Q:This is my third winter in Aspen, and each time I ski alone, I feel ill prepared for chairlift small talk. I never know whom I might be sitting next to: hedge-fund billionaire or longtime dishwasher? What’s the best way to broach a conversation? Any topics I should avoid? I enjoy meeting new people, but lately I’m paranoid about offending someone simply by commenting on the weather.
A: If you’ve been skiing here for three years, you’ve already shared a lift ride with both a hedge funder and a dishwasher—and you’ve definitely offended at least one person (whether through chit-chat or your one-piece). If you’re not looking for an Oxford-style debate, it’s probably best to avoid topics such as the United States trade policy with China, the Mexican border, and, yes, the weather (although if you’ve got a climate-change denier captive for seven minutes, by all means, go off). Keep it simple at the outset by exchanging the basics of what led you both to the same mountain on the same day; that should give you each some space to decide if the conversation starts with a few niceties and ends in comfortable silence, or if you’re going to meet up for an après beer to finish the dialogue. Oh, and the only way to truly insult someone on a chairlift here is by declaring you enjoy skiing Vail more. (It’s written into Aspen law—look it up.)
Have an Aspen etiquette question for Meredith? Submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll consider it for a future issue.