After much tension in the Ski Industry over the past few months chairs are finally spinning again and people are positively giddy. Even with faces covered you can tell everyone is smiling by the sparkle in their eyes.
Yesterday was the earliest EVER… opening for the Lake Louise. The resort was gleaming clean, the staff were incredibly friendly and the entire operation seamed very well organized.
I have never been greeted so enthusiastically by so many managers in a ski resort parking lot before. I was grateful to be there, and I got the sense they were really grateful I was there too.
We all need this. After such a long skiing drought it is time to reconnect with nature, with the sport we love and with each other… from a safe distance, and while wearing a mask at all times. Mind you, a ski resort is probably the one place where wide spread mask wearing is not just normal, it’s cool.
I am very relieved to report that the line for the chair lift was not an issue. Skiing as a single, I was able to get through the line right away. Once at the front another skier ask politely if he could join me. I said, sure!
We sat at opposite ends of the chair and basically just giggled with excitement as we chatted casually about how awesome it was to be back on snow and how much we love skiing. I realized afterwards, that was probably the longest interaction I have had with a stranger, not boxed in plexiglass, in about seven months.
When I got to the Gondola however, I felt really sheepish as a single. A stark contrast to what would normally be the case, the singles line moved really slowly.
You could tell everyone was trying to maintain a six foot bubble but this was not really possible. Even if you could gain that distance from the person in front and behind, the constantly shifting lines meant someone to the left or right was going to get inside that zone.
I saw one guy in the lift line who didn’t have his mask on in-spite the many signs everywhere stating that they are mandatory. He was quickly told by a lift attendant to put his mask on.
When I did get to the front of the singles line I could see that as groups were loading the gondola, an attendant was asking if they were comfortable having a single join. Then she would gesture to her colleague over by me with a vigorous head shake no.
I clutched my skis close to my chest and sort of hid behind them, not wanting to face the rejection as gondola after gondola slowly coasted by. The doors were open invitingly but the passengers were not ok taking that risk.
Then staff held the group line and an empty gondola car started spinning around the horn towards me. Everyone in the line was looking at the empty gondola car and then it felt like they all cast their gaze over to me. The lift attendant asked If I was comfortable having someone join me. I said, no problem!
The attendant then asked the guy behind me, if he was comfortable joining me. He said yes. I didn’t quite catch what happened behind me after that. It seamed like other people were asked if they were comfortable with a variety of possible scenarios.
The attendant facilitating these negotiations was extremely polite. It would be difficult to have this conversation a million times throughout the day. He showed an admirable level of patience and empathy.
In the end, I made it on the Gondola with one other single who didn’t speak or make eye contact the entire ride. I decided to stick with the chair after that.
Day one of the season at one resort is hardly enough information to predict lift line behavior broadly. Based on my experience however, I suspect that skiing with a cohort could make getting on the lifts easier. It very likely will make it less awkward.
I am now thinking about how I will choose people for my cohort and gauge my comfort level riding lifts. Every day will be a little different I suspect, depending on a wide aray of factors.
I think the key, not just for a single skier or a cohort, but for the entire resort visitor-ship, is to take ownership of our experience by planing ahead and being considerate of one another.
Check the resort website before every visit to find out what policies may have changed. Wear your mask. Instead of at the window, consider picking up your pass ahead of time either online or at a distributor like the Ski Hub in Banff. Change in the parking lot. Bring a thermos of coffee and lunch to enjoy in your vheicle.
If we can all make these little concessions we will get to enjoy a great season. Based on the level of civility I witnessed yesterday, I am confident we can do this!
By: Christine Davidson
Christine Davidson is a Ski Instructor, Yoga Teacher and Peak Performance Coach on a mission to make humans awesome!