9 Things That Europeans Find Shocking About Skiing in America

Julia Schneemann | LaughsLaughs
Picture: pixabay.com

There have been many videos on social media about things Americans find surprising or shocking about skiing in Europe. Weirdly enough, the same cannot be said about Europeans skiing in America. Thankfully, SnowBrains has their own European to ask, so here are the top nine things that Europeans find shocking or surprising (or maybe just plain weird) about skiing in America:

1) Ski Lift Ticket Price

A day pass in Europe is around USD $50-60 for a big resort, with Switzerland being more expensive than Austria or Italy. But even in Switzerland, you never pay more than $80 for a day pass. So it was a shock to get to the U.S. and pay more than three times that amount for a day pass.

The cost of a family ski vacation in the US.

2) Ski Instructor Lessons

While we are talking money: the next shock was the price of a private ski instructor. It was more than double that of European private ski instructors. Not as shocking as the lift pass; however, even more shocking was that the ski instructors only get paid about $20-25 per hour or roughly 10% of what we paid to the mountain operations company. In Europe, the majority of the fee goes into the pocket of the ski instructor. Weirdly, I pay less in Europe, yet the ski instructor receives more than in America.

3) Waste

Wherever I went on the mountain, everything was presented in disposable form, from plastic or paper plates to disposable cups to single-use utensils. The amount of garbage created on American mountains was very off-putting to observe.

Hot dog
Not a reusable dish or cup in sight; all single-use. | Picture: Julia Schneemann

4) Grooming

My American friends told us excitedly, “Let’s go to XYZ run; it is groomed today.” Cue the Europeans looking at each other, utterly confused. The idea that a resort would not groom every single run was entirely foreign to us. European resorts will groom every run daily, so that concept was new and weird, especially given the ticket prices.

5) Safety Bars

… or rather the lack of using safety bars. In a country where you cannot get a coffee without a lid with a “Warning Hot Beverage” imprinted on it for legal reasons, it is bewildering that people don’t put safety bars down on ski lifts. I am all for personal freedom, but oddly, a certain gung-ho-ness is reserved in America for a mode of transportation that is often so high in altitude that a fall will either maim or kill you. Or maybe American lifts are so slow that you cannot get ejected when they stop abruptly?

Skiiers and Snowboarders hyped for Eldora's opening day (Image: Denver Westword)
Safety bars, what safety bars? | Picture: Denver Westword

6) Queueing

Now this was a positive and a negative shock. The queues were so orderly I was wondering if I was, in fact, still in a British colony. People were polite and kindly policing my European kids, who were used to snaking their way past everyone. If you have not been to Europe for skiing, queuing in Europe is like a mosh-pit where only the toughest will stay upright. Typically a French or Italian will threaten to punch you for touching his skis, which was hard to avoid since he was casually walking all over your skis. However, on the flip side was the size of the queues, which would sometimes snake halfway back up the run you had just gone down.

7) All the Gear

Most American skiers looked like they were freshly sponsored by a ski brand with the latest gear, head to toe. However, they were shockingly clueless when asked for specs about their skis. While they all looked like total ski aces, the skiing ability was disappointingly less so. Interestingly, that did not deter them from attempting a double black diamond run, which was amusing entertainment for the lift rides. The way people carried themselves, I certainly had much higher anticipation of their skiing (or boarding) ability. Jerrys seemed to be much easier to spot in Europe by looking at them than in America. Personally, I prefer being able to identify my Jerrys from afar.

The Coldest Chairlifts at a Ski Resort in USA and Canada
Why, oh, why are there no bubbles on the chair lifts in America?

8) Bubbles

Why, oh why, do your chair lifts have no bubbles? You have some serious altitude in the U.S., yet your ski lifts are just so cold as they have no bubbles — I will not even mention heated seats and settle for a layer of protective perspex.

9)  Manners

My son leaned over on day two and whispered in my ear, “Mom, everyone’s so nice here!” I am unsure if Europeans are just a tad grumpy, but it was quite noticeable how friendly, happy, and polite everyone was, from staff to other guests to locals in town. It made for a positive experience all around.

These are my and my friends’ personal observations about skiing in America and are not based on any public poll. However, I would love to hear from you (and I am sure some of you are itching to just let loose in the comments).

Vail Resort, CO. | Picture: Julia Schneemann

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4 thoughts on “9 Things That Europeans Find Shocking About Skiing in America

  1. What is found most shocking (and uncomfortable) by me (a European) at ski resorts in North America is almost absolute absence of foot rests on chair lifts. And I appreciate so many frienmly people wishing to talk to me on chairlifts and in gondolas.

  2. 1. Americans are greedy, and Americans let corporate america take over the ski resorts.
    2. Again corporate greed towards all aspects of the business, including ski instruction, where the instructor relies on repeat clients coming out for the week and the tips they usually get.
    3. Americans love their throw away society.
    4. They don’t groom every run everyday, that’s nonsense. Besides groomed runs in the alps are for the average bloke. One thing americans have issue with in the alps is all the above tree line skiing, they complain about the low visibility.
    5. Safety bars, depends on where you ski the alps.
    6. Nonsense, this notion that lift lines in the alps are unorganized is ridiculous. I’ve skied in over fifty ski areas (and thousands of days) in the alps, and they are organized, and the people are polite, except maybe on a busy holiday.
    7. True, most Americans look like they’re about to enter a freeride competition at any moment, with all the newest of everything. Because Americans are rich and try to buy their way into a ‘lifestyle.’ In the alps you often see some older gear including faded ski jackets, it’s more utilitarian mindset.
    8. Europe is where lift manufacturers are, so they have the latest and greatest lifts. Including putting them on top of some steep, crazy and scary peaks.
    9. People are nice at resorts but can be unpleasant especially at the end of the season. I’ve met people in the alps that were so friendly that we’ve had decades long friendships. In the alps there is deep ancient mountain culture, in the USA the mountains are devoid of meaningful culture and it’s all about the Benjamin’s.

  3. Great perspective! I do love how Americans handle lift lines, Latin America is the same free for all that Europe apparently has and it’s no fun.

    Surprised to learn that we don’t have amenities like heated seats and bubbles on our lifts considering the major resorts all seem so posh.

    But the biggest takeaway for me is that going to Europe to ski really might be a cost-saving move for someone on the East coast! Could be a real wakeup call to the Vail Resorts and Alterra execs if we start to see a shift.

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