Chair Chatter

chairlift heckling resort skiing

The fine art of heckling.

The gatekeepers are not there to prohibit you anything, they just want to frighten you away, if you are courageous enough to go through them, they will let you, thinking you are the owner. —Bangambiki Habyarimana

At one point or another, we’ve all seen, or been a part of, ski-resort heckling. It’s prominence on the slopes is only destined to grow as more and more people head to the hills. Whether it’s egging on a prospective send or booing the ultimate bailed attempt, heckling at the resort takes on many forms. Sometimes it’s encouragment, and it’s just what the skier needs to take him over the edge on a drop he’s been eyeing all year. Other times, the verbal onslaught from the dangling peanut gallery instills enough intimidation to deem all runs in view of the lift line forbidden. Though oftentimes obnoxious and seemingly disparaging, heckling is not only an important tradition on the slopes, but it’s actually necessary to ensure a proper balance on the hill.

I like to think of hecklers as the gatekeepers to legendary Hollywood lines. Think about it: some of the most challenging terrain at the resort is inevitably guarded by judging onlookers above. Positioned on a bench to preside from, casual resort goers dutifully enforce law and order where unruly riders dare not tread. Without them, the status quo would be lost. Skiers would run amok in a structureless society. Furthermore, the safety of resorts would be compromised, leading to more hazardous conditions all around the mountain. New skiers would recklessly proceed to terrain well above their ability, only to slide down unskillfully, bringing with them all the snow on the slope. Mind you, it is not all directed at the newbie. Even experienced riders can breach this unwritten contract by doing stale jumps and tricks, or by spending too much time on top of a run.

To help better understand the culture, consider these rules to help guide you on and under the lift. In the end, it’s important to remember that heckling is supposed to be fun. So, take it easy out there, but be ready to call out any infractions you see, as well as be called out yourself should you violate protocol. It is a critical role, and we need all the help we can get. Welcome to the force.

General Guidelines
Use discretion. Heckle folks who look like they would heckle you back.
Look for flair. Be it apparel, attitude, or style. If someone wants attention, give it to them.
Keep it light. Unless someone is endangering others. Then take the gloves off.
Be creative. A good heckle contains satire—incorporate as much irony, rhyme, and alliteration as possible.
Know the consequences. If you ski under the lift, be prepared to be heckled. Period.

Dos & Don’ts
Do: Cheer someone on who just stomped a jump or steep line.
Don’t: Declare what was done wrong or could have been done differently. You’ll have your turn soon enough.

Do: Hoot or holler for someone who went big and wiped out bigger.
Don’t: Ridicule someone who falls after a big jump. Respect the effort.

Do: Get the lift crowd involved if you need some encouragement before a big line.
Don’t: Get angry when you get heckled after wiping out. It’s all a part of the game.

Do: Quip someone who is looking for a lost ski.
Don’t: Do it the second time up the chair. Now you’re just being mean.

Do: Heckle someone who is a hazard.
Don’t: Yell at someone who is clearly gripped with fear. We’ve all been there.

Common Call-Outs
Scenario: Someone tomahawks under the lift but keeps his skis on.
Heckle: “You lost something up there…” (Wait two seconds.) “Your balance!”

Scenario: Someone ejects one ski without crashing, but continues downhill a ways before coming to a stop.
Heckle: “Monoskiing is so 1980!”

Scenario: Someone is standing at the top of a run, pondering, for far too long.
Heckle: “Better drop in before the snow melts!”

Scenario: A presumptive shredder waits just long enough to get everyone on the chair excited, then turns back to the easy way down.
Heckle: “Bunny hill’s that way!”

Scenario: Someone is skiing in jeans.
Heckle: “Give me denim or give me death! F@&k yeah!”

Scenario: Someone stomps a backflip and continues through moguls in perfect form.
Heckle: Whoop and applaud loudly and sincerely. That’s pretty damn cool.