Navigating the Chaos – The White Ribbon of Death

Jon Roubik |
White Ribbon of Death
One of the most consistent ribbons – Arapahoe Basin. Image: SnowBrains

You either love it or hate it. The snowy strip of snowsport survivalism. The pitiful path of piss-drunk plankers. The frozen freeway of flailing fools. The White Ribbon of Death! Some see it as a trap to be avoided at all costs. Some see it as a chaotic opportunity to get their season started before most others. In my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons, barely. But they do. So what keeps you from wanting to indulge?

I get it – having just a single run available to an entire region of salivating enthusiasts has plenty of downfalls (pun intended). Still, they’ve never been enough to keep me away. In my eyes, it all comes down to understanding each of these downfalls and preparing your self to effectively navigate them. As such, here are a few tips to help you navigate and survive The White Ribbon of Death:

Get ready to make friends!

1) Expectations – Keep expectations low. Like, really low. If you go into this thinking “man, this is going to suck hard”, you might actually have a shot at an experience that exceeds your expectations.

2) Company – Let’s face it, this will likely be a miserable experience; and misery loves company. So bring a friend. But just one… for the love of God, don’t invite all your friends.

3) Headphones – Even though you brought a friend, being subjected to 30-minutes of conversations in the lift line about the amount of “balls that were tripped during that epic run of String Cheese shows” or whatever other rubbishy subjects can be enough to make you both vomit. Just make sure to pull the headphones out while on the piste so you can hear the out-of-control snowlerblader hack cartwheeling into your back.

4) Booze – Check. But moderation is key. And no, you’re definitely not “better when your drunk.” You suck when you’re sober, you suck worse when you’re drunk. Keep your suck in check on the hill and on the drive home.

5) Edges – You probably won’t ever ski a more scraped-off run in your life. Those edges might save your ass (literally).

6) Self Preservation – I know you strapped in and jumped on your bed a dozen times this summer, but this is your first day on snow. Stay on the snow and off the ski patrol sled. Fortunately, though, bones heal in about 8-12 weeks so if you break yourself now, you’ll probably be good by the time winter is in full swing.

Opening day snow density testing complete. Results – Solid. Image: Jon Roubik

7) Timing – Everyone complains about the crowds yet no one looks around before starting downhill at the same time as 40 other people. Wait 30 seconds… literally 30 seconds for those 40 people to go and you can likely quadruple the amount of space around you.

8) Respect – For the amount of rocker, swallowtails, and surfy feel that skiing and snowboarding have bitten off surfing in recent years, there’s one key trend that could stand to see more focus – Respect gets respect. You don’t give it, you don’t get it. Show it to the lifties, to the scanners, to patrol and show it to each other. Put this last tip into practice and you might be pleasantly surprised by just how far it goes.

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