Skiing vacation: Piste Communication Protocol
I've created this list of best-practices to take the frustration away that comes with losing one another while skiing (or snowboarding) with multiple people. I'm assuming you want to optimise for staying together as much as possible.
Before you go up the mountain
- Setup a group conversation in your favourite chat app, make sure everybody is there.
- You might want to decide where exactly you'll be having lunch and at what time, especially if your group is so big that it will split up into sub-groups because of speed differences.
When skiing together
- Pause at every decision-point in the piste. Many pistes have literal forks-in-the-road where you can make a different decision and thus lose each other.
- Wait for each other at the bottom of a piste before going into a ski lift.
When you've lost somebody
- Ski/snowboard to the nearest point where a decision needs to be made (e.g. left/right turn, or this/that ski lift).
- Look around and wait a minute, the other person may be there as well, because they've done the same thing as you.
- Take out your phone, open the group chat, and see if there's a message from somebody.
- No message? Send a message clarifying you've lost one or more people.
- Send another message stating your position (see next section).
- If the message isn't delivered to the chat-server, you can assume you have a bad connection. Send another message with the current time in it, e.g.:
It's 13:37 here now, but my phone doesn't have a connection, so this message will probably arrive later.
- If you decide that you'll be continuing by yourself from now on (because things take too long, or communication fails), send a message to explain where you're going. It might arrive late, but at least there's some info 'on the way'.
- Look for new messages at the top and bottom of each piste and ski lift so you stay up-to-date when the others are trying to reach you.
Stating your Position
The biggest problem when you've lost each other in a skiing area, is that communication is difficult due to ambiguous language and read/write timing, it's effectively asynchronous communication. This may sound a bit extreme, but there are many ways of interpreting a message like this:
Where are you? I don't see you here.
This is not stating your position, the only information that's actually in this message is "I've lost you". The word "here" could mean anything.
How about this:
I've just taken black 13 and it splits up into red 13 and red 12, which do I take? Where are you now?
Imaging the other person's cellular connection dropped for 10 minutes (due to moutains being in the way), and they read this 15 minutes later (due to people skiing and not looking at their phone literally every minute). Now after 5-10 minutes of no response, the person just makes a decision because they're tired of waiting for a response, with you both potentionally ending up even further away from each other.
I've lost you, I'm taking red 6 and I'll wait for you.
While this sound clear, it's not if there's multiple decision-points (literal forks in the road) on that red piste number 6 which lead to different places. This is quite common in skiing areas.
So when stating your position, it really has to be unambiguous, and you have to build-in extra information about your direction, intentions and assume some connection issues. Here's a few rules to make communication easier. When stating your position:
- Mention a piste number and color, or a ski lift number/name.
- Mention where on that piste or ski lift you are: top, halfway, or bottom? People assume a lift goes up, a piste goes down.
- Mention whether you are on the move, or have decided to wait.
- When moving, mention where you a headed, unambiguously.
- When waiting, decide and mention what your deadline is.