Living in a mountain town is a badge of honor and locals don't always share their secrets. Here at Tahoe University, we can empathize as a mix of transplants and natives. Part of the delicate balance between residents and welcomed visitors in any destination is to know your surroundings and honor the cultural norms.
As ski season approaches and the mountains get crowded, you'll want to be prepared. Now, we can't give away all the insider scoop, but here are 7 mistakes to avoid. Plus we'll give you a few tips to steer clear of the dreaded 'gaper' label and earn the respect of the elders, whether you just moved here or only here for the weekend.
Drive a 2-Wheel Drive car
Trust us on this one, if there's one thing you can't predict it's the weather. No matter what the forecast says, you can count on things changing fast around here. You do NOT want to be the one sliding around causing chaos and putting on chains is a form of torture we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies. There's a reason every parking lot here is full of the 4WD staples - Subarus and Toyota Tacomas.
Slam your brakes
Now we can only hope that you've gotten a 4WD car, but that's only half the battle. Driving in the snow is both an art and a science. It may feel exciting if you're used to more temperate climates, but don't say we didn't warn you. There are a few tricks that may seem obvious: drive slow, leave lots of space between cars, turn the wheel in the opposite direction if you start to spin, down-shift. But one that feels counter-intuitive and gets learned the hard way every year is brakes. Don't SLAM! The harder you slam your brakes the faster your car will spin into oblivion.
Stop at the 'tracks' intersection
This one is Truckee-specific, but in any town make sure you brush up on the rules of the road or follow the lead of any car coated in a layer of dirt. Nothing will make tempers flare more than being the one to cause a slow down for anyone trying to go to work or get home. Just remember if you're coming across railroad tracks, you'll never be the one to stop. You may even spot a 'Locals Don't Stop' shirt, which benefits the High Five Foundation, a local organization that supports mountain action sports by raising injury prevention awareness and those affected by life-altering injuries.
No Pee No Ski
The most important lesson every young skier will learn... is make a pizza. But the FIRST lesson they must learn is the other golden rule: No pee, no ski. There is nothing worse than getting your child bundled up to the chin in layers of restrictive snow gear, helping them precariously onto the chair lift without falling, only to get to the top and realize it's a race against the clock and their bladder. Make sure you never forget by outfitting your future ski bum in our tee emblazoned with this reminder.
It's science. The higher you are, the closer you are to the sun. Pretty self explanatory. But what often throws newbies for a loop is the overcast days. Just because you can't see the sun doesn't mean you can't get burned. 80% of UV rays still manage to get through the clouds plus they bounce off the snow, multiplying your chances of turning into a lobster. You may think a goggle tan will make you look cool, but a respectable bronzed jawline takes a season to develop. Oh, and mind the gaper gap.
Wear your ski boots anywhere but the ski hill
We get it. You shred the gnar, you #sendit, you live for fresh pow. So does everyone else at the grocery store, but your feet are taking up a lot of space and the glacial and awkward pace you're walking at is blocking the milk aisle. Besides, we all know that canNOT be comfortable (sorry snowboarders, even you don't get a pass) and business owners don't enjoy dents in their floor. Don't be a show off, stash the gear in the car when you leave the mountain.
Drink like you're at sea level
You managed to follow all the rules and make it to the local watering hole for an aprés beer. Congrats! But beware - this mistake will hit you when it's already too late. The air is thinner at high altitudes, so your body is already low on the O2 and alcohol makes it even harder for oxygen to absorb, which results in less oxygen to the brain. Mix that with a case of altitude sickness and it may lead to you believing you're a really great singer or dancer or even brave enough to challenge a fellow patron to a bet at the pool table. Not to mention it's not good for your health. Drink lots of water and make sure to pace yourself.
So there you have it. This list will help you on your way, but don't leave it at that. We all love this great place and welcome visitors. Part of what makes it so special is the people, from locals that have lived here for generations, to visitors from across the globe. We've all answered the mountain's call so show care and kindness, respect locals and mother nature, and please... don't stop!
(Gaper Gap image via Snowcentral.com)