If you’ve ever spent a season in a ski town, you know what I’m talking about. Somewhere, somehow you’ve pissed off a ski patroller. I’m not saying we’re a difficult lot to get along with. We’re usually fairly nice people. Like you, we’ve chosen this lifestyle not for the fame, or the glory, or the fabulous accommodations. Like you, we’re here to ski.
But sometimes we butt heads. Sometimes your enthusiasm and proprietariness gets the better of you. You know those voices in your head? The ones that tell you you’re special, you’re different, the closures are to keep out the schmoes. And you, certainly are not a schmo. You’re a local and you practically own this place. Dang, the ski area should put you on their freeride team, hook you up with free gear and early ups. The ski area should be glad you chose to park your van here, to slice perfect lemon wedges down its pristine slopes, to grace it with your turns at the shot ski.
There’s dream world and there’s reality, and that’s just about when you spot the red parka with the white cross and you know the gig is up.
I’m not saying it’s okay to find yourself on the wrong side of the ropeline. I’ve written ad nauseum on this topic, trying to spell it out from my side. A ropeline is a ropeline. We’ve been over all that.
But invariably, I’ve found some of you in closed areas. I’ve taken your passes and listened to your sob stories. I’ve watched you spit in your beer at the local bar, as you drunkenly tried to explain how you’re different from the schmoes. How you didn’t see the ropeline. How you thought the closure was for someone else.
Like anything, there’s a right way to beg forgiveness from a ski patroller. So here it is. If you find yourself in need of a little begging, take it from me. There’s a right way and a wrong way.
- Getting angry. This never works. Nor does getting all uppity about how long you’ve been skiing at this ski area. Just because you’ve been skiing Crystal for 20 years (which, is the most-often quoted number of all complainers) means very little.
- Asking to speak to my supervisor. Maybe this works on some patrollers, but not on me. My supervisor will side with me. However, if the offender really wants to take it to the next level, I ask him (always a him, I’ve never had to say this to a woman) if he’d like to speak to the owner of the ski area. I even offer to accompany him to my husband’s office to chat about the situation. No one has ever taken me up on that offer, however.
- Telling me that he “went in” the way he “always goes in”, which means by ducking the rope. Reading between the lines I know this means he thought the gates were open and he’d just avoid the crowds, duck the rope in his own spot and get first tracks. This doesn’t win me over, either. Gates are the only access points. No crying about that.
- Being contrite. As a ski patroller, finding someone on the wrong side of the rope sucks. If you make it easier on us, by saying that yes, you did wrong and are really, really sorry, it goes a long way. You will still get your pass pulled, but maybe for a shorter duration.
- Find us later. Tell us again how sorry you are.
- Bring a case of beer with a friendly note and leave it in the patrol room: “Just a little note to say how sorry I am for breaking your closure. Hope we can still be friends. Sincerely, Joe Schmoe”.
- Offer to tune our skis. A friend of mine recently told me about how he once tuned 30 pairs of skis in a weekend, begging forgiveness. That’s a lot of tuning. I hated to ask what he’d done, and since it wasn’t at Crystal, I just let that one slide.
- Don’t give us the cold shoulder. We’re human. We’re doing our job. We’re trying to live the dream, just like you are. Respect that.
- Get the word out. The best thing you can do is warn your friends. “Dude, the patrol around here is no joke. Don’t go under the ropes if you want to keep your pass. Just don’t do it.” We hear you’ve put that message out there and it scores you big points. Huge.
More than anything ski patrollers want respect. You give us that and you’ll be on our good side. Without it, you’re doomed.
I recently read Powder Magazine’s latest edition. In the ski test section, members of the team each shared their dream trip. Derek Taylor, editor at Powder, said his dream trip was more like a dream job. He wrote that if he had to do it all over again, he’s “always been intrigued with ski patrolling.” See? We’re not so bad.
*And as long as you don’t post photos of him on the internet. Oops.