for those in the snow

When powderhounds become boozehounds

In Verbier it’s espresso martinis, in Thredbo Jaigie bombs, in Park City the lemon drop, in Portillo the pisco sour, in Chatter Creek the shot ski and in Aspen whatever you’re buying.

Sadly I, like many, count my ski destinations by the cocktail I was drinking at the time.

The shot ski at Chatter Creek from the Chatter Creek blog

The shot ski at Chatter Creek from the Chatter Creek blog

Booze and skiing or snowboarding go hand in shot glass hand or in the case of Jackson Hole, hand in ‘Gelande Quaffing’ hand when teams line up for the chance to skull as many beers as they can within a limited time as their team mates slide beers from one end of the table structure to the other.

Points are awarded for extreme drinking moves like catching the beer glass by the handle while backflipping. The annual event co-incides with the already manic mayhem of Powder Week.

Of course, anyone who has been to Europe knows it is rude not to inhale a schnapps or chartreuse or two between runs.

My first experience in France came complete with a French Italian instructor called Aldo who tested my hangover, altitude acclimatisation and jetlag with a black diamond run straight up and frequently stopped for wine and chartreuse like I would stop for water.

He, in typical Euro instructor style, was so obsessed with his own silhouette he didn’t notice me skiing off behind rocks for a quiet vomit as he schussed his way downhill.

You can read more about ‘Aldo’ here – Powderhound – life and times of a ski snob

Among 15-24 year-olds, 26 per cent of those tested had drunk alcohol, falling to 24 per cent for the 25-49 age group and to seven per cent for the over 50s. Eighty-three per cent of women and 79 percent of men had drunk no alcohol, the KFV said.

The Euro drinking ski culture has sadly claimed a few drunken lives, like this poor British Tourist who was found frozen to death after a drinking session at La Plagne and he won’t be the last.

That’s not all either, according to a report published in The Age this week, one in five people skiing in Austria have consumed alcohol and a third of them are over the legal limit for driving.

Regular readers of Snow It All on Fairfax Digital will know I have had my fair share of alcohol mishaps, including drink spiking at the snow and blackouts at altitude. But I can now count on one hand how many times I have got drunk in the past three years and even managed an entire three week snow trip without drinking.

Let’s just say I still, surprisingly for some and unsurprising for others, had a great time.

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One of those drinking nights was at the quirky Kiwi club field, Mt Olympus, where the only way back to the car park is by skiing from the lodge which poses difficulty when the lodge has one of their legendary parties and the only light to see the way is via a head lamp or a Bic lighter.

It was all good fun because none of us got hurt, though I suspect we would all have still laughed if we had. Mt Olympus is like that.

But it could have gone so horribly wrong. The drunk skiers and boarders are not all you have to look out for, the hangover can be just as deadly. Being dehydrated doesn’t help anyone at altitude and fatigue can hit faster than a grade four avalanche.

Timing and reflexes are severely impacted and can mean the difference between turning in time to avoid that tree or hitting it front on. I used to think that skiing cured me of a hangover until I tried to heli ski with a hangover.

The backcountry is no place to be drunk or hungover. I lasted two runs before realising I was a danger to myself and everyone else and wasted the rest of my heli day in the lodge.

Was it worth it? Wish I could remember so I could tell you yes or no.

What antics have you got up to at the snow under the influence? Do you think skiers or snowboarders should be breathalised?

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