect their skis to hold their early boarding position. We’re calling BS. If you want first chair, plant yourself in line and earn it.

Give People a Little Space

Speaking of the lift line, if you want to piss off a stranger, the best way to do it is to crowd them out and scuff the top sheet of their skis or board. As a general rule, you shouldn’t be so close that your equipment is banging into anyone else’s in line. On the flip side, if someone accidentally touches your skis, cut ’em a little slack.

Don’t Smoke and Imbibe Around Strangers

At most mountains, it’s against the rules to drink alcohol or use marijuana on chairlifts. But anyone who has skied in Colorado knows that doesn’t stop many people. If you are planning to break those rules, we ask that you do it in your own space. Don’t blow smoke in someone else’s face, and keep your kush out of the gondola.

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.