By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Some go with their family, and some go with their friends. But one of the most popular activities during “winter break” is that trip to the mountain resort which offers skiing and snow-tubing. It is one of those rare activities that parents, younger children, and older children can all enjoy. It is certainly loads of fun, but it does bring to mind a question.
Are there any halachos that apply to these activities of which we should be aware?
There is one central halacha that permeates every possible activity and is the underlying thread behind the halachos that we find below. That central halachah is to act like a true eved Hashem in all we do.
1. Before actually skiing, carefully review the rules posted in the lodge. There are rules of decorum, who goes first, where you may not stop, and the method of actual skiing. For example, on certain slopes the management does not want skiers to go down straight because it will build up too much speed. They want all skiers to circle left and right, following the poles and indicated path. Ignorance of the resort rules is not an excuse. Every parent or responsible adult should review the rules with everyone in the group.
2. Never cut in front of the line before others. There is a huge temptation, especially in regard to snow tubing to cut in front of the line and go up again without waiting one’s turn. This is a form of stealing, as it limits the amount of time that others have on the slopes as well. Unfortunately, this too should be discussed by the responsible adult prior to getting on the slopes and or the snow tubing site.
3. Hold the door open for others. It is proper conduct and courteous behavior to hold the door open for anyone in sight when they enter or exit the lodge. The great Tanna Shammai would smile and offer a greeting to anyone who he came in contact with, and was the first to offer it. In our times, holding the door open would be the social equivalent.
4. Never exchange lift tickets with another in order to attempt to save money. Skiing and or snow tubing is an expensive activity, and the temptation to save money by exchanging lift tickets or the like, does exist. This, however, is outright theft and should never be countenanced. This too is something that, unfortunately, should be discussed prior to the arrival at the ski resort.
5. Always clean up after oneself and family members. People often take breaks for lunch or supper when it is a night snow activity. Wrappers must be thrown out and spills must be cleaned up. It is prudent to bring a rag or napkins along as well because often the resort may run out of paper towels.
6. Never block an emergency exit or even a regular exit when unloading or eating. The management has an obligation to ensure the safety of its patrons and often views this very negatively. Before entering the lodge, one should look to see where the safety exits are in order to make sure that one does not block it.
7. When making a minyan, do not block others from their regular course of movement. People do not like the idea of not being able to get to where they have to go because a group of people are blocking them.
What if you see someone else violating one of the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Skiing? It may be prudent, in a gentle tone to remind them of the severity of the issues involved. What is the source of the Sheva Mitzvos of Skiing? We find it in a verse in Vayikra 22:32 — “Lo sechalelu es shaim kodshi.”
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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman