October 7th, 2009 kicked off one of the earliest ski seasons that the United States has seen. From here on, there will be a ski lift running somewhere in the country, potentially until June. From the very first day, expert skiers, competition skiers and novices will be sharing the slopes, creating a pronounced speed differential and unpredictable direction changes, all on a narrow strip of snow, approximately the width of three school busses, known as the “white ribbon of death.” As the temperature drops and the snow begins to fly, more runs open up, but other factors, such as bad weather, holiday crowds, surprisingly difficult terrain, and equipment issues, arise that can spoil one’s ski day. Unfortunately, no one feels the brunt of these snafus more than the beginner skier.
The novice skier has been given a common name by ski town locals, along with an extremely type-casted reputation for being naive, awkwardly dressed, and imposing. I have worked at ski areas and in the tourism industry for over four years, and I have learned that a novice’s problems extend well beyond their reputation. I have seen many instances where some extra effort to obtain information could have avoided unnecessary lift stops, gear problems, and worst of all, a toboggan ride to an on-mountain clinic. I would like to share a few tips that could streamline your time on the slopes, whether you are on a two-week ski vacation or just taking a day trip.
It sometimes seems like everyone gets the idea to go skiing at exactly the same time, on the weekends and of course, on holidays. You can then assume that dealing with ticket offices, ski rental shops, restaurants, and hotels will take longer than expected.
What you can do:
-Can you afford to take an extra day for travel only? Or how about sacrificing one of your allotted days for travel and logistics instead of trying to cram in a few runs in the afternoon? While understandably those options are not always available, spending the time to unpack, rent your gear, buy your tickets, familiarize yourself with your surroundings, and acclimate to your environment the night before can make all the difference in the amount of stress you experience when trying to get on the mountain the following day.
-There is a lot that you can do online. If you book a hotel well in advance, call and confirm your reservation the day before. Note who you talk to and what was said. Make sure you have reservation and payment confirmation numbers printed or written down.
-Many ski resorts allow you to purchase lift tickets and passes online as well. Again, remember to have a written record of the exact product you purchased. If you are a returning customer and have a credit card on file, make sure that it is current. You might not know your purchase did not go through until a ticket scanner stops you in the lift line. Also note that the printouts you get online will still need to be redeemed in the ticket office before you will be allowed on the lift.
This will be Veronika Frenkel’s fourth winter with the ski industry. She has worked as a ticket checker, a mountain safety attendant, guest services crew, and as a waitress to pay the bills. She skiis for work, she skiis for fun, and she is always learning what the mountains have to teach her.
Check out Amazon.com for discounted skiing equipment and apparel by clicking here.
Click here for a one-year subscription to Ski magazine.