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Jan. 24, 2022

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What skiers, snowboarders should know about unwritten rules of the slopes

They come into play before you even exit your vehicle

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BOISE, Idaho — Ski and snowboarding experts say there are many unwritten rules of the slopes that visitors new to the activity should know about.

The National Ski Areas Association lists seven points on its Your Responsibility Code to ensure responsible skiing and snowboarding. Those points range from the basics of always staying in control to remembering that people farther down the slope always have the right of way.

But the seven points are far from the only things that skiers and snowboarders, both old and new, need to remember when enjoying a day out on the slopes.

How to stay safe at a ski resort

Ski enthusiasts, including Ski Idaho spokesperson Tony Harrison, have said the first unwritten rules come into effect before even stepping out of your car at the resort.

The road up to a ski resort may be a treacherous one. Harrison encouraged visitors to drive slowly, and stressed the importance of leaving enough room for the car in front, in case either vehicle loses control and skids out.

Harrison also advised drivers that if they find themselves at the front of a pack and holding up a line of three or more cars, they should use the next slow-vehicle turnout to allow the vehicles to pass.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re doing the speed limit or you’re going 5 miles over the speed limit,” Harrison said. “If you still have people piling up behind you, you need to pull out at the slow-vehicle turnout.”

Once out on the slopes, one of the most important rules, Harrison said, is to not only remember that visitors ahead have the right of way, but to also call “right” or “left” if planning to pass a skier.

“I don’t know how many times I’m skiing and somebody goes zipping by me and barely misses me, and they haven’t called out,” Harrison said. “It’s just really good courtesy to yell out if you’re going to overtake someone on your right or on your left.”

Harrison also encouraged riders to avoid playing music out loud, since many people will see it as an invasion of their space, or using headphones, which can impede safety on the slopes.

“If I’m not listening to music, I can hear somebody coming up on my right or my left a lot better,” Harrison said. “So it’s just so much more safe to ski or ride without listening to music, even in your earbuds.”

When heading back inside, Harrison advised, visitors should properly store equipment in the ski racks outside of the lodges, rather than just leaving equipment on the ground around the entrance.

Be thoughtful of social distancing on chairlifts

In the past two years, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrison has encouraged other visitors to ask if they can join strangers on their chairlift if there is an extra space, instead of just taking the seat without asking.

“If you’re hopping on a lift with somebody who’s not in your group, ask if it’s OK first, because some people are going to be germaphobes and not want to have any stranger riding the lift with them,” he said.

Lastly, Harrison also asked for riders to not relax around the chairlift offloading zone, because it can impede the way for other visitors.

Bogus Basin offers course for newcomers

On many occasions, Harrison believes, riders may be breaking these rules only because they were never taught them.

Bogus Basin ski resort, just north of Boise, offers beginners the Passport Package, which allows newcomers to enroll in four small-group, multi-week lessons. The lessons will help teach first-timers how to not only ski or snowboard, but also to do so safely and respectfully by following the rules.

After riders are done with the course, they will be provided with a complimentary winter pass and unlimited equipment usage for the rest of the season.

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