Although ripping untracked in the backcountry is great and all; at the end of the day, I’m a chairlift riding, right hand slashing, resort skier through and through. So when I heard you could ride lifts for hundreds of miles at resorts in the Alps, I was sold. The idea of trams, gondolas, and lifts linking mountains as far as the eye could see was a dream and after moving to Chamonix, that dream has since become a reality. Although Cham doesn’t have the ridiculous amount of pistes or interconnected resorts that some Alps resorts boast, the idea is still the same and the lift access is stupid. JUST PLAIN STUPID.
So after a month of living in the Alps and seeing it firsthand, there are a few things I’ve noticed that are markedly different from skiing in the States.
Here are the 5 Ways Skiing In The Alps Is Different Than Skiing In The US
5) Lift Lines = Absolute Chaos
In the United States, lift lines resemble organized military regiments. In the alps, lift lines resemble a sinking Titanic. Women and children are trampled and chaos reigns supreme. Usually this chaos is due to only having a few lifties and it’s not unusual for a lift to have only two people working (one at the top shack and one at the bottom). This results in people doing whatever they want to get to the front? So don’t get angry when someone cuts you in line, it’s just the culture… I guess.
4) Mountains Close Completely
Since the alps are known for skiing above tree-line on massive expanses of terrain, it’s not uncommon that the mountain will close completely for avalanche control and/or high winds during big storms. The upside to this is that it slows down the rat race and lets the snow pile up for an extra day. In the States on the other hand, an upset New York dad would demand they open the lifts. He paid $145 for a lift ticket and by god– he’s going to ride every lift as advertised.
3) Piste = Popular
The Alps are home to alpine ski racing and that’s evident in how Euros approach resort skiing as a whole. Europeans love on-piste terrain and prefer to arc beautiful turns on rock hard slopes than ski unmanicured “off-piste”, which leaves magical powder patches weeks after a storm. SCORE!
2) On-Mountain Restaurants Are On Another Level
The on mountain drinking and dining options in the Alps will blow any ski bums mind. Although prices are very steep at most of these locales, there is often a common area near the restaurant, where you can drink your own beer and eat your own croque monsieur sans the 30€ bill. Not to mention, the views make Blue Sky Basin @Vail look like Connecticut.
1) Ski Bumming Is A Respected Profession
Image by Soren Egeberg Photography via Shutterstock
This one really blew my mind. In the USA, a ski bum is often viewed as someone trying to escape the ‘real world’ as we know it. In Europe on the other hand, ski bumming is seen as a way of life that seizes ‘the real world’ as we know it. Not only are ski bums respected but they are pillars of the community. Akin to wisemen, a ski bum can be one of the most respected people in their town and in some cases can be more influential than the mayor or any captain of industry– just how it should be.