Featured Ruminations on skiing w/a group -- esp. men

Discussion in 'General Skiing' started by tch, Nov 30, 2018.

  1. tch

    tch What do I know; I'm just some guy on the internet. Skier

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    In another thread, Doug Briggs brought up a really interesting point. He made it in regard to backcountry skiing, but I've thought a lot about the essence of this idea as it applies to my own skiing. His original:
    • As an aside, you bring up an interesting factor in backcountry safety. Sometimes (often?) the group dynamic of a crew will actually reduce safety. Many official and unofficial reviews of accidents have attributed decision making to be compromised by a group of more than 2. It boils down to peer pressure and other human factors in the group dynamic.
    My thinking: I spend most of my time skiing alone and I've pondered my own reluctance to ski with a group. Part of it is my own natural tendency towards introversion (I'm most comfortable by myself and doing exactly as I want), but in considering, I think part of it is also the sense that in a group of skilled skiers, there's often a unstated sense of being "on trial". Are you good enough to do this run? Are you fast enough to keep up with us? Are you capable enough in trees? Esp. with other men, I feel like we are often testing where we sit in an alpha/beta spectrum. And that undertone is what can lead to the bad decisions that Doug B. is referencing.

    Now the truth is that I'm less daring when I ski alone, and being in a group opens me up to terrain (edge-of-boundary eastern trees, for instance) that I might cautiously avoid skiing by myself. I've often had really good experiences when that dynamic encourages me. But riding up the tram at Snowbird, for instance, I get turned off by the bro culture that often surfaces -- guys making fun of "gapers" or humble-bragging about how they missed the turn and had to air off a cliff. It's like there's a constant sense of having to prove one's bones ... and I don't want any part of that whole scene. So even when vaguely approached by someone ("hey, you want to go this way with me?"), I often demur.

    So...wondering: do others ever feel this way? Is this sense of competition present all the time in groups? How do others feel about skiing with (relatively) unfamiliar folks in a group or joining some people you meet on a lift? To be honest, I have a few friends I really like skiing with -- but it's often b/c I know them really well and I know we are very closely compatible in our skills and approach. What do others do, for instance, when a group suddenly veers off into some very tight and steep eastern tree line, or takes a traverse to "maybe some air involved"? Is that sense of challenge a positive motivation to you, or intimidation you don't want?

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Plai

    Plai Paul Lai Skier

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    Maybe I'm too old to have "stupid" friends. We watch out for each other more than egg on. Encouragement does happen, but hopefully respectfully. That said, we're also mostly introverts, have families to get back to, and usually long drives back during a daytrip, so injury is a real concern.

    Also, for the most part, ego doesn't play a large role (yeah, famous last words). I'm fairly candid and willing to say, I'm not ready or that scares the s**t out of me.
     
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  3. Tytlynz64

    Tytlynz64 Getting on the lift Skier

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    My Brotha from a different motha. I am the same way. I am reluctant to join in with others as I feel they are often going to try and test my mettle. I ski for fun. Until I cash a check for doing I am perfectly content making my own calls. I might take a lesson where an instructor encourages me to push my boundaries but only after I understand the technique needed to do so.

    On the other hand, I think this is a maturation on my part. I learned to ski bt following others and mimicking their movements. So that is a part I miss. But I don’t heal as fast as I used to.
     
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  4. eok

    eok Slopefossil Skier

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    Yeah, I've always been immune to that kind of group dynamic. Not sure why, but I think it has something to do with trust. I mean, I've had real close long time friends - who I'd also log lots of ski days with - but I'd never trust my life to them. Not meant to be disrespectful to them, just stating how it is with me. In any case, I've started many a big ski day with an amped group; but ended up taking off solo because things were getting too intense or sketchy.

    I'm also keenly aware that the laws of probability have a distinct cumulative factor and that I need to compensate for the crazy risk filled years of my youth. So, no sketchy stuff for me now.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
  5. Andy Mink

    Andy Mink I am a half fast skier. Moderator

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    As I get older the whole "keeping up with the Jonses" thing has diminished greatly. I have no issue being the last one down and I'm not offended if someone in the group wants to do something I'm not comfortable with. That said...

    Sometimes I need a push to expand my skills. I never skied trees until two years ago. I would shy away from bumps or cut up junk. By skiing with the right people I've become a better skier in more conditions than if I skied alone. However, this was skiing with people I know and trust to not egg me on if I'm not feeling it.

    If I'm the better skier in a group (hey, it could happen!) I always want to remember that it's better to help than push. All of us have been the newby and it's not cool to push someone into something that they don't want to do.
     
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  6. Sibhusky

    Sibhusky Out on the slopes Inactive

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    I've got a pretty firm limit of 4 skiers myself and increasingly can't tolerate skiing with most men unless I've known them for years. I might ski a few runs with forum members during the season, but I'm really increasingly over it. Long time ski friends are okay, but my preferred crowd is me and one other person. I think the male reluctance thing is most are very "goal oriented" -- rack up the runs, hit all the trails, score score score. And the women are more like enjoy the day, enjoy the view, enjoy the talk, enjoy the feeling. And I think this shift may be due to aging. It didn't used to bother me.
     
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  7. firebanex

    firebanex Getting on the lift Skier

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    I don't have friends. (that ski)

    I've been on Ski Patrol for so long that I don't know how to ski in a group for the sake of skiing.. I've grown to dislike skiing with groups outside of my fellow patrollers and family, simply because I've had so much time patrolling that I see the mountain differently and weigh risks much more than others I would ski with. I stop and watch people ski, even if I'm visiting a different mountain I'll still stop most runs and observe groups of skiers and mentally go through them and evaluate what the chances are that they might need help later in the day. That kind of behavior seems to run counter to how I see regular non patrollers out skiing.
     
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  8. Crank

    Crank Out on the slopes Skier

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    I like skiing with a group. Maybe when I was a lot younger there was some competition but not for many years.

    Some groups push me and when with them I ski harder terrain. Hanging with some Pug skiers at Alta and Snowbird last year we skied harder than I would have alone. Some groups I ski with are not such accomplished skiers and that seems to create a more relaxed and social vibe.

    I have a group of guys I back country ski with. All are more experienced in the back country and are fitter and better skiers then I am. We are all very safety conscious. We are not looking for the raddest lines, rather the best snow we can find.
     
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  9. François Pugh

    François Pugh Out on the slopes Skier

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    I seldom ski with a group, other than family or maybe a friend, and it's always been that way.

    It makes no difference to my skiing, except for stopping and waiting for skiers to catch up. When I used to ski alone I was pretty much over the edge of the spectrum in terms of speed and terrain, so a group dynamic couldn't push me any further. Now I don't care enough for someone else to influence my skiing, even given group dynamics.

    It now makes a difference to terrain. When skiing with a group I will let them decide the terrain and end up on easier terrain, because it's all the same level of enjoyment to me now. Years ago I would have to spend at least some time apart from the group and meet them latter, but not anymore. I guess I've reached the age where the thrill of cheating death is no longer worth the cost in broken bones and painful recoveries.
     
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  10. Ski&ride

    Ski&ride Booting up Skier

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    Neither.

    I make my own decision case by case.

    I wonder if that sense of unease has to do with one’s own sense of self too? For me, I don’t find the “challenge” uncomfortable. Certainly not intimidated by it. I wouldn’t hesitate to decline if I feel I’m not up to the challenge.

    I ski solo a lot due to my schedule. Being an extrovert, I often seek out and end up skiing with strangers. Sometimes I got “taken” by locals to places I wouldn’t find myself. But never places over my head.

    Skiing alone so much, I got pretty good at reading terrain and keeping track of where I am on the mountain. That helps when it comes time to say “you guys go ahead without me”, knowing how to get back by myself.
     
  11. slowrider

    slowrider Out on the slopes Skier

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    I usually ski with 2-3 long time friends or by myself. If I make a mistake in judgment or whatever, I'm going to own it. My call my mistake.
     
  12. UGASkiDawg

    UGASkiDawg AKA David Pugski Ski Tester

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    Group no group I don't even think about it. I can be the fastest best skier in a group or the slowest. It makes no difference to me. I certainly ski harder with others but don't take risks I'm not comfortable with. I havr no problem waiting for others nor do I get insulted if others don't want to wait for me. Live and let live!
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2018
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  13. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    The phenomenon goes waaaay past challenge and alpha-beta competition and into the way group decisions get made at all; turns out we are none of us trained to make group decisions, or even close to it.

    By way of analogy, I offer the story of the BOUNTY. No, not the actual mutiny ship but the replica that was made for the movie and that Brando insisted on saving for posterity instead of having it burn on film. As some of you know, she was lost to a hurricane out at sea. Why? Everyone on board was in fact supremely safety conscious.

    https://www.woodenboat.com/lessons-bounty

    I particularly direct you to the thoughts:
    and
    Timeline:
    https://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/111092/Final-Days-of-Bounty/#vars!date=2012-10-26_06:00:50!
     
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  14. SSSdave

    SSSdave life is short precious ...don't waste it Skier

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    Much about that group dynamic depends on:

    How much different members of a group know each and especially have skied together.
    The nature of advanced terrain at a resort.
    Skiing skill levels.
    How unfamiliar members of a group are with resort slopes.

    Worst situation is a group of rowdy young adult males acquaintances with only novice and intermediate skills that have not previously skied together out at a ski resort with much advanced terrain above any of their abilities. Like a day with a company work group or college group coming in on a ski bus. The first behavior one can expect when they ski down as a group on slopes is little being spoken when they arrive back at lifts but considerable non-verbal emotions and stares. Very quickly there will be a vibe of not being the last to return to liftlines with grinning condescending looks to those that arrive late regardless of how poorly any of them look skiing back down to lifts. Considerable laughing at any that fall, especially if a ski pops off. By late morning one can expect there will be a challenging call to go up on some intimidating advanced lift and pity the poor guy that declines.
     
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  15. Thread Starter
    TS
    tch

    tch What do I know; I'm just some guy on the internet. Skier

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    CTM: Thanks! That is one of the most instructive articles I have ever read on crisis management/decision-making. Many, many excellent descriptions of the dynamic of group behavior AND really good specific suggestions for management of those issues. From skiing to alpine mountaineering to whitewater rafting, I have often noted -- and unfortunately sometimes experienced -- the weaknesses of group decision-making, often following the same kind of faulty process Chase describes.

    Specifically to one point I was trying to raise, I found this section to be particularly insightful:
    • ...until those officers (and possibly the crew) feel that there is an inherently unsafe situation. It is a catch-22. You must contribute to the decision. You must expect the captain to make the decision. You must support the decision. But then, if you think that decision is dangerous, you must do something. And if doing something means refusing to sail, that could be defined as mutiny. It’s a difficult spot to be put in. How do we train people to walk that line?
    I would only add that issues of "manliness" even further compound this issue. How often have we heard or overheard a line to the effect of "oh, don't be such a wussy!". The author makes that point when he notes that the Captain's response was "Oh, I've been through worse". Here, I often feel the implication is that an older/wiser/more capable/more alpha man has persevered, so anyone who questions the same kind of course of action is simply a worry-wart.
     
  16. cantunamunch

    cantunamunch Meh Skier

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    Certainly...and the fact that we know active encouragement and active stimulation can ...ahem...revise a skier's comfort zone/risk acceptance envelope is a further complication.

    I particularly find the part about experience useful - even successful, i.e. non-adverse-event experience benefits from debriefing, taking that experience into the mental model. Hey, that's what the Grand Marnier is for, I guess.
     
  17. François Pugh

    François Pugh Out on the slopes Skier

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    As in sailing and reckless driving, in skiing there is always an element of chance that gets discounted and not properly considered. The right way to think of it is, "I got lucky this time, but that doesn't mean I'll beat the odds next time." Instead what happens is "I've seen, been through, survived, what-ever worse." Even if the odds are 100 to 1 in your favour, keep spinning that wheel long enough and eventually your number will come up.
     
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  18. Johnny V.

    Johnny V. Half Fast Hobby Racer Skier

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    As I've gotten older, I realize that Murphy lurks around every corner....................
     
  19. Josh Matta

    Josh Matta Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    As someone who had lead a ton of groups into BC runs, in the east and out west.

    I simply will not tolerate group thinking. If I am leading, I am infallible. 2 times I have left the group in the east when they thought they knew better than me. One time it meant they had a very crappy ski down a hiking trail, while I had a great but now slow ski down some open glades. The other time 3 guys ended up in Underhill, aka the backside of the Mount Mansfield about an hour 30 minute drive from Stowe Mountain Resort. When they called me to get a ride I told them to go F themselves. Ill never ski out of bounds with any of these people ever again. My only mistake was not being able to convince them they were wrong......

    I hate to be harsh about this, but I dont take people to areas that I am not aware of at least the route, and as someone on the spectrum, I can not be swayed by peer pressure for better and for worse. If people are following me, I vetted them already, and I am going on route where I know basically all possible outcomes, or I wouldnt be taking you there. This is good info for anyone who chooses to follow me out of bounds at Stowe or anywhere else for the matter.

    The BC is not a place for trying to out do others, ski for yourself and enjoy it.

    I also have very high standards for following people into the unknown many people simply havent a clue how to read people skills and capabilities, very few people possess the ability to truly guide in out of bounds terrain.
     
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  20. Jim Kenney

    Jim Kenney Travel Correspondent Team Gathermeister Industry Insider

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    TCH, there's a very simple solution for dealing with aggro male Pugskiers, esp. the older dudes: if it's just for the day, join them after lunch when their butts are whipped and their bellies full of beer. Better yet, if it's a Gathering Week, join them on day three when every muscle they've got is sore and their legs are gimpy as heck.:hug:
     
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