The ski lifts and cable cars are back in motion transporting wintersports enthusiasts high up into the mountains. Huddled together inside them are different types of skiers you are sure to find wherever you carve your turns. Here is our quick guide to the classic categories of people out on the slopes.
The crazy old former ski instructor
This guy was down in his basement waxing his skis all the way back in August. His edges are so sharp that he uses them to shave in the morning, just like he did when he was in the mountain division of the army. He can be found waiting in the car park of the ski resort at 7am and sprints towards the lift as soon as it opens. There is no way that anyone is hitting the slopes before him on his samurai-sharp skis. First tracks on the freshly groomed corduroy belong to him. Out on the pistes he pushes his skis and body – including artificial hip – to the limit in a quest to recreate the glory days of Franz Klammer flying down at 130km/h, his slipped disc from the previous season a long-distant memory. Anyone who gets in his way can expect an angry earful of Tirolean dialect. As the clock strikes ten his day is done. He clips out, heads home, leans his skis against side of the house to dry and tells his neighbour what he missed.
The over-ambitious freestyler
Early in the morning they meet up in remote spots with big bags and metal shovels. What sounds like the start of a mafia film is, in fact, just another day in the life of the freestyle community. No handrail or snow-covered roof is safe when these guys are around. They put their shovels to good use building kickers to perform various flips and tricks bearing bizarre names and numbers which nobody really understands. The most important guy is, in fact, one who doesn’t jump at all – the man holding the camera. The oldest joke in the world about freestyle skiers sums it up perfectly: How many people does it take to shred a snowpark? Three. One skier, one cameraman and one who stands there and shouts at the top of his voice: “Siiiiiiick man, 360 Nosegrab. Mad steeeez!“
The motivated Sunday skier
The Sunday skier has big ambitions – especially on black pistes which are far too difficult for him. In the hire shop he asked the guy to give him the fastest skis he has, ignoring the knowing smile which crept across the lips of the ski fitter, and for reasons best known to himself purchased a pair of self-adhesive fluffy bear ears to stick onto his helmet. Out on the slopes he spends his time getting on the nerves of the over-ambitious freestyler by skiing over the kicker he has just shaped to perfection and the crazy old former ski instructor by just existing in the first place. Lunch is a quick stop at a hut to wolf down a double portion of cheese dumplings, which will sit heavy in his stomach for the rest of the afternoon. Soon after lunch he calls it quits and ends his day either in the bar, spa or a mountain rescue helicopter.
Style is everything – that is the motto of all students you will meet out on the pistes in Tirol. Busses transporting them to and from the resort can easily be mistaken for a day out for employees at the local Burton Store. Each student needs, of course, two seats on the bus – one for him and one for his ultra-sick skis which are definitely too good to put in the rack on the back of the vehicle. At the resort he heads straight to the bar to get a deckchair and a beer – the best way to get rid of his horrendous hangover from last night’s party. This is why he may still be a little wobbly on his first run. After three terms at university in Innsbruck he hasn’t got the skills for proper freeriding but also wouldn’t dream of doing anything as uncool as skiing on the pistes, so instead he launches his own personal one-man mission against sustainable forestry by shredding through the saplings. After taking the bus back to Innsbrooklyn it’s time to hit the club. Even if there is time for him to change into something a little less stinky, he insists on wearing his full snowboard outfit – after all, sweat attracts the opposite sex, right?
The retro skier
Often difficult to differentiate from a piste hipster, the retro skier can nevertheless be easily spotted out on the slopes thanks to his neon yellow ski onesie, super long skis, wooden poles and technique you last saw in some 1980s ski film. Other skiers give him a wide berth, kept away by a mix of fear and embarrassment. He drives a classic car and his Facebook is still made of real paper. He longs for a world which is not necessarily better but definitely different. Instead of a smartphone he has a Walkman in his pocket. His version of heated insoles is a hipflask full of Schnapps. At the annual Ugly Skiing Day in the Axamer Lizum resort near Innsbruck nobody bats an eyelid. His style is somewhere between 1980s David Hasselhoff and modern-day Simon Cowell. He hates modern skiers and takes pride in keeping things real.