Our boozy rite of passage is wrong

There is a corner of the Farinet lounge bar in Verbier where alcohol tabs regularly hit the €5000+ ($7500) mark thanks to financiers, musicians and Grand Prix types bidding to outdo each other with trays of cocktails followed by shots for all who are standing on the right side of the invisible red rope.

Verbier is the home of big mountain extreme skiing and royal rockstar parties filled with London's banking community. The entire town is split down the middle between those who have come to seriously ski and clean toilets to do it and those who have come to party with some skiing on the side. The former skiiers head to Pub Mont Fort with their toilet-cleaning pennies; the latter run up booze tabs that would feed the former for a year.

Verbier is a town founded on extreme and excess: ski hard, party harder and leave the season feeling worn out and wondering what the hell just happened.

There is a binge-drinking culture at the snow.
There is a binge-drinking culture at the snow. Photo: Getty Images

I spent a season in the Verbier bubble in Switzerland, skiing by day and partying by night, downing espresso martinis like water all served up on someone else's tab. For many, working a booze-filled ski season as a "chalet girl", liftie or behind a bar is considered a rite of passage. In Europe they call them "seasonaires", in Canada they call them Australians.

Booze is celebrated in snowfields worldwide. Mulled wine and schnapps were made for winter and Jaigermeister muscled in by adding Red Bull. A lodge isn't considered a lodge without a shot-ski at the bar, and ice bars regularly pop up at resorts around the globe only to melt like season romances at the first sign of summer.

Alcohol brands now sponsor ski resorts, events and snow festivals in Australia, although the proposed banning of alcohol sponsorship for sports events from 2020 may change that.

The World Heli Challenge, which had a junior competition this year, is sponsored by a leading beer brand, so is The Mile High slopestyle event at Perisher where grommets watch some of the "sickest" tricks for free on Front Valley with the obligatory alcohol brand carved into the jump and a #hellobeer hashtag for instagram.

The upcoming ABOM Challenge mogul competition at Buller is also sponsored by a beer brand despite having teenage competitors. I have also personally been involved in approaching alcohol sponsors for snow related productions before I saw the error of my ways...

Why? Because alcohol and snow go hand in hand, right? 

Though some might ask what's worse, a fizzy sugary drink as sponsor or a booze company?

But Cancer Council Victoria says the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions has increased by 50 per cent over the past decade and the number of people in emergency departments because they were injured or sick after drinking too much has increased by 93 per cent. That's booze, not sugary soft drinks.

I write this as a reformed snow binge-drinker. In the past I have been the first at the bar of the 42 Below Vodka world championships at The Remarkables in New Zealand and enjoyed myself immensely. I've been lost in the bubbles of Lindauer when they sponsored the Queenstown Winter Festival and I've inhaled the French bubbles of Veuve at the annual Clicquot in the Snow at Thredbo. I have also been victim to drink spiking not once but twice at home and abroad, and yes, Verbier was one of them.

In the past three years, however, I can count on fewer than two hands the number of times I have had a drink at the snow. (There was a time when two hands counted the number of Jaigermeister's downed in one night.) I watch young drinkers now and hear my mother's words and fears escape my lips.

I understand that skiing and snowboarding is a risk-taking sport; you take a risk each time you click into your skis or snowboard and move at speed down a hill while others do the same. The feeling of immortality at the end of the day can fuel the immortality felt when a few drinks are under the belt.

Who doesn't want to let loose from the restraints of work life and the daily grind? Australians are known for our binge drinking and no one at a ski resort bats an eyelid. Tales of the night before are shared on the chairlift with pride and shame.

Every year someone wanders off from the pub in an inebriated state and either loses their way home in the snow or passes out before they get there. Either way they don't wake up the next day or the one after that. Banker, ski bum or seasonaire.

Do you think the skifields have a problem with their booze cultures? Do you think alcohol brands should sponsor events with underage competitors? Post your comments below.

INSTAGRAM2WIN Skullcandy love and a VAIL RESORTS EPIC SEASON PASS

Tag your instagram #misssnowitall and share the snow love. We'll publish our favourites each week right here and our guest judge will choose a winner that will go into the final gallery at the end of the season when you get to choose the winner.

Each week's winner receives a Skullcandy Hesh 2.0 set of headphones (RRP$99.95) in a variety of colours and goes into the finalists gallery at the end of the season for readers to vote on who wins. 

The final winner scores Skullcandy Mix Master Headphones (RRP$379.95) and an Epic Pass season pass valid at 18 mountains in the USA and Europe including Vail in Colorado, Heavenly in Lake Tahoe and Canyons in Utah, home to Skullcandy HQ (RRP US$689).

Check out the gallery at the top of this page for this week's top five finalists. You can also view all instagram entries here. Entry terms and conditions.

 

THIS WEEK'S WINNER

This week's finalists are @snowangelaustralia @samone_ments @flavour2804 @nicoleparks @josjos91. Watch this space for the winner next week.

The winner of last week's top five instagrams is @torhw for the goggle pic. Congrats!

Follow Snow It All on twitter @misssnowitall, instagram @misssnowitall, facebook facebook.com/misssnowitall and visit the wordpress blog miss-snowitall.com for more. Email me: rachael.oakesash@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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