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The Irresponsibility Code

The official rules of the slopes are more than 40 years old. Life has changed.

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The rules and etiquette of the slopes have evolved over the years into something officially known as Your Responsibility Code. You see it plastered on lift towers and scrawled in tiny print on lift tickets and cafeteria napkins. They’re like those bossy signs at public swimming pools: quaint, incomplete and unintentionally humorous. (“Always ski in control.” Please.)

The original Skier’s Code was written in 1966, when most skis were still hickory, the majority of boots were leather and the only sport that required a single board was surfing. Needless to say, the Code is overdue for an update.

1. Downhill skiers have the right of way.

Unless they’re beginners. Or skiing slowly. Then you’re entitled to get as close behind them as possible, turning at the last minute to avoid a collision. Bonus points if you edge loudly right on their tails to give them a fright, then spray them with snow as you speed by.

2. Ski in control and in such a manner that you can stop at any time.

In fact, stop randomly and suddenly in front of everyone, just to make sure you still can. This is especially effective when done downhill of a kicker, roller or cat track.

3. Skiing fast is an inalienable right.

Do it often and absolutely everywhere. Seek out areas with fearful novices. Or slopes crowded with people to watch you. Especially as you approach the base of a lift. Soon everyone—perhaps even a judge—will be impressed.

4. Never look before merging onto trails, making sudden cuts across the slope or catching air off a roller or cat track.

Others will look out for you, just as 18-wheelers on the interstate do. Life is like that.

5. Side-slip down steep slopes that you clearly can’t handle, especially if you’re a snowboarder.

In the process, scrape the terrain clean of powder while exposing rocks, stumps and hardy high-alpine grasses.

7. Teach your spouse, kids or significant other how to ski rather than letting the pros do it right.

The key is to embarrass them—and yourself—in the process.

8. Always ski within your ability to lie about how well you ski.

Everyone believes that you nailed a 20-foot cliff drop. Really.

9. Use your cell phone, Blackberry or any other annoying communication device in enclosed lifts.

Talk loudly and discuss intimate matters as often as possible.

10. Don’t stop to aid a fellow skier in trouble.

Never help locate a ski lost in deep powder or assist a kid who has dropped his gear walking to the lifts. And always avoid reuniting a released ski with its crashed owner.

11. Use an iPod at all times.

Turn it up loud, especially on a lift. Sing along.

12. Don’t alternate in liftlines.

If you just keep looking straight ahead, no one will notice.

13. If someone has stopped for a moment to contemplate the right line, cut right in front of him.

Then stop midslope to force him to ski around you.

14. Take a wizz within sight of the lift or two steps off a busy slope.

People are interested. Also, walk your dog up the mountain and never pick up its poop.

15. And most important, lecture fellow skiers and boarders on the proper etiquette on the slopes at every possible moment.

It’s the proper thing to do.


For the National Ski Areas Association real (and updated) responsibility code,

click here.