Hitchhiking to the mountain is an art form. There are plenty of hardcore ski bums that do not have cars and rely on the kindness of strangers to whisk them to their favorite mountain day in and day out. Their hitchhiking techniques vary widely, but some are more proven than others.
I didn’t have a car for almost 20-years and hitchhiked somewhere around 100 times each year.
This is what I’ve learned:
1. Make Eye Contact:
Take off your shades, drop your hood, and look each driver that passes you right in the eyes. Humans connect with people they make eye contact with. If you can make eye contact with a driver, you have a much higher chance of being picked up because now that driver has experienced a small connection with you. You’ll even notice drivers that you’ve made eye contact with that don’t pick you feeling a little bad that they didn’t.
2. Wear Mountain Clothes:
If you’re dressed up in ski/snowboard/mountain clothing, drivers know exactly what you’re up to. You’re going to the ski resort to ski/ride. Your clothes tell the drivers where you’re going and what you’re doing. That’s huge, and many drivers can likely relate to that because most people in mountain towns ski and ride as well. You now have one thing in common. If you’re dressed in regular street clothes, drivers don’t know where you’re going nor what you’re doing, and that can cause just enough nervousness for them to pass on by. Generally, the nicer/cleaner looking the mountain clothes you wear, the better your chance of being picked up.
3. Don’t Hide Anything:
We’ve all done it. You take all your gear and yourself and put it out of sight of drivers and have your 5’10” blonde girlfriend hitchhike solo. When someone pulls over, you haul out the gear and yourself and see how the driver reacts. Don’t do this. Have everything you’re hitchhiking with – skis, boards, backpack – in sight of the drivers. Please don’t lie to them; let them know your situation and what you’re up to.
4. Be Presentable:
Stand up straight and tall, stick your arm out at a 90º angle to your body, and hold your thumb up high. Show drivers that you’re presentable, confident, and proud to be hitchhiking. Hitchhikers dressed poorly, are slouched over, look down, and/or lazily hang their arm out to signal cars are obviously picked up less often. A clean shave doesn’t hurt.
You don’t need to be grinning ear to ear but have a positive facial expression. Wouldn’t you rather pick someone up who was smiling instead of someone with a vanquished or depressed facial expression?
7. Have a Sign:
A sign is great for drivers because it clearly identifies you as a hitchhiker, not some dude that just crawled out of the woods. The sign shows the initiative that you actually made a sign. Obviously, the nicer the sign, the better. The sign also displays exactly where you’re going, so drivers know precisely where you’re going. (I have a buddy that uses a sign that says “Won’t Kill You.” I was amazed at how well it worked…)
8. Don’t Carry an Axe:
Just joking on this one, but seriously, don’t.
Of course, hitchhiking can be dangerous, and I would not recommend it to everyone. That said, hitchhiking in mountain towns was nothing but safe and fun for me for those 20-years.