There is no place other than a ski liftline where you can make that announcement and not sound like a desperate fool--even if you are. For most of my adult years I was sheltered from ski crowds. Funneled into the racers-only line, segregated from the masses, I made my laps and took my runs. Skiing was always fun but it was business first.
It wasn't until I quit racing and lost my line-cutting privileges that I came to truly appreciate the social aspects of the sport. Skiing, I discovered far too late, is the best pickup going. And it's not just the pickup that's easy. Skiing-based relationships can progress naturally and rapidly from casual meeting, to skiingtogether, to apres-ski, to the ski weekend, to sharing a cabin, to, perhaps, the M-word.
The process starts in the real-time personal classifieds section--the liftline. Think about it: You see the goods, make contact with an appealing stranger and spend a few minutes in uninterrupted conversation. If the stranger piques your interest, you take a run together. At any point either party can disappear or end up in the same line again for a better view. Looks, behavior, fashion sense...it's all on display.
You get to see what he wears--goggles or glasses, one-piece or separates, Bogner or North Face, dry-cleaned or duct-taped. It says so much more about him than a suit or briefcase. Important traits that might take months to show up in a standard dating process are instantly revealed in the confines of the lift maze. Does he shuffle over everyone's skis or confidently stake his turf? Does she shamelessly cut or stealthily slip forward politely yet assertively? Is he a spitter, a nose-wiper, a Kleenex wadder? And what about the future? Is she wearing a season pass, a week ticket or merely passing through for the day?
If you like what you see, it's on to the chairlift-ride personality test. Marital status, age, family, job--these core stats are easily divined in about 2 1/2 minutes. Chairlift rides offer more physical closeness than a date, without the pressure of an in-your-face meeting, and more emotional focus than a bar or restaurant, without the looming distraction of who's paying the bill. There's no need for cheesy pickup lines because there are so many natural topics of conversation--weather, snow, the guy down below headed for a yard sale.
When the lift ride ends, it's time for the compatibility test. Meeting is easy, but matching or tolerating each other's skiing abilities is tough.
Many male skiers still exhibit caveman-like drag-the-woman-by-the-hair tendencies. If a woman's skills are less developed than his, a man will typically drag her to exceptionally difficult slopes. If she skis better than he does, he will recklessly try to prove that he can hang with her.
Many of my friends think I'd never date anyone who wasn't an ultra ski-stud, but that's not true. I do use the ski test as a measure of honesty and rationality. Some salesmen of the slopes spend the lift ride overselling their extremeness. Others enter the test fully aware of my racing past but still insist on turning social courtship involving wit and charm, most seem to think, "Hmmm, she's skied in the Olympics so I'd better hurl myself downhill and risk my life to impress her." These guys fail my rationality test.
Just in case I don't find Mr. Goodski before Valentine's Day, I'm prepared to go the personal ad route:
preferred,cliff-hurlers must have own insurance. Alpine, tele, snowboard OK. No mono-skis or Sled Dogs. Will wait at bottom, but 5 mins. only on powder days. Apres-ski a must. Reply via mail or catch me on the hill--if you can.
Since writing this column in 1997, Edith Thys has found Mr. Goodski--yes, of course an expert skier--and married him.