How to cope with busy pistes

Develop a coping strategy to make those busy slopes seem less daunting.

Photo credit: N.Joly_OT_Les_Gets

We all want to ski on quiet pistes, but often the only way to reach a quieter area is by skiing down a more crowded slope. So, it’s important to have a ‘coping strategy’ to deal with the situation. This will leave you feeling confident and ready for the more enjoyable pistes ahead.

'Hope' is not a strategy, but quite often we set off down a busy ski slope hoping that it will all just come together…quite often the outcome is not as we envisaged.

Have a solid plan before setting off and start the congested piste knowing you will have a positive outcome. 

Here’s a simple coping strategy... 

  • Divide the piste into three imaginary lanes, just like a motorway. If the piste is quite narrow, divide it into two lanes.

  • What’s important, is everything that's happening in front of you, but also be aware of what’s going on to the side of you (in your peripheral vision). Try to make rhythmical turns in one lane, but if the lane is looking busy in front of you, look over your shoulder to check for ‘traffic’ and then change lanes. 
  • If two lanes are empty in front then use two lanes, but ensure you leave one lane free, so people can pass with ease. Note the word ‘rhythmical’, if a person is approaching from behind and can see what you are doing, they are more likely to pass and leave you plenty of space.
  • If you need to stop, ensure you look up the slope first and brake slowly before parking yourself at the edge of the piste. If you can park yourself so you are facing towards the middle of the piste, this will make setting off again much easier. Remember to wait for a good gap before you go again.
  • If all the lanes are busy, then focus on the gaps between the people and not at the people themselves. Remember, you usually end up moving in the direction you’re looking. When we’re in a stressful environment we often end up looking at the wrong things which subsequently leads us into trouble. 

Don’t forget the Skiway Code and that the person downhill of you has right of way so ensure, when you overtake, you leave enough room and don’t cut in front of the other skier or snowboarder. Keep your speed at a level where you can react confidently without losing control.

Practising for busy pistes can be done on an empty, easy wide slope first. Then develop to steeper and/or narrower, busy pistes later but keep within your ability level. Try looking over your shoulders and generally scanning around. Practice making rhymical curves and varying your speed within one lane.

With a friend or family member, see how much visual information you can gather between 10 piste markers for example. This can be a great ‘learning game’ and a favourite of mine in our kids ski school classes.

Try avoiding tunnel vision. If you were riding a bike on a road, you'd be very observant with everything happening around you, allowing you to make the right decisions in order to stay safe. It's important to treat skiing/snowboarding in the same way.

Practising these simple exercises regularly will help build your confidence for a busier environment. 

Don't forget, the faster you are travelling the more observant you must be, as things approach quicker.

To summarise, remember the 3 R's…

  • Be READY to react (expect the unexpected) 
  • Keep your body and mind in a RELAXED but strong state, so all your concentration can be channelled to observing, decision making and.. 
  • Creating RHYTHMICAL curves. 

The quicker you process the information around you, the more time you’ll have to make the right decisions and the safer you’ll be on the slopes.

All articles