Sometimes going on ski vacations is like dropping into a foreign culture, complete with different geography, pastimes, clothing, and dialects. It's all part of what makes the experience, of course, and getting clued in on some of the ways to integrate into the culture can be quite helpful. Getting a glimpse of the local lifestyle means accepting it, respecting it, and trying it out for size, and we've compiled a list of 15 ways to do just that.
1. Get In The Groove
If you're on vacation this week, chances are you were definitely not on vacation last week (as in, things at the office were stressful, organizing the family for travel was draining, and tensions were running high). As best you can, drop all that. You've now landed in ski town paradise, and tuning into the local laid-back vibe is a priority on your vacation bucket list.
2. Be Friendly
People who live in ski towns enjoy their lifestyles. If they wanted to be stressed-out jerks, they would move to a geographic location conducive to that. That said, most "locals" are transplants from places like the tri-state area, so…they get it. But know that whatever it is you need, you'll get it faster and more quickly if you ask with kindness. It's just how things go in these communities, and it will help you blend right in.
3. Pack A Snack
I grew up with the adage, there are no friends on a powder day, and what I've realized is that friends are actually more common than breaks for food. If you're looking to get some serious time in on the slopes and don't want to bother with crowded cafeterias or 2 hours sit-down lunches, pack some fruit and granola bars or a rolled-up piece of last night's pizza (why not?) and enjoy real freedom on the slopes. Chairlifts and picnic tables make the best lunch spots on sunny days, too.
4. Respect Lift(ie) Policy
Lifties are lift attendants: the dudes and gals checking tickets and making sure you get safely and quickly through the corrals and onto the lifts. Their job description changes every year as RFID technology advances, but the bottom line is they are the ones who are trying to get you the most ski time and littlest wait time possible. And mark my word, they know how to do their job better than you, and me, and anyone giving them a hard time. So, trust.
5. Buy The First Round
What goes around comes around, and buying the first round at the bar, or the cab fare, or waffles in the sugar shack will set the laid-back tone of your ski vacation. Whether you're with friends or other families, buying in rounds also makes things much easier for the person behind the counter. If you met a new local friend to include in that round, of course, even better.
6. Use Your Travel Mug
It sounds so insignificant…and yet. Taking along a reusable mug to the coffee shop and your own bag to the grocery store are major bonus points for living like a local. It demonstrates respect for the environment and sustainability, which many resort towns are taking steps to consider in their overall operations of mountain and town. And of course, when you can, recycle.
7. Don't Smoke (Cigarettes)
This primarily refers to smoking in lift lines, on chair lifts, and anywhere in the vicinity of a lot of other people who are out in the fresh air to get some fresh air. Most resorts now have designated smoking areas so that you can have a cigarette if you need to somewhere away from the hundreds of other people in the area. Locals of mountain towns very rarely smoke cigarettes on account of health-minded lifestyles, so respecting that is appreciated.
8. Love Thy Neighbor
If you're staying in a hotel or condo, it would be wise to simply be aware of this. If you're there to party, by all means, party, but taking note of who is next door and what their situation is wouldn't be the worst thing in the world…especially if they happen to have young kids or a baby that needs to get quality sleep at night. If you have like-minded neighbors into the same activities – snowshoeing, drinking, live music, whatever – that's great! Don't be shy, make a few friends.
9. Listen To A Local
Young locals listen to old locals, new locals listen to long-time locals, so you should listen to locals too. As much information as there is out there on the web about best places to eat, stay, ski, et cetera, only a local will know the time of day to ski a specific aspect of a peak or the best beer on nitro at the brewery that week. Ask, and you shall receive.
10. Go To Yoga
Yes, go to yoga. Or spin class, or pilates, or a good hike. Being on vacation doesn't mean you are obligated to drink your face off and over-eat. In fact, one of the best parts about skiing and ski culture is that you can enjoy all the pleasures of such things in moderation and appreciate an active lifestyle. Allow yourself some true self-care, and you'll get a taste for what it's like to be a resident of the place you're visiting.
11. Dress For The Occasion
There is one primary rule for "looking cool" on your ski vacation: dress for the weather. That's right – if it's puking snow outside, don't insist on no hat and a pair of sunglasses, and if it's 50 degrees and sunny, go ahead and show some skin, but pack a layer for when the clouds roll in. Locals always make sure they are comfortable, and we suggest you do the same.
12. Tip Generously
If you experience great service, let the tip show it! There are times in life to pinch pennies, and there are times to be generous: your ski vacation is the perfect place for spreading good cheer and good karma. Most locals work in the service industry and know that good tips via good service is how they maintain their lifestyle, so everyone tries to give good tips, and now you can, too.
13. Buy Local
Ski towns love their quirky little shops and local artisans, and supporting each other in this is important for local business and morale. Regulars of resort towns frequently and authentically sport local brands, whether they are skis, outerwear, accessories or stickers. Supporting local brands will gain you cred' on the slopes, not to mention useful and very cool souvenirs for returning home.
14. Head To Happy Hour
Your day may have been long, cold, and exhausting, but guess what…you're in a ski town, and you got to wake up and go skiing, and that's plenty to celebrate. Locals know that no matter what, every day on the slopes has some good in it, and to be able to share experiences with friends at the watering holes at day's end is a beautiful gift. So go ahead, celebrate.
15. Seriously, Have Fun
One of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten is to play seriously and seriously play. And there's possibly no better place to learn how to do this than in a ski town. Locals don't live in these places for decades because of the glitz and glamour: they're there because they get to play in the mountains and simply enjoy life. Whether you dip into the place for a long weekend or a couple weeks vacation, let go and let live, and you'll get the most authentic experience of anyone.