By Shralper McShredenstein, Shreditor-at-large
Normally, mountain etiquette is passed down through the time-honored technique of heckling our friends and trying not to bum out strangers. But with record numbers of humans hitting the hill this year—and the pandemic and political landscape upending the social situation—life’s changing faster than the snowpack and it’s only prudent we discuss some updates to The Unwritten Rules.
Get comfy and don’t worry about the time… Traffic probably sucks anyway.
1) Don’t Hassle The Locals, For Real This Year
Seems like a no-brainer but much like hocking a loogy off the lift, this move’s never been lamer. All over Mt. Hood, the volume of recreational use approaches lenticular levels while the lack of lodging-dollars decimates the area’s economy. From the kid in the rental shop to the parking lot crew on a bluebird Saturday, the locals are breaking their backs and nobody’s stacking cash.
So, pack your patience. Most mountain employees wake up at o’ dark-thirty and put in 12-hour days (with travel time) while engaging in a dizzying array of thankless service jobs. Throw in the desperate realities of a ski bum salary and it’s easy to see why you need give your hosts some empathy, especially in the early hours. And it’s not like you’re getting first chair anyway, especially if you rush someone who can’t rush any faster.
You wouldn’t show up early for dinner at your friend’s house, park on the lawn, pee on the rug, and complain when the food’s not ready, so don’t do the same thing at the hill.
2) Slow Down, You Aren’t Getting First Chair
If we’re being honest, first chair is a myth. Safe resort operations necessitate Ski Patrollers and Lift Ops doing dawn duty. And if you think they didn’t poach the choice stashes as they made their safety sweeps and equipment inspections, we have some old Rear Entry Rental Boots you might be interested in. But, First Guest Chair is legit and will occasionally earn you untracked turns. However, the parking lots fill up faster than a Subaru full of snowboarders on a powder day. Get started early, take your time, and leave the Travis Pastrana act at home. First chair loses its allure when you stuff the Soobie’ into a snowbank, bruh.
Also, don’t wander out to the lifts and crowd the crews as they set up their COVID-compliant mazes. Some of them drank their weight in White Claws last night, and you probably would too if you spent your days dealing with a bunch of first-chair fiends frothing to sesh’ nothing more than yesterday’s tracked-out leftovers.
*Exception: Night Riders
First off, keep hauling ass, you night rippers! But only on the slopes. While there’s nothing like heavy weather and hard conditions to hone your skills, Mt. Hood’s highways are deadly no matter what time of day. And second off, we should all consider joining you. Seriously, arriving at a leisurely pace and spending an uncrowded evening sending sketchy lines at blistering speed sounds like our kind of fun! And if you pay your dues, Mt. Hood is known to occasionally stoke out the faithful with wind-loaded fresh and mystical moonlit pow-turns.
Take it from the Mt. Hood Nightbreed: The only thing cooler than the first chair is the last. And there’s never been a better time to space out under the stars and explore your dark magic.
3) Now More Than Ever, Nobody Wants to Listen to Your Music
Suffice to say, the world’s a stress-fest and we’re all here for a little Cascade counseling: The soft sweep of skis schussing through the granular groom and the reassuring rotations of a well-maintained chair. The breeze whispering in the trees and the sharp CROAAAK! of a raven aloft. And thanks to the ever-improving technology of blaring Bluetooth speakers, all manner of music echoing through the otherwise unpolluted alpine air.
One of these things is not like the other things.
Don’t get us wrong. It’s fun to musically accentuate the session from time to time. And from Barry Manilow to Beyoncé, we’ve got some suspect tracks in our playlists, too. But much like one’s line on a peaceful morning, music is totally subjective. In other words, it’s not the jam you’re pumping up, as much as your assumption you have the privilege of loudly doing so. We understand you just wanna keep the party rollin’, but hundreds (and occasionally thousands) of other skiers and snowboarders probably disagree with your disco. This is especially true in the lift line when everyone’s fighting the goggle-fog and trying to keep their masks up so they can get some runs and unplug from the world for a while.
So pop in those earbuds, you boogyin’ fools! We’ve got enough annoyances and potential for conflict already. And may Barry’s music make your whole world sing! Privately, of course…
Exception: Anybody Who’s Working For The Weekend
Whether you’re a Liftie who loves Loverboy, a Bus Driver who digs Black Sabbath, or a Dishwasher down with Mac Dre, your efforts are 100% responsible for making the Mt. Hood experience seamless. And if you need to blast some tuneage to get you through your shift, you’ve more than earned the right to dictate the DJ-decisions—even if the music of Mr. Manilow is what it takes to keep you smiling.
We appreciate your continued understanding of an acceptable volume and environment for your musical coping mechanisms.
4) Highway 35 Isn’t Just For The Cool Kids Anymore
You literally shouldn’t carpool. And from a traffic and environmental standpoint that’s a bummer. But so is killing your homies because you wedged yourselves in the Soob’ and somebody coughed. This year, we’re all rolling solo and the sled-heads and tube-newbs are doing the same. And a four-hour drive from P-town to T-Line is often on the table.
Sounds sick, but you can just roll out I-84 and catch OR 35 to the hill. While that longer loop is a tradition for HRM loc’s, snowshoers, and Nordic nerds, 35 is far from immune to inexperienced idiots and Sno-Park slowdowns. Don’t expect to cruise down the freeway and score front row. But do expect less traffic, and the smug superiority of knowing you’re not one of those hapless gapers stuck on US 26.
*Exception: Columbia Gorge Silver Thaws
You know those banger days when everyone’s amping ‘cause it dumped two feet and the sun’s rising into a cloudless sky? Yeah, those same storms often hit the Gorge with a two-inch crust of wet glass-ice you can hardly walk on, much less drive.
Worse, I-84 lacks a lot of turnarounds and a sideways semi will stop you faster than you can read this sentence. Be sure to visit tripcheck.com and scope your line before you leave. And don’t forget the East Wind Drive-In (Downtown Cascade Locks) opens early and soft-serve ice cream cones are always an appropriate accompaniment to breakfast.
5) Be Even Cooler To Each Other Than Usual
Mt. Hood’s a special place and it’s always had a welcoming vibe. And now more than ever, we need to share the stoke. On the slopes and the on chairs. And on the roads and in the lots, too. Owning reliable transportation, maintaining functional gear, and affording a lift ticket are all privileges. Be mindful of your good fortune, look out for each other, and lead by example.
*Exception: Call Bullshit on The “No Mask ‘Til The Liftie Asks” Squad
While it’s the Lifties’ job to police the anti-mask morons, the latter remain the number one threat to us all shredding ‘til the wildflowers bloom. And while a scolding from staff and a pass-suspension are effective tools, social sanctions have the power go even further, especially when applied en masse. So if stink-eye and a cold shoulder aren’t cutting it, throw in a firm request to, “Please mask up and don’t ruin the season for everyone!” You’ll be surprised how much applause you get.
And remember, if somebody’s looking at you funny, you’ve either got your nose or your nuts hanging out. And neither is remotely cool.
That said, once you’re out of the lift line and off the chair, we’re still in America. You are free to drop-mask and straight-line the epic ice-blasted bumps on Wingle’s Wiggle! Just maintain the same six-foot minimum that (trust us) everyone’s trying to give you and pull your mask up over your nose when you hit the lift line or Patrol arrives to put you in the rescue toboggan. And the same goes for you with the ironic mullet and the blast shield sunglasses! That rodeo back-three to switch front-lip revert sounds dope, but your squad will see your sick aerial acrobatics on social media anyway. Now load your selfie-stick into the Subaru and stop lurking in the lot! There’s a pandemic in case you haven’t heard, and somebody’s waiting for your parking spot.
6) There’s Always More Than Meets The Eye
As evidenced by this article, most of us can likely gauge a fellow mountain user’s experience at a glance. Your gear, line, and vehicle speak volumes. But while we can often glean assumptions from appearances, we don’t know squat about anyone’s story. That park rat might be making mac ’n cheese with tap-water tonight and dropping all her income on resort-town rent because her roommate bailed. That sketchy dude who keeps bombing the bumps might’ve just watched another huge construction job cancel before his eyes. That older couple matching turns down the middle of Two Bowl might’ve buried more than one friend recently. And that family in the minivan heading to White River could be a paycheck away from living in that van, and desperately in need of some affordable fun and fresh air after almost a year of social distancing and racial tension in the city.
*Exception: Absolutely None, Ever
We all have a right to be here and be healed. And we all have the responsibility to make room for each other to do so. Our approaches and our plans may differ but our needs are identical. What’s more, glaciated stratovolcanoes are raw forces of nature and tend to do whatever suits them with no regard for our recreational concerns and petty squabbles. Nobody owns the mountains and they’ll smack down anyone who behaves otherwise. But they always seem to reward our efforts to share them with one another.
So keep masking-up and making 2021 a rad season! Fingers-crossed we don’t need to update the Unwritten Rules of Riding Closed Resorts.
Take nothing for granted, share the stoke, and always heckle responsibly!
About the Author: BACK IN THE PROVERBIAL DAY an Itinerant Scottish Woodsman arrived at Mt. Hood, having already felled the trees in his Native Highlands. But before he could swing his fearsome axe, a Sasquatch Princess from the mighty Wy’east band cast her strong magic over his mind and spirited him away. Deep within the volcano, he taught the ‘squatches the mysteries of the perfect freeride stance. And in return for sweetening their shredding, they shared with him the timeless legends of the true locals.
Flash forward to this day and Shralper McShredenstein is the blur in the trees at the edge of your periphery, an unassuming rider much given to 195cm slabs of stunt-lumber and the fast company of the gnar-obsessed, regardless of their mountain modalities. And while it is said he still logs, it is now a cargo of lore he loads into his Interdimensional International Harvester, for delivery to those readers who would settle only for the straight dope.
Approach Shralper McShredenstein at your peril. He is quick with a quip and powerfully perceptive. But always down to get some turns in, share a few tales, and just point it!
Last modified: February 7, 2021