Opinion

The 7 types of people you’re guaranteed to meet on the ski slopes

Livia Gamper
01.03.2022
Translation: Katherine Martin

Whether you’re in the Grisons, the Bernese Oberland, the Valais or Central Switzerland, you’re bound to meet the same types of people on the ski slopes. On my skiing holiday, I identified seven of them.

1. The Beginner

When you look down at the slope from the gondola, you can immediately tell who hasn’t yet mastered the art of skiing. It’s the helpless, duck-like posture that gives them away. Slow and hunched over, stiff arms holding their poles way out to the sides, they attempt to make it down the mountain in one piece. The consequence of this is that the piste is ploughed and the entire hillside is blocked.

Only beginner snowboarders are more spectacular – if they make it off the magic carpet without falling over, that is.

The Beginner can be seen from afar – but we all have to start somewhere.
The Beginner can be seen from afar – but we all have to start somewhere.

2. The One Without a Helmet

To these people, «Safety First» is as alien a concept as cheap beer in St. Moritz. With just a woolly hat for protection, they plunge downhill headfirst.

Observing this type, another pattern emerges: the less someone’s wearing on their head, the fancier their sunglasses will be. Whether they’ve mistaken the ski slope for a catwalk, or are busting a gut to get the perfect hairstyle, all you can do is give The One Without a Helmet a wide berth. After all, you don’t want to be responsible for the worst-case scenario if you crash into them.

This group has ditched helmets in favour of cool sunglasses.
This group has ditched helmets in favour of cool sunglasses.

3. The Freestyler

Off-piste, you’ll recognise The Freestyler by their nonchalant gait and ski trousers worn at knee level. They stand out on the slopes – not just on account of their cool tricks, but because of the cloud of marijuana smoke surrounding them on the chairlift. They’re equipped with ultra-wide skis or park snowboards, which they enjoy using to snake their way downhill backwards. At least when they’re not doing somersaults.

Oh, and don’t forget the obligatory goggle print on the face. Or the GoPro proudly strapped to the chest. Freestylers, after all, have got to capture the winter – they’ve been training all year for it.

Freestylers fly over the slopes on wide skis.
Freestylers fly over the slopes on wide skis.

4. The Hooligan

This beast of the piste lives by the motto «he who brakes, loses» – casualties be damned. When The Hooligan comes tearing downhill, your ears fill with thunder. If you see The Hooligan speeding towards you, you’ve got just one option: stay still, and pray they don’t crash into you.

After all, a collision with The Hooligan would be disastrous. And, of course, it’d probably be your own fault for getting in the way. This type of skier not only ditches their manners at the bottom of the slope, but is incapable of learning.

The Hooligan races down the slope at way too high a speed.
The Hooligan races down the slope at way too high a speed.

5. The Ski School

Ski Schools need the whole slope. They curve across it from left to right like giant centipedes. If it’s a beginners’ group, you’re in luck: you’ll be able to spot a gap and overtake them. Where things get tough is when you run into a special skiing course: Telemark, Snowblades or Big Foots. The ski slope equivalent of recumbent bike riders, these groups and their special contraptions make the slope unpredictable. You never know whether they’re all going to make a sharp turn and ram into you from the side, or fall backwards because their skis are too short.

What’s more, Ski Schools block the entrance to the chairlifts because they need to wait for stragglers. And when you finally take a break in the mountain restaurant, you can’t block out the racket they make.

6. The One With Kids

Those who don’t drop their kids off at ski school need to take on the instructor role themselves. You can hear their cries of «Slow! Slooooow!» and «Do your stem turns!» and «Not so fast!» from afar.

With their offspring between their skis, they slide downhill.
With their offspring between their skis, they slide downhill.

Like The Beginner, they slide slowly downhill, bent over – the difference being the presence of kids between their skis. They can’t let little Justin-Alexander slip away, after all. The better organised ones use a harness to keep their kids on a tight leash.

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7. The Après-Skier

Be it Jagertee (hot rum punch), Braulio (liqueur) or beer, this type has often hit the bottle before even setting foot on the slope. Yup, we’re talking about the Après-Skier. Despite the horrendous price of ski lift passes, drinks are more important to them than the thrill of skiing. Usually drunk before noon, their kamikaze style of skiing puts themselves and others in danger.

Fortunately, thanks to Suva insurance, some Après-Skiers arrive at the ski resort without skis. As in the case of the Hooligans, it’s best to avoid the Après-Skiers if you do meet them on the slopes. You’ll certainly recognise them from a distance, given that they ski in conga lines, wear «funny costumes» or are emblazoned with the logo of some obscure sporting association – «Hinterhörhausen Gymnastics Club» or something along those lines.

An après-ski mecca in the Grisons.
An après-ski mecca in the Grisons.

At long last: the adventurous descent

At the end of a day on the slopes, everyone comes together on the final run into the valley. This is where the fun really begins. The Hooligan can’t quite judge the turns of the drunken Après-Skier, while The Beginner, who can’t cope with the long descent, blocks the entire slope once again. At least the Ski Schools hang up their boots for the day at 3 p.m. The One With Kids, however, whose offspring are getting crankier and more tired by the minute, shares the piste with The Freestyler. Not yet having had their fill of jumps, they feel the need to make up for it on the final, downhill run.

I’m fed up of the ski circus. Is dragging at least 37 kilogrammes of expensive equipment uphill each time, only for everything to hurt in the evening or to break something in a fall really worth it? I for one am switching to cross-country skiing next year. That’s when you can expect the second instalment of this article: the seven types of people you meet on cross-country ski trails.

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Testing devices and gadgets is my thing. Some experiments lead to interesting insights, others to demolished phones. I’m hooked on series and can’t imagine life without Netflix. In summer, you’ll find me soaking up the sun by the lake or at a music festival.


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