We've all been there, you come round the corner at the end of a run, already dreaming of the next, only to plow headlong into what can only be described as a mini-Glastonbury festival congregated around the lift. Except no one is having fun.
You then spend 30 minutes queuing and having your board eroded away by whole ski school careering into the back of you, only when you finally get on the damn lift it has to stop every ten meters to teach every other John Doe how to get on and off.
Infuriating right? But here's the secret; it doesn't have to be this way! Here's how to make sure that this isn't your next holiday.
Well, this one is a little obvious but if you don't want to spend your holiday sharing oxygen with thousands of others, don't go away when it's going to be really busy... Avoid the Christmas/New Year debacle and if at all possible stay away from the snow during the February half term; it's like an alpine Dawn of the Dead. With kids.
Yes yes, for some the school holidays are impossible to avoid. If you do have kids you might want to leave them at home once in a while and go get your own shred on. Let's face it, they're generally a bit rubbish and are rarely of any benefit when the sun comes out just after it's snowed their exact height.
January is bliss. The first weekend after NYE is one of the quietest and cheapest weeks going, plus it's cold enough to have a good chance of some pow whilst you're away. Or March/April, spring shredding is a wonderful thing.
Destination Destination Destination
If peak weeks really are unavoidable for you, think instead about where to go. When choosing a destination remember that holiday operators use a secret code, revealed below.
Resorts advertising themselves as 'family friendly' might as well have seating areas and creches in the lift lines, and ones that boast high speed lift systems that can upload 10,000 bodies an hour only spend the dollar on them because they need to. Much better to go to a slightly crappier mountain where slower lifts actually mean more laps per hour for you, that's whats important right?
So avoid mega resorts with huge high rises, more beds equals more zombies on the hill, instead seek out the titchier ones; as well as being 'quainter' they're probably less tracked out and full of powder spots too, what more do you want?
The early shredder gets the worm, it's sad but true. When the queues are gonna be massive lie-ins really are a luxury that're not worth the hassle.
You have to remember that everyone else is also on holiday, and no one likes getting up early on holiday. But if you make the effort and get there for first lifts you'll normally manage to avoid the bottlenecks that occur around the main chairs and gondolas.
Slept in? Forget about it for now, go load up on pocket snacks so you can rip around whilst the crowds swap the queues for the lifts with queues for lunch. It's normally quieter on hill from around 12-2 due to hungry kids and exhausted girlfriends needing a feeding, so take advantage!
So you've had a couple of days dragging yourself through queues, lines and packed pistes and just can't face it again? This is where some quality time with the local piste map might just pay off.
Seek out little nooks and crannies away from the main congregation of lifts and runs, if it looks hard to get then great! In fact, the further away it is from the better, most people like an easy life so won't bother making the effort.
It's even worth seeking out these quieter spots earlier in the week, resorts tend to be busiest at the start of the week especially in the nearby and beginner areas, but the crowds spread out and thin out as people pick up confidence and injuries in equal quantities.
Avoid the parks like the plague on a Friday, this is when most people think along the lines of 'it's my last day so fuck it.' Que blood wagons and shards of bone all over, plus a pretty hefty lift line.
Make Like a Banana and Split!
Crowds still getting you down even after all that great advice? Time to use the old cliche, just get away from it all!
Snowshoeing and splitboarding are rewarding on their own, but when you add in the satisfaction of viewing the hoards congregating from the lone peak you've just hiked up it's a world beater. Especially when you drop in to that lovely untracked pow safe in the knowledge no one else will be getting any that day!
Always be safe though, use a guide when possible and don't go spending big bucks on a fancy splitboard if you're skimping on the relevant avalanche gear. Find out more about it here.
If All Else Fails...
Tried all of the above but still finding yourself approaching yet another huge queue? Time to take a leaf out of Bob Gnarley's book and apply full velocity.
You may do as much damage to yourself as you do around you, but it has the potential to be just as satisfactory as fresh lines on a blue bird day, you know I'm right...