With the February-March half-term hordes swarming over the slopes like Napoleon's armies, Oli Walker starts sabre rattling - and talks battle tactics for surviving the lift queues.
The author George Mikes once said, 'An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one'. Damn right we do. So as a fan of winter sports you probably know exactly where this conversation is going. Lift queues.
Where do I begin?
If you’ve ever queued in February half term in Chamonix then you know the score. 8:30am, the crowd is poised. Nine o'clock and it’s like the start of a Metallica gig. Hundreds of petit pains scream their way across the snow and form a mosh pit at the base of the lift
I’ve seen many variations of tactics put into operation to get to the front. The polite British way gets you nowhere, yet the elbow-to-the-face Austrian method is a fail-proof way to make enemies - and get poked in the eye accidentally-on-purpse with a sharp ski pole.
The thing that really gets me are those people who smash over your skis It’s not as if skis are cheap and, also, rather precious (unless you are on hired ones and, then, you worry you'll be hit with a whopping repair bill when you return them). My skis take pride of place in my bedroom the other 358 days of the year. You wouldn’t do it to someone’s car in a car park if you wanted to fit into a tight space so why is it acceptable in a lift queue?
Then there’s the group heading back from Folie, who have had a few too many jugs of beer and are feeling a little bit merry. They're falling over, being twats. Old people, though, have their own tactics such as the sly positioning of ski poles in front of your skis. That’s right, I see what you’re doing there Grand-père, I know your game.
What about the ones who don’t even do it on purpose – the ‘I’m just waiting for my friends', hovering next to the turnstile in the way of everyone? You don’t mean to do it and we get that. But just get on the lift and meet them at the top. Or is getting on the chair with strangers too much to handle?
If Year 9 Geography taught me anything it was this: 'a river flows fastest on the outside'. Sticking to the outside of the queue and staying out of people’s way is the best way forward, minimising the risk of WW3 breaking out.
Avoiding confrontation like that is a typical British idiosyncrasy. Whispered tutting and a shake of the head is all we can muster. But zee Germans hate to queue. It’s all elbows and shoulders with them The Austrians are the same: While the Russians? Well in a French ski resort, it's like War And Peace all over again but, this time, the French are on the defensive.
The French, though, have Napoleonic DNA, and won't concede a centimetre in a queue without, at least,, an outraged puff of garlic. And the Italians? Well, they're so absorbed chatting to each other - or on their mobiles - that they're totally oblivious to the fact that the Germans, Austrians and Russians are reenacting World War 1 in the queue behind them.
So how do you ensure you make it unscathed to the frontline - the head of the queue? These are a few tactics you can employ:
TOP TACTICS FOR LIFT QUEUES
1) Join a group lesson and sneak down the Ski School side. Just make sure it’s an adult lesson and not Jean's Year Trois.
2) Pretend to be with people way ahead in the queue. This takes serious commitment as you risk it all going tits up quite easily (Alan Partridge calling for Dave, anyone?).
3) Hire a guide. If you’re serious about skipping lift queues and you’ve got money to burn then be my guest.
4) Stick to the outside and go with the faster flow.
5) Fart. People will give you a wide berth for sure.
Or just grab a splitboard or skis with touring bindings and skins - and leave the resort. Peace and no war in lift queues! But what? Are those Swedes about to lay first tracks in your powder bowl? Attack...