12 Ski and Snowboard Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

While there are clear differences between skiing and snowboard, when it comes mountain etiquette and safety the same codes apply to both and regardless of what is strapped to your feet, it’s important to aware of the basics.


The best list of mountain rules is the NSAA website’s Skier Responsibility Code which hopefully you already know; otherwise here’s the first half of the list:

Mistake #1: You’re not in control…not really…

Solution: It’s your responsibility to always stay in control. That means being able to stop or avoid other people or objects. This truly is the most basic of rules. If you’re having trouble with this, stop reading and sign up for a quick lesson with Mammoth Mountain’s Ski and Snowboard School.

Mistake #2: You thought you had the right of way.

Solution: Did you know people ahead of you have the right of way and it’s your responsibility to avoid them. In other words, it’s up to the person BEHIND to react to what happens; they are responsible in an accident. Mammoth Mountain has several intersecting and merging trails, so sometimes this rule can feel confusing.

Mistake #3: You’re sitting in the middle of the run.

Solution: Don’t stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above. If you need to rest or stop to wait for your slower friends, stay as close to the side of trails as possible. Go one step safer and only stop by signs or trees, which can keep you from getting hit by an out-of-control skier/rider.

Mistake #4 You come careening into a run without looking up hill.

Solution: Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others. This is especially important when emerging from trees back onto a trail. As a kid, I was seriously guilty of darting in and out of trees, terrifying skiers when I’d pop back on the run. I get it. So this is a reminder to all you speed demon daredevils: Slow down when reentering busy trails.

Mistake #5 You just fell and your snowboard is now careening down Cornice Bowl at mach speed.

Solution: Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment. Whether it’s just wrist straps on your poles or a leash for your snowboard, accidentally injuring someone else with your stuff puts an end to everyone’s day.

Mistake #6 You skied out of bounds and now you have no idea where you are. You’re cold, it’s getting dark, and you’re not sure what to do next.

Solution: Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas. Nobody is trying to treat you like a baby; it’s for your own safety. And there are plenty of open trails without letting curiosity kill you!

Mistake #7 Oops! You biffed unloading from the chair lift and now they stopped the lift for you.

Solution: Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely. Part of that means checking with the group your riding with before pulling the bar down. Also, don’t knock the snow off your skis or board.  


The rest of the list are mistakes that may not always keep you safer, but they can prevent embarrassment, dirty looks from others and an all around unhappy time.

Mistake #8 That first beer or two hit you hard and now you’re not feeling so well.

Check your water intake. Beer may hit that sweet post-work out spot, but hopefully, you’ve also been chugging water all day. Spending the day freezing while exercising might not feel like you’re working up a sweat, but most likely you already started perspiring strapping your boots on. High altitude sickness is more likely if you are dehydrated.

Insider Tip: Wear a hydration pack (you know, like a CamelBak). It’ll keep you from having to stop riding or skiing to tank up at the nearest lodge whenever your throat is dry. Also, replace dry snacks with fruits or a salad: They’re not only healthy, they’re hydrating! Mistake #9 You’re awkwardly waiting on the other side of the chair lift gate.

Maybe you innocently thought your group was right behind you. They aren’t and now you’re standing in the middle of the lift line not going anywhere. You think you’re being gracious by offering to allow people to go around you, but really everyone is upset and the lift operators are scowling.

Solution: Always meet up with your group BEFORE entering the queue. Line mazes are hard enough to get through on skis, don’t add the awkwardness of watching your Uncle/ girlfriend/ chair-riding-buddy attempt to maneuver their way through the crowds, in the snow. On skis.

Mistake #10 You cut off a class from their teacher.

Lessons aren’t just for kids. Adults take lessons too and it’s rude at best to cut them off from their instructors. Be especially aware in the slower zones, and always be on the look out for Ski/Snowboard Instructors. They wear blue uniforms and often have a line of people or kids  following them.

Mistake #11 You blew right by that “Yard Sale.”

This isn’t the kind of yard sale where you but someone’s old junk. I’m talking about when a person falls so hard and fast that his or her equipment goes flying and sliding everywhere. If possible, help someone so they don’t have to hike up to their gear. At the very least, make sure the skier/rider isn’t hurt. Of course, if you end up have a yard sale on a powder day, you can’t blame people for not always stopping. 😉

Mistake #12 You hopped on the lift, and now have no idea where to go next. It sounds like a fun adventure, but on a huge like Mammoth (which has 3,600 skiable/ridable acres), you may find yourself on runs well outside your ability with no easy way down. Or worse, on the wrong side of the mountain, waiting for a bus to take to back to your car. Without a plan, these situations are an inconvenience at best and can lead to injury at worst. There’s no need to plan out every second of the day, but general plans like knowing what lift to meet at next, how to get there and where the group should meet if someone is lost, will keep yourself and your group happy.


A number of mountain etiquette and safety rules are missing from this list, but I think these are the most important. What are your best safety and etiquette tips for skiing and riding Mammoth Mountain? Any etiquette guidelines that are specific to June Mountain? Let me know in the comments below!

Lesley-Ann Hoxie

Lesley grew up in San Diego, attended college in The OC, worked at The Onion in Los Angeles, and has spent the last three years in Mammoth Lakes where she works at the newspaper, Mammoth Times. In her free time she enjoys skiing, archery, and learning high-altitude cooking techniques.

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