Well it’s still spring break, and while I didn’t go anywhere I’ve taken the opportunity to catch up on some things at home, and more importantly, given myself a rest from relative mental exertion. Even my blog posts this week have been pretty straight forward and simple; sharing photos rather than words. I’ve got to say, it’s been kind of nice, and I’m not quite ready to use my brain yet (Monday morning and the return to school will be here soon enough.) Instead, tonight I would like to share another piece I recently wrote for my Magazine and Feature Writing class.
The assignment was a How-to Story, and I took a somewhat satirical approach, posing this as an open letter from lifty’s to new skiers and boarders, discussing how they should go about riding a ski lift. My professor really loved it, and has urged me to pursue publication. The question I have is- where? I think it is a seasonal topic, and I will probably wait until next fall to query potential publications. Does anyone have any suggestions on magazines I might approach? Beyond that, I welcome the opportunity for further workshopping. So what are your thoughts? Is it effective, is it funny, is there anything unclear or that could be worked on? Like I say, I’m not feeling the ambition to write a new entry tonight, so it seemed like a good time to put this out there. Any comments or suggestions, especially on ways I might improve it, will be appreciated. (An alternative title would be good, too!)
Welcome to the Slopes
Congratulations! You’ve just learned to ski or snowboard, and on behalf of lift operators everywhere, I welcome you to our slopes. Winter sports offer abundant opportunity for fitness and pleasure, and the camaraderie within our snow filled community is powder for the soul. The simple fact that you want to strap something to your feet and slide down a mountain automatically makes you cooler than like 58% of the population, so kudos on that. Before we receive you fully into our guild, however, there are a few things I and the other lifty’s feel you should know.
First let’s discuss lift etiquette, more specifically, how not to behave. Are you familiar with the term gaper? Gaper is a word commonly used by lifty’s to identify skiers who, to put it nicely, are woefully out of their element. A gaper is someone who can be seen bumbling around, lost in perpetual confusion. Such displays lead the lifty to assume that, as the name suggests, these individuals spend a considerable amount of time standing jaw dropped, mouth wide open, and trying in vain to make sense of the world. We get a lot of people who exhibit this caught-in-the headlight type behavior in our lift lines. Trust me; you don’t want to be included.
To avoid gaper designation, you should always conduct yourself accordingly while riding the lift. This can be a problem for beginners, and understandably so. The concept of a dangling bench which comes along, plucks you up, and carries you to the top of a mountain is bound to trigger some instinctual distress. It’s intimidating, but if you feel your chin drop while waiting to board, keep that jaw clinched tight. It’s going to be okay.
As you approach the loading area, stay calm and trust the lift operators. These are dedicated professionals, some having dropped out of college, even high school, to assist in your mountain conveyance (and score a free season pass.) You’re in good hands. With an eye on the nearest lifty, you will enter the loading area between a pair of red octagon shaped cutouts that look just like stop signs. They read “WAIT HERE.” You should stop, and wait there. If you can adhere to this, there’s hope. If not, well; welcome to Gaperville. Population: You.
Wait for a chair to pass then glide smoothly onto the loading ramp. The lifty’s will have taken the time to sculpt your path in a slight descent, so there’s no need to use your poles or stomp your way along. If you’re a snowboarder, don’t bang your board doing that stupid tail slap thing, either. We’ve seen it a million times, we’re hung over, and we will not be impressed.
In the center of the ramp, you will see a red board in the snow that says “LOAD HERE.” You’re going to load there. Look over your shoulder, wait for the chair to come behind you, have a seat and enjoy the ride.
At the top of the mountain, things are no more complicated. You’re going to keep your tips up and when your skis or board hit the ramp, just stand up and slide away. Try not to get frantic, and don’t make it harder than it is. This is not the time to summon your inner ballerina. The less flailing and fewer rotations between chair and solid ground, the better off you’ll be. And if you do fall down, please move out of the way. Just because you’re dressed in camouflage doesn’t mean we can’t see you lying there in the middle of our ramp. It’s not a big deal, and even though you’re embarrassed, you have to remember there are more chairs, and more people, coming just seconds behind. Clear the area, shrug it off, and move on.
Once you gain the confidence of a couple successful chair rides, this process will seem second nature. Until then, relax in the knowledge that it’s okay to be a beginner. We all started somewhere, and we’ve all made mistakes. Being a rookie is excusable if you exhibit humility and respect. This is appreciated not just in riding the lift, but while waiting in line as well.
If you’re approached by a lifty who wishes to scan your pass, go ahead and let him. This is our job, and we prefer to conduct it without grief. Even if the lift is in a remote corner of the resort, don’t crack jokes about how we suspect you arrived. There are analytic reasons for this activity beyond whether or not you’ve paid, so just play nice. And please, please don’t be that guy who hangs his pass over his crotch and presents it with a pelvic thrust. Such behavior will warrant immediate black list as gaper for life.
Another important consideration is attire. Not only should your clothing be appropriate for winter activity, it should reflect honest self portrayal. A seed corn jacket might scream greenhorn and raise caution flags for the dance recital to come; but we’ll respect you for being real. If you’re wearing a thousand dollar ski suit yet can’t board a lift, you’re not a gaper. You’re a tool. The difference is we might still buy a well intentioned gaper the occasional drink at the après ski bar. If you’re a tool, you’ll drink alone.
Finally, though we’re passionate in our pursuits, winter sports are a leisure activity. They’re supposed to be fun. As lifty’s we frankly don’t give a damn about your education level or societal status. Please don’t use it to try and trump ours. It doesn’t matter if you’re a brain surgeon or CEO; you’re in our world now. Don’t hedge the embarrassment at your ineptitude by being a jerk or putting others down. Keep a good attitude, strive to improve and a good time will be had by all.
As lift operators, we are the sole mountain authorities on gaper diagnosis and labeling. Just follow our guidance, play it cool, and we’ll get along just fine. Welcome aboard.