Ski areas can get pretty crowded especially over weekends and holidays. You might be able to get two or three relatively empty runs in if you get to the lift super early before the lines start building up. Or you can scope out areas of the mountain where most people don’t normally go, at least not till later on in the day. But eventually you will have to deal with riding with a lot of people around you, and it’s important to know how to safely snowboard crowded runs.
Let’s look at some of the basic rules.
1) Always stay in control: It’s tempting (and I know from personal experience) to blast your way down through a crowded section of slope to get to the “open area”- only to find that the “open” section is filled with more people. This leads to frustration and can make you ride more aggressively when you need to be in more control.
The best decision you can make is to just take a deep breath and slow it down till you can figure out what your options are. Maybe do some low speed nose and tail butters off to the sides of the run, or duck into the trees.
2) The people in front of you have the right of way: This seems like an easy one to follow but it can get complicated fast when you’re on a busy run. The problem comes in when you consider the fact that you can’t read the mind of the person skiing in front of you. Often times, especially with beginners, they cut hard to the right or left without warning and may suddenly be in your lane as you’re trying to pass them. Make sure you can keep an eye on everyone in front you and give them plenty of room to maneuver if you are going to pass them.
3) Never stop in the middle of a run: Riders need to stop on the slope from time to time for any number of reasons. Often, that means sitting down unless you get your back edge set in the snow enough to stand up. Either way, you’ve now become an obstacle and a hazard to other riders and skiers coming down the slope.
If you need to stop, pull way over to the side of the run. Not a little over, but as far as you can get because there are still people coming down the sides of the run, as well as the middle sections.
4) Look up hill when making big turns, merging and taking off downhill: I’ve had a couple of close calls with skiers making big sweeping turns that take up half or three-quarters of the width of the trail. It’s impossible to judge just when they will turn back or if they will! It’s the same thing for you when you’re laying down those big carves as someone might be barreling down right behind you. So take a moment to give a quick glance uphill to make sure the coast is clear before ripping across the slope.
Likewise, when travelling into areas where trails are intersecting it is always best to look uphill as the people coming down may not see you until they are too close to stop. This rule also applies to starting your downhill run after you have stopped so that you are not abruptly cutting someone off.
I’ve been riding for a long time and even though these are simple rules to follow it still amazes me how few people I see taking the time to be aware of what they are doing and what other skiers and riders around them are doing.
People crash into each other a lot on ski areas. You’re almost guaranteed to see it happen if you stick around in one spot for any length of time on a crowded slope. Sometimes the parties will brush themselves off and carry on. Other times one or both will need to be carried off the mountain in a litter.
Get used to practicing these four simple rules until they become an involuntary reflex. You’ll lessen your chances of crashing enormously and you’ll be thankful for it.