What’s the Best Topic for Chairlift Conversation?

What’s the Best Topic for Chairlift Conversation?

The chairlift occupies a fascinating social niche, bringing together strangers and friends into close proximity for a finite and usually


The chairlift occupies a fascinating social niche, bringing together strangers and friends into close proximity for a finite and usually predetermined amount of time. There are elements of road trips, elevator rides, and public mass transportation, people moving forward side by side, sometimes touching, en route to a shared destination. There is the intimacy of adjacency but the separation of not sitting face to face. There’s the liftline lottery of who will be your seatmates and what order you’ll sit. Indeed, there’s a lot more going on in a chairlift ride than most of us consider.

I could write a book about the entire culture of chairlifts, and maybe I will, but for now the issue is simply one of conversation. The chairlift ride, especially a medium-length ride of, say, six to nine minutes, offers just the right amount of time to address a topic, kick it around long enough to come to a satisfying resolution, and then slide off the chair feeling complete. A double allows privacy (“He did WHAT?”), while bigger chairs promote communal and perhaps blander discussions (“Nice day we’re havin’.” “Yup.”). There are opportunities for eavesdropping, social engineering (“The snow is SO good over on the south slopes.”), or, with hood up and head down, the solitude of meditation.

So. Since we have a few minutes together, what should we talk about?


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Congrats to Seth Spartan, winner of this week’s giveaway.

Photo Jackson Hole by Steve Casimiro

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
Showing 132 comments
  • Hotmann
    Reply

    If you don’t want to talk about crazy physics stuff, don’t ride on my chair!

  • Patrick
    Reply

    You have to let them know that you’re the best skier on this mountain!!

  • Sarah
    Reply

    What’s the point of meeting new people if you can’t make up a new identity for yourself?!

  • JP
    Reply

    I thought how many days you have was the meaning of life…

  • David Jones
    Reply

    What about absolutely nothing at all??

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      That’s one of your choices, DJ.

  • dave
    Reply

    As the bull wheel turns… so do the days of our lives.

  • Clay Walberg
    Reply

    How much radder you are than the other people usually doesn’t end well….. But sure is fun!

  • adam lauver
    Reply

    where u from? and acting extremely weird

  • Ashley @ Sensibly Gourmet
    Reply

    “impersonating.” best entertainment for a slow chair.

  • David
    Reply

    I like the lying to strangers option, but I go with the Gear junkie convo.

  • Matt
    Reply

    i’ve found that lift chat topics can vary by lift location on a mountain. lifts near a base area vs lifts to higher/more remote terrain vs lifts serving a terrain park.

  • Jen
    Reply

    Gear — it’s a productive conversation, especially if you can get reviews on teh skis, boots, etc., if you’re looking for new shit. I also use skis, boards, and skiboards, and ride with a few splitboarders, so it comes up a lot anyway. 😉

  • Seth
    Reply

    Making something up certainly is good fun. Where ya from really is only interesting if you (or they) are clearly from another country.

  • Andy
    Reply

    What are chairlifts? I can’t talk when I’m busting up a vertical skintrack. Meditation all the way.

  • Matt
    Reply

    I usually like to comment on people below – what they’re wearing, how they’re skiing, brutal falls, etc.

  • Rachel
    Reply

    I lived in a ski town long enough to know how much fun it is to lie to strangers… turns out I am not alone in this :-)

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      I see another poll coming…the biggest lie told on a chairlift.

  • w
    Reply

    At our little mountain, there’s usually only one answer to “where ya from?,” but that is part of why it is so great.

  • Eric
    Reply

    Can we talk about powder stashes in our mustaches?

  • Blair
    Reply

    How wicked the skiing was yesterday

  • Shoa Russell
    Reply

    My favorite is always to talk about how we would get down if we were stranded like the characters on frozen, with no food, surrounded by wolves. :)

  • nico
    Reply

    Im all about lying to strangers on the chairlift

  • B McQueen
    Reply

    Is it deep or is it beat

  • Harry Mudgett
    Reply

    The Higgs boson

  • Chris Wentworth
    Reply

    Trying to guess cup sizes on the bras stuck in trees.

  • Dave
    Reply

    Where ya, from? Really me too. Weekend trip or just a day? Full weekend here. How about the difference in the weather??? Crazy huh? Yup 10-12 whole minutes of that crap….or if I don’t feel like talking, I say in perfect English “Sorry I don’t speak English” Pretty quite chairlift ride then. Ha! (joking, I did hear that one before though.)

  • Nic
    Reply

    I usually start off with a blatantly loud fart, pretend it didn’t happen, and then talk about how methane is warming the planet uncontrollably. I was disappointed this wasn’t one of the options.

  • Greg H.
    Reply

    The best story (true or not) wins!

  • Travis
    Reply

    What beer is on tap at the bar?

  • Cory
    Reply

    Pizza is the meaning of life, and thier are infinate possibilities for talking about pizza

  • Alpentalic
    Reply

    Sandbagging?!?!?

  • MattB
    Reply

    You shoulda’ been here last week!

  • RB
    Reply

    Tourists always wanted to know what we were going to do “In the real world.” These are the people to lie to…

  • Brian
    Reply

    Lying to someone who’s not local can be a lot of fun

  • Matt
    Reply

    Stashes…um no. These are secret for a reason. Lying sounds like a hell of a lot more fun!

  • Lauren Lindley
    Reply

    The bar is always open.

  • Craig Rowe
    Reply

    How cynical it seems everyone is becoming, as evidenced by the inability to converse productively with another human in a shared, joyous experience.

  • Amine
    Reply

    I met a lot of “interesting” people, many of which claimed to have very cool jobs. One dude claimed to be working for the army, blowing things up to test bombs, before sparking a huge fatty!). Not the least surprised by the “lying to strangers” statistic on this poll!

  • Jill
    Reply

    When I ski at a hill, it’s usually Whitewater, B.C. so I find I can always chat with strangers on the chair about how the deep the pow is and how amazing the hill food is and then we usually see a guy skiing with a parrot on his shoulder (really) or something similar, so, y’know, shared laughter/amazement.

  • Alec B
    Reply

    Lying to people is always a good time

  • kaj
    Reply

    snow conditions!

  • kaj
    Reply

    POw!

  • Nik
    Reply

    The best is when people talk about how gnar I am, however most conversations revolve around comparatively petty things like snow conditions, gear, and the meaning of life.

  • ben
    Reply

    there is no better place to talk about the weather then on the chair lift.

  • joe
    Reply

    lying to other people who are apparently lying back

  • Anthony
    Reply

    Too bad I can’t select “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll”. But mostly the snow, or lack of around Colorado.

  • patrick
    Reply

    10% Truth. Works everytime.

  • Nick
    Reply

    Religion and politics.

  • Lynne Wieland
    Reply

    just because I sleep with you doesn’t mean I’ll ski with you.

  • Tina
    Reply

    Clearly, I need to get more creative.

  • surferpete
    Reply

    Need a new helmet!

  • Jes
    Reply

    I find the chairlift to be the perfect place to discuss ‘what-if’ scenarios.

  • Preston Spratt
    Reply

    Lies Lies Lies, or splitting a flask

  • Heather
    Reply

    Man, I usually just ask how their day is going, and if they’re having fun skiing.

  • jake
    Reply

    “…. you should have been here yesterday…”

  • Matt
    Reply

    Yard sales below

  • S
    Reply

    weather – good or bad, easy topic, no offence

  • Kelly Gault
    Reply

    Again another great poll! Keep up the great work!

  • wade
    Reply

    GNAR!

  • Chris
    Reply

    nothing like a false life story …

  • Kevin
    Reply

    I usually talk about the best ways to win free ski helmets.

  • Doug Payne
    Reply

    Depends on how cute she is…

  • Craig
    Reply

    How to get lift tickets for less

  • Vinh
    Reply

    Snow conditions

  • Michael
    Reply

    I just wanted to let you know, I’m the best skier on the mountain

  • jonnyc
    Reply

    Snow conditions, lift lines, Closed runs, tree skiing and fresh powder are what we should be talking about though

  • Hannah
    Reply

    Once my mom and I decided that we would fake accents with everyone we talked to while on the lifts. The first people we got on with were from Ireland. We decided our idea wasn’t as funny as we thought it would be.

  • Jay Parkhill
    Reply

    The funner question is “what is the strangest/most inappropriate conversation you have overheard while sitting on a chairlift with strangers?”

  • Dan
    Reply

    I’ll take the helmet

  • Dan Murphy
    Reply

    It was on a chairlift back in the 80’s where I learned about the term “bilateral pendulus”. One of the funniest rides ever.

  • Mark
    Reply

    The people skiing/boarding below. Always something interesting going on

  • JC
    Reply

    I like to break the ice by pulling out a few PBRs from my fanny pack.

  • Vanonymous
    Reply

    Everything. Nothing.

  • Morgan Miller
    Reply

    Depending on how polite v. douchey the co-riders are…either sharing the goods on snow, or spreading mis-information!

  • Sam
    Reply

    JC…Or a bowl.

  • ph
    Reply

    If someone actually brought up sex on a chairlift… that would be entertaining!

  • Matt Freeman
    Reply

    I have a rule on the the chair: never talk to strangers unless you’re using a foreign accent…which when up at Whistler means one has to avoid Aussie, Kiwi, UK, South African or Irish accents, because if you try it chances are someone around you is actually from there.

    I’m fond of an Antillean accent. Bon Bini!

  • Drew
    Reply

    Idle chit chat like “pretty wild about the manufacturer of these lifts having to do a recall because of the seat pads tendency to internally combust on busy days due to all those asses sliding on and off”

  • JMC
    Reply

    Life in Mars is not an option so I go with weather conditions.

  • Bruce
    Reply

    The next poll should be about the strangest or most interesting stories from the chairlift. There is this one about the female ski patroller that had the walkie talkie talk button on while discussing her …………. Made the whole mountain laugh or turn red for days.

  • Tim Ahlstrom
    Reply

    I feel a need to tell others that I have lots of Higgs boson, both in my pants(pockets) and in my lunch sack… I try to get them to look… A chairlift is perfect for such a discourse…

  • Steve
    Reply

    Always turning the critical statements about conditions, weather, etc. back to the positive – just glad to be here man!

  • EJ
    Reply

    Love chatting on the lift. Great chance to practice ice breaking conversation w strangers

  • Paul Sokoloski
    Reply

    her…..?

  • Donald
    Reply

    Oddly enough I did have the Higgs Boson come up once on a lift. Probably will be the first and last time.

  • GOOG
    Reply

    I fold hot air balloons for a living.

  • Hayden Beck
    Reply

    Rarely talk on the lift but you could catch me talking about gear to my buddies wayy to often

  • Claire
    Reply

    snow conditions always comes up

  • Jim Duncker
    Reply

    great chairlift photo

  • KatieSue
    Reply

    Our resorts in Salt Lake have skiiers from a non-profit ride single and offer info on the history and ecology of our canyons and watershed where you’re skiing during the ride. I think it’s cool.

  • A'yen
    Reply

    Definitely asking where people have found good snow–I’m routinely amazed by the depth of knowledge people have about their home mountain.

  • Alissa
    Reply

    I like forcing the young cool dudes to talk to me. They may have their headphones on and heads down but I can always get them to accidental make eye contact with me. Ha! Then it is all over for them and they have to basically have a conversation with their mom.

  • CP
    Reply

    I like to talk about the summer.

  • D
    Reply

    Depends on the weather! If its dumping you talk about that.

  • Alan Bertram
    Reply

    Where ya from is a good starter

  • Mark Strikwerda
    Reply

    The best conversation I have ever had was with a guy who had double knee replacement and was as old as the hills. My little sister and I were just remembering back to the day when we chatted with him. I was only in 7th grade and it was one of my first days skiing in Colorado. We talked all the way up the gondola. Now one of my life goals is to be able to ski when I am old as he was. It makes doing stupid things less appealing now.

  • Sarah
    Reply

    Wish I was having fun in the snow instead of being stuck inside…

  • martyg
    Reply

    Stashes??? Like sharing them with complete strangers or giving them just enough info to get lost, cold and scared?

    • steve casimiro
      Reply

      I’m sensing there’s an assumption that all these chairlift conversations are with strangers. To borrow from Schmitty, people who share stashes with strangers should be shot. But discussing stashes between friends, that’s a different story. Some of you do ride chairs with friends, right?

  • Leigh
    Reply

    A fun poll. I love going up as a single and meeting people from all over the world! Sometimes it’s the little kids taking lessons that are the best and funniest to talk to.

  • JD
    Reply

    I like hitting a lift with two 80yr olds that get 100 half days a year, they whip out homemade cherry brandy, ask me if I want some ‘courage’, call me a punk, challenge me to a mogul run from the top, first run of the day, and they blow my doors off. I ask them each day for a Lift Life Lesson, and get it in 8 mins. I’ve realized the slopes are a perfect spot for mafia types on the lam, since the FBI don’t ski.
    True Story.

  • Chris
    Reply

    If I’m skiing with friends, we talk about everything under the sun – but if I’m riding a chair, then there’s a 50/50 chance its a solo day. Day like that I’m usually in my own head, listening to my music, thinking about my skiing, and keeping to myself. So no talking.

  • Adam S
    Reply

    Tried the lying to stranger bit. Said I was a HS wrestling coach (yeah, not so much). Turns out the damn guy next to me had two sons who wrestled in the same district. People still wrestle?? That was a stressful 6-8 minutes of bullshitting my way out of an awkward moment. “Yeah I do know that guy, he can really wrestle…”

  • Matt
    Reply

    Changes hour to hour.

  • David
    Reply

    So much gnar

  • Karl
    Reply

    Who’s gonna be drinking with me after the lifts close?

  • Scott Dillman
    Reply

    My best chair lift conversations were with my kids. They would open up and talk about all kinds of stuff while everybody was relaxed and having fun.

  • JD
    Reply

    Like Leigh said lesson kids can make you remember why you ski in the first place, to have fun. Sitting for 9 mins with a 4yr old decked in better gear than you (who gave you Spyder gear?) means you must have The Script. First line “how old are you”…4..”is 4 way better than 3? This tells the rug rat that this is going to be a very intelligent discussion. ….how long have you been skiing…4yrs…(hmm fuzzy math here) Where do you go to school? Instant awesome answer. How old is your brother/sister .do you beat them up..hmmm slow answer here..By now it becomes a bug eyed, goggle to goggle staring match, try not to laugh, OH LOOK Squirrel! Look! The Jewelry Tree!…So what are you having for lunch…oh, movie, mac e cheese, pizza, not bad for a 2hr lesson day. Six year olds are intimidating, way too smart, use big words..game over.

  • Michael
    Reply

    Share the sheer joy of being on the hill and skiing!!

  • Mike
    Reply

    That’s a tough one. I’m an instructor at my local hill, so I need to keep it on the up & up. Elsewhere bringing up the possibility of multiple realities…they can’t get off the chair fast enough and they stay out of my way!

  • Matt
    Reply

    Might have to use the test pilot line in a couple weeks when I head out west…

  • Dave Dixon
    Reply

    I like to find out what people’s off the hill interests are and give them the options that we have for them here in town, as far as food, drink, entertainment, ski/snowboard shops. I see it as an opportunity to promote the wonderful things that we offer that people may not know of otherwise, the great places without the advertising budgets.

  • Patrick Henslee
    Reply

    There is nothing like skiing in frest snow like the one in the picture

  • JG
    Reply

    It’s just a flesh wound…

  • Gotaski
    Reply

    Everybody on a chairlift has hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of gear on. It’s an awesome topic! Plus my gear is probably better than yours. Can you say Narwhal!

  • Tom
    Reply

    Ya, that’s new Head ski gear, it’s really nice!

  • Annebritt Birkeland
    Reply

    The SNOW! Clearly.

  • Mark S
    Reply

    Training, training, training so folks can learn turn shape and what they’re skis were designed to do.
    As an intructor, we see so many people each year that would benefit by learning to turn correctly on their shaped ski’s be they twin tips or conventional .

  • Scott
    Reply

    “So, where ya from” usually suffices.

  • Max
    Reply

    I’ve met some really interesting people on chairlifts

  • greg
    Reply

    I have boarded on 27 hills so far this season! 5 provinces, 7 states and 4 Countries. I’m rad…

  • Dan
    Reply

    Geography. My laces are more impressive than most.

  • Gene Slevinski
    Reply

    It’s all abour the snow and the conditions. When they are good all is great for skiing and the conversation can then wander to more socially oriented endeavors!

  • Gerald
    Reply

    Poor, poor Lindsay

  • Rachel
    Reply

    The meaning of life, or, if that fails, the weather.

  • Andrea
    Reply

    If you’re riding with a stranger, ask what they’re passionate about. Give a brief, awkward response to their story, then start talking about your passion for eating human flesh. Make sure to describe your first experience… poor, poor Lindsay. Tastes like a mix between wallaby and reindeer. Ask if they’ve ever tried human, then offer to give up some of your own skin for them to taste (hopefully they’ll reject your offer). When getting off the lift act like you’re following them down the slopes

  • S
    Reply

    Haven’t met a person yet who won’t talk about “home”… have twice had friends in common from far across the country…

  • Jordan
    Reply

    Cool beans

  • Kris Dolva
    Reply

    Best conversation ever was the Dad that told us that if it wasn’t for the brownies his little boy would have never learned to ski, he was a neat Dad.

  • Matt
    Reply

    It would depend on which chair. If its at a big resort like Big Sky or Jackson, its usually biography/where you from, with the occasional hotshot lie if i know i can get away with it(i.e. if someone seems like a hardcore skier don’t go bragging up riding the coulouir if you cant actually do it) . If its the local ski hill here in North Dakota, its either snow conditions with fellow patrollers or hill employees, or if im a patroller riding up with a hill guest, ill try to talk my way into how good of a skier/boarder they are and if maybe i should tail them down the hill or not.

  • isaac clark
    Reply

    f

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