Skiing In Europe Vs. North America – Skiing Culture Shock

skiing in the French Alps in The Three Valleys

Sometimes when you’re traveling, you just think, “Really? did that just happen?” Here are some random and quick bite-size experiences I had that are a few examples of the differences of skiing in Europe v. North America.  These examples are specifically from the Three Valleys, or Les 3 Vallées in French.

Pin Your Kid Safely to the Ski Lift With Magic Magnets

Worried your kid will fall off the chairlift? Have no fear, the magnets are here!

magnestick-skiing-french-alps-kidsStick a magnetic bib (Magnestick vest) on your precious kiddo, and when it’s their turn to get on the chair, the lifty thrusts them into the chair. The lift magnet is then activated, and then your kid gets sucked into the back of the seat until they reach the top.  The entire process is called a Magnestick Safety SystemThe seat magnet is deactivated once your kid arrives at the top, which then allows your kid to safely just hop off. Damn. Super empowering.

This magnetic system is a great idea until you are on the chairlift with the magnetized kid for the first time…I felt this sense of responsibility for when we were about to get off of the chair…Was I supposed to thrust the kid off of the chair? Fight with the magnet? Put myself on the magnet? It turns out that the magnet releases at the top…And I wasn’t needed for anything. Before I knew how it worked…I thought, for just a brief moment, that me and this kid, we were going to have a “save your life moment.” But looks like I wasn’t needed at all. 


Lift Line Chaos

Ski Lift Line in the French Alps in The Three ValleysAll the American ski lift lines are super orderly. Rarely will you see a fellow skier or boarder cut or go out of line, and if they do, they are usually apologetic. Perhaps a little too orderly, but it’s the system we are used to. Go skiing in Europe, and it’s a total free-for-all chaotic funnel. You push your way onto the chair and you meet your buddies at the top.

We were warmed about the aggressive behavior of a lot of the Europeans when waiting in a chairlift or gondola line, but we had no idea that some of them basically attack you by thrusting their skis over or under yours (whatever you are least expecting).

The most confusing part is that they just ignore you as they trample over you, almost seeming to be purposefully trying to confuse you with their fast-acting pole stabbing distraction techniques. The lines for the chairlifts and gondolas are so aggressive that I usually don’t end up in with the group of friends I am skiing with.


We caught on quickly and realized that we also had to play this game or never make it to the top.

What are your crazy travel stories?

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Bagus says:

    Mine: Waking up at 3 am on the cement in front of the train station in Chamberrey. I had given up on my brother showing up a few hours earlier and had to just hold out til I could maybe hitch hike out (with no Francs) in the morning. Morning did not come soon enough. WTF is this guy doing cutting my passport pouch away from my neck as I am one instant slow to regain conciousness. Curse you, you thief, you are getting the whole $8 I had left after being on the road peacefully for 8 weeks thru eastern europe, greece and turkey. And you are getting my passport, airplane ticket and remaining $80 in travelers checks that were going to get me the rest of the way back to London and home. I love the French Alps and my brother. But WTF!?!?

  • Greg says:

    Gotta love a good sky thrusting

  • Carol says:

    I’m from Colorado and want to move to the French Alos.  Is the snow quality much different from Colorado’s most-of-the-time powder skiing?  Or is it more like the East Coast’s ice?

    •  Hi Carol…my fellow Colorado adventurer! The Alps are known for not having very good powder, but when there is, it’s amazing. I was in Meribel for an entire week (but I skiied in all three valleys), and it was a bluebird day everyday…Beautiful sun! But the snow was horrible and icy. I fell more times in the Alps then I have here in Colorado, um, ever. There was decent snow on the more advanced runs, but only on the side. The snow was bad, but Carol, the views were absolutely breathtaking…like nothing I have ever seen before. Combine the views with the food, and all of a sudden the snow doesn’t even bother you anymore. 😉

      When are you moving, Carol?

  • Carol says:

    PS.  I guess that it helps if I spell Alps correctly. 😉

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