Remember The Right Of Way Rules Please.

Mike Roth with new safety add-ons for the modern skier.

[Editor Note: This article by ski journalist Mike Roth originally appeared in the Albany Times Union. It has been edited slightly from the original.]

On Monday the 19th of March, I skied Mount Snow which was fantastic. Since the week before they had received over five feet of snow. The trail conditions were packed powder over the entire mountain and could not have asked for better conditions aside from fresh ungroomed powder.

There was a decent crowd at the Bluebird bubble six pack chair but that was mainly because it was the only main face lift operating. There was no reason to run any of the others due to the lack of people. Even though the lift line took a few minutes to get through there basically was no one on the trails as you skied down to the base.

While I was on the mountain there were various posters with the Skier’s Code of Responsibility so I will repeat them here for the record.

It’s YOUR responsibility
1. Know your ability and always stay in control and be able to stop and avoid other people or objects. It is your responsibility to stay in control on the ground and in the air.
2. Take lessons from qualified professional instructors, to learn and progress.
3. As you proceed downhill or overtake another person, you must avoid the people below and beside you.
4. Do not stop where you obstruct a trail or run, or are not visible from above.
5. When entering a trail or run or starting downhill, look uphill and give way to others.
6. When riding a chairlifts use the restraining devices. Always use suitable restraints to prevent runaway skiing/boarding equipment. Ensure your equipment is in good condition.
7. Observe and obey all signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails or runs and out of closed areas.
8. Before using any lift you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
9. Do not ski, snowboard, ride a lift or undertake any other alpine activity if your ability is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
10. If you are involved in, or witness an accident, alert Ski Patrol, remain at the scene and identify yourself to the Ski Patrol.

To me, Item Three above is the most important!

This is my biggest gripe while on the mountain. When people pass you, they just fly by, many very close to you and without notification. How hard would it be to say “on your right or on your left”? Almost no one says that anymore. What a shame. I say no one, but I do and on Monday one other person said it to me. And I thanked him.

Every time I ski, I am increasingly conscious of the fact that I will be passed by someone behind me and almost always without notification. It is a rule on the Skier’s Code, but it should be a law. It is a law to use your directional in a car when you are going to change lanes or turn. It should be illegal to pass someone without notification.

When skiing I cannot tell you how many near misses I have had by individuals passing me without notification. “On your right or on your left” must not be in anyone’s vocabulary. I am not sure how we can instill this in skiers. Maybe these notifications should be taught through repetition. In that way the repetitive knowledge might sink in. It should start in the ski school levels. It should also be conspicuously posted on all the lifts and in the lodges.

Mount Snow has done some of this. On the trail markers there are signs on the mountain that say “Go With The Flow; People Ahead = Right Of Way” also the codes of skiing are posted on the TV next to the menu in the food court. This can’t be missed.

Anyone have any other ideas?


  1. Jaime Thompson says:

    We were taught Track Left or Track Right to let the person know. Today when out of habit I yell this phase I might as well be speaking in a foreign language no one knows.

    • There’s a good point that you didn’t know you made. Many skiers are speaking foreign languages, so “On your right”, might not mean a thing! Then there are those you yell “On your right”, who can’t resist LOOKING right and drifting right ! Yet, there is little need to yell “On your right”, if you’re not close to the person in the first place! We are always coming up to skiers, from behind. Look far ahead and stay away. Stay in your zone.

  2. Someone should ask the insurance companies that insure ski areas if they truly believe The skier responsibility code. I’ve seen otherwise.

  3. I could not agree more! It is rare that someone who is passing lets you know right or left but much appreciated and I always thank the person….the few times it does happen. As a full-time ski instructor one of my biggest fears is someone hitting one of my students. As a result I am often forced to ski behind my student on busy days…even keeping my poles out to the side to “deflect” passing skiers/riders. A few years ago my wife and I were at Killington for a 3 day PSIA event. Free skiing the day before on our FIRST run we choose Super Star. I was skiing on the extreme right when I heard a snowboarder behind me. I looked over my left shoulder just in time for him to hit me on my right side. As a result I dislocated my right shoulder and the boarder never even bothered to stop. A simple “on your right or on your left” would have avoided this accident.

    • to this day I always announce on your right or on your left. when someone passes me and announces I always thank them as well. I ski slower than most and always in control so I always try to ski the edges to avoid the people who might pass me unannounced even then I will sometimes still get passed on the woods side of the trail by someone without announcement which I am trying to avoid. Ski areas should be posting this more often and maybe it will sink in? good luck on the slopes and ski safe.

  4. Dennis Grunbeck says:

    I agree that very few to no people say on your right or left anymore. But then, very few drivers use their turn signals on the road these days.

  5. I rely on noises behind me. Snowboard noise just scares me as I have no idea where they are going. On your right or left would be helpful. When biking you give notice. At squaw valley, big signs up and 15 feet is required around each skier. I guess verbal communication is dead.

  6. I have been hit and knocked down by snowboarders multiple times. There’s no excuse for out of control skiing/boarding? Unfortunately ski patrol will not get involved unless someone is injured and I have yet to see a mountain host yank an out of control skier/snowboarder’s pass!
    Until safe/slow skiing areas are enforced, this will not change.

    • Absolutely true Cliff…the resort has a responsibility to enforce out of control skiers…it only takes pulling a few passes for the word to get out. Resorts cannot waive negligence in my opinion.

  7. I, too, have the same experience as Jamie Thompson. When I shout out “on your right” or “on your left”, the person I’m passing looks at me like I’m crazy. The ones who don’t look at me, are listening to music and can’t hear me, anyway.


  8. I have been skiing right on the edge of a trail on an empty wide slope and have still had a skier pass me on the edge side without notification. I think some view other skiers as a terrain park feature. No excuse for this. If I had turned to the edge as he passed there would have been a collision.

  9. Norm Reynolds says:

    Many people are listening to music, or don’t understand English. Others have to think a little to remember where left or right is. If I’m passing someone, I try to time the pass with their turns. Likewise, if I’m skiing I try to keep a pattern in my own turns, and if I make a big change in that pattern, I look behind me. I shouldn’t have to, but, obviously not everyone behind me is careful.

  10. Requiring the uphill rider to be responsible for the downhill rider has gone the way of the Dodo. If you’re down hill and you’re going to turn across the hill, keep your head on a swivel and don’t start turning until you’ve looked uphill. Every time, or you’ll get smacked. It’s just the way things are now.

  11. Jennifer Brierley says:

    Is ‘on your right’ for downhill and xc skiing – noone has ever said it to me when downhilling but sometimes when I am xc skiing. An out of control downhill skier ran into my back when I was downhilling and broke my arm. I have been scared of fast skiers skiing close to me ever since. Even on the xc trails when descending.

  12. I let my poles flail out sideways on narrow trails when the kids are screaming past too close. Does wonders.

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