You’d be forgiven for thinking the humble ski is only meant for skiing. The association is natural — skiing is a classic winter pastime enjoyed by countless people around the world. Yet when the weather gets cold and fresh powder falls on the mountain tops, people flock to winter resorts, where aging skis are repurposed for a new life as a vessel for social drinking. I’m speaking of course of the shotski.
The idea behind the shotski is simple. It’s a ski with either three, four, or five shot glasses attached to it. Brave drinkers afraid to sip alone hold the ski together, lift it like a portable miniature table to their faces, and, like one multi-body drinking machine, down every last drop of liquor in the shot glasses. If anyone fails to complete a drink, the nature of the shotski ensures that any unfinished liquid falls on the shamed person’s face.
Exactly how, when, and why people decided to drink in this manner is unknown, but people have been finding ways to avoid drinking alone since the beginning of time. The Social Issues Research Centre based in Oxford in the U.K. goes as far as to say that there are zero cultures in the world where drinking alone is “actively approved or encouraged.” According to the Research Centre, even animals like elephants make sure they consume alcohol (in the form of slightly fermented fruits) in groups. So it’s possible that the shotski was invented in the very same place the ski was invented: Norway.
But it’s another European country that has earned credit for this honored tradition. Mountain Life Media dates the original idea to Austria, where it’s known as the schnappski. Only, Austrians don’t use shot glasses glued or screwed onto skis. They simply place the shot glasses on top, use their superior balancing skills, and take the shot like a champ.
The Austrian origin is debated, and there’s no way to be sure. What everyone can be certain about is that no matter who first invented it, the Americans perfected it. Multiple companies make official shotskis, water ski shotskis, and even hocky stick shotskis. And every year at the Ullr Fest in Breckenridge, Colo., people line up to set a new world record for longest shotski. In 2014, 219 skis stretched 973 feet down Main Street while 666 souls took a shot of schnapps together.
In the end, all that really matters is that the shotski is the ultimate way to keep from drinking alone. With all the mystery surrounding the origin, the shotski could be more than just a portmanteau — it could be someone’s namesake. There are people with the last name “Shotski” dating back all the way to 1871 in Kenosha, Wis., on Ancestry.com. But you don’t have to worry about the origin story when taking a shotski. You just have to worry about finishing the shot before the shot finishes on your face.