Safety on the slopes: Drinking while skiing?
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tromano
January 4, 2004
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
I was skiing at 7springs last weekend. At arround 3pm on sunday I stopped at the mountain top eatery to get a coke. My friend and I sat out near the back of the eatery over lookign a frozen pond. Further toward the back of the eatery a young woman was sitting alone wiht a glass of beer. My friend and I nursed your cokes for 15 moinutes or so, during which time the woman finished her beer, a second anbd started in on a 3rd. She was wearing ski boots and parka and apparently just came in from skiing. The thing is that sice we were at the top there is no other way for her to get down besides skiing. She showed no signs of stoping and I have no reason to belive that the beverages I saw her consume were her only drinks of the day. Everyone knows that its unsafe to drink and drive. But I was worried that I would have to share the slopes with this woman, for the rest of the day.

My questions are:

What affect does alcohol have on a persons skiing ability?

Is there any evidence (anecodtal) for alcohol related skiing injuries?

And given that, what is the wisdom for a ski area to sell alcohol in a location where people will have to ski down from. What responsiblity do they bear for serving alcohol in such a manner?

Alcohol / drug use is not mentioned in the skiers responsiblity code. Can you get a ticket clipped for drunken skiing?

This is just something I was thinking about.

JohnL
January 4, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000
3,509 posts
Was alcohol served at the mountain-top restaurant or was the young woman brown-bagging it?

I think any sensible person would say that doing most activities while intoxicated is dangerous. The key thing is moderation.

I certainly don't want to be on the mountain with people who are drunk, but I will say that three of the best things after a long ski day while on vacation are:
1) Getting my boots off
2) Drinking a beer or two
3) Hitting the hot tub.

I rarely drink on my day trips in the DC area, normally because I'm rushing to get back home.

I'm sure John Sherwood will have some interesting insight into the European point of view on this topic.

JohnL
January 4, 2004
Member since 01/6/2000
3,509 posts
Asking the obvious single-guy question, was she cute?
tromano
January 4, 2004
Member since 12/19/2002
998 posts
JohnL,

Yea, One of the drinks was a draft beer. So that mush have been from the resturant unless she carries a mini-keg in her parka.

Nothing tastes better than a cool glass of beer after a day on the slopes. I am sure that resorts are in a difficult place as well since people on vacation want to have a "good time".

She was cute. But I wasn't going to try anything with my girlfriend there.

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 4, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Drinking is not a good idea until after you have taken your boots off. Why? 1-2 drinks may not impair your ability to ski but it can give you a dangerous boost in confidence.

I've never seen people drink and ski like the Europeans. But many are much more accustomed to drinking than Americans and have higher tolerances. The Germans and Austrians ski relatively conservatively after having a few drinks--they take leisurely runs down easy slopes after lunch and are generally polite. Brits and Scandinavians are another story. Those are the people I watch out for and avoid if possible.

Also, in the Alps, I tend to start at 0800 and quit by 1500. As a result, I generally miss the mountain apres ski scene. That's when the real heavy drinking begins. My suggestion for people who want to partake in that scene is to go to apres ski restaurants where you can take a tram or gondola back to the resort. The Rendl Beach restaurant at St. Anton is a good choice in that regard.

Mooser Wirt and Krazy Kangaroo are the two biggest apres ski places in Austria, if not the world. Both are accessible by road and both are also only about 100 meters from base of St. Anton. In the worst case scenario, one could walk back to the base, take a cab, or a bus. The big reason people go to Krazy Kangaroo, btw, is that people tend to shed a lot of clothing there. You get the idea.

At places like St. Anton, skiing back from mountain restaurants after happy hours is something that I've heard can be scarry. Lower slopes in the Alps are often beat up to begin with and so putting drunks on them after happy hour does not seem to make much sense. Liability issues are beginning to be a concern, so I suspect in the next 5-10 years, a lot will change both there and here. Already, smoking at restaurants in Europe is declining. Nearly every restaurant has a smoke free section. Also, there are more and more smoke free train cars.

An alternative to a heavy drinking apres ski scene in Europe is the konditorei scene. Basically, you go to a pastry shop and have a Torte, a cup of coffee, listen to a piano player, and chit chat with people. Some people drink coffees laced with various liquors or have a beer or some other drink drink but it's a mild scene compared to Krazy Kangaroo. This is the kind of scene you have at Lech or St. Moritz. Europe is just like everywhere else: it has all things for all people.

gatkinso
January 4, 2004
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
I have seen lots of drinking and skiing all over, but mainly up north and out west. Cripes they mountain bike and drink beer out there - a practice that made me want to hurl just watching.

I won't even start with the flammible substances I have seen folks partake in... but there seems to be lots of that wherever you hit the slopes.

I have had a beer at lunch while skiing, and sometimes hit a flask on the chair lift - but that is it: I value my life too much.

Crush
January 4, 2004
Member since 03/21/2004
995 posts
Ummmm actually I never drink/smoke anything while I am skiing ... I don't like anything that effects my perception of balance. I have a way more good time without anything in my system; I like to feel precise as I can at all times. I don't think substances imrpoves your performance unless you are really uptight and then they can relax you a little and you might perform better but mostly it will slow your reactions, mess up your balance sense, and screw up your judgement .. IMHO.
jimmer
January 5, 2004
Member since 11/25/2003
53 posts
I don't know what the rule is, but I know that local Ski Patrol carry a portable breath-a-lizer (spelling?) & will escort people under the influence off the mountains.

But - how much is too much - I don't know.

jimemr

finsoutoc
January 5, 2004
Member since 09/30/2003
172 posts
what 'local' ski patrol?
Jim
January 5, 2004
Member since 11/22/1999
317 posts
Well, I can tell you it ain't Liberty with the breathalizers!!

With respect to drinking and skiing, its generally not a great idea. Alcohol tends to slow reflexes and impair coordination. Two things that are very helpful will engaging in an activity where you need to pay attention to what's around and have the ability to react. In addition, something not yet mentioned, is that alcohol dilates blood vessels - especially those near the skin. As a result, with more blood circulating near the surface of the body, you lose heat in colder weather faster. Probably not a good thing in the skiing environment where keeping warm is already a difficult task and hypothermia an ever present threat. Besides, the two things I definitely look forward to after a long day of skiing is (1) taking off the vice-grips on the feet called ski boots and (2) having a drink to relax and cap off the day.

With respect to policies of various areas, it differs from location to location. As a general matter, if you have a drink and then go ski, no one will likely care (or notice for that matter). If you are drunk and ski, however, chances are your skiing will be erratic, reckless and unsafe. That will get the notice of the patrol and likely get you a clipped ticket and a request to leave the slopes. In addition, BYOB is not a good idea on the slopes. You are in a public location and local jurisdictions have varying laws on "open containers" - most of them prohibiting open containers of alcohol. So be sure to keep that bota bag hidden - or better yet, left in the hotel room for after the skiing is done for the day. Otherwise, you may be asked to empty out the contents by a patroller. That would truly be alcohol abuse!

(Anonymous)
January 5, 2004
Back in the old days night sking up at liberty,It was the norm to have a flask.Wake up at 6am & get as blasted as we could get before hitting the slopes at timberline & then taking (breaks) all day! wiped out real bad at 930am at the top of timberline & broke my skis. I hitched a ride with a snowmobile patroler & told (James) to drop me off at the rental shop to get another set of skies,only to be dropped at the office & had my lift ticket clipped! This is all doable at a young age.I have had to relearn sking sober now that i'm older.But i will never forget the fastest i have ever been on skis due to the 2 double shot vodka & cranberry drinks at t-line pub 1 eve before the lifts shut down.Going up the mtn the soothing warm effect was nice but as i got off the lift things started to blur.I headed down & before i knew it i was going too fast to turn. I felt like i was in a wind tunnel with my ski jacket fluttering like mad.My wool hat tight on my head was sucked off by the wind!I think i would have freaked except maybe the vodka kept me calm enough to let my years of drinking & sking somehow get me to the bottom. back at the pub i could hear people talking about me & it got me a phone # from a falsely impressed young lady. Anyway I'm glad its over i never want to ski out of control ever again.
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