The snow is flying, so that means one thing: it is ski season! Depending on where you live, skiing may feel like the national pastime during the winter, and for good reason. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s challenging. But for beginners wanting to tackle the sport for the first time, skiing can also feel daunting. After all, pointing yourself downhill at high speeds naturally feels scary. But, with enough practice, you too can be carving turns in no time.
Before you even step onto the ski hill, you’ll need to ensure you are dressed appropriately. Buy or rent a good pair of snow pants and a ski jacket. Not only will these keep you dry during your inevitable spills, but they will also keep you warm. You will also want to consider what goes underneath your outer layers. Base layers are worn next to your skin and wick sweat away from your body. Don’t forget gloves or mittens too! Both work well, but it is a matter of preference. Some skiers prefer the dexterity of gloves while others opt for mittens since they tend to keep your hands warmer. Your call. Ski socks are also important. Ideally, you will want socks that reach above your ski boots to minimize any friction against your skin. Ski-specific socks frequently come with a slight padding along the shin bone so that your boot doesn’t cause discomfort. Goggles are an important item too, although you can use sunglasses in a pinch. Goggles reduce the glare from the sun, protecting your eyes. Although you may not realize it, sun rays reflect off snow and put your eyes in a delicate position. Goggles will provide all-around protection from these rays, as well as from wind or blowing snow. Finally, don’t forget your helmet. Back in the day, helmets weren’t considered to be standard equipment but they certainly are now. In fact, some ski schools won’t allow you to join a lesson without one. A ski helmet is specifically designed to protect your head while also keeping you warm. Most helmets have vents that you can open and shut to regulate your body temperature while on the hill.
If it is your first time skiing, there is a good chance you will need to rent gear. Thankfully, there are only a few items: skis, boots, and poles. Most ski resorts will have a rental shop at the base that can get you kitted out in the appropriate equipment. Be aware: the prices at the base of a ski resort tend to be higher than elsewhere. If you are looking to save money, rent your gear in the city or at a local rental shop back on the highway. Frequently, the savings are quite noticeable!
Skiing Tips for Beginners
You’ve got the clothing and you’ve rented the appropriate gear, what’s next? We’d recommend a lesson, and not from your significant other! While it may seem easier (and cheaper) to learn from your spouse, it isn’t the best idea. Learning to ski can be frustrating, and taking advice from a loved one may add fuel to the fire. Our advice: pony up the cash and pay for a proper lesson to get the most out of your day. Once you’re on the ski hill, there are going to be a few tips to consider to help your technique. Skiing isn’t easy, but with practice, it will seem more natural!
- Bend Your Knees. Skiing is exhausting for your leg muscles, and it is largely because you are always squatting! Bending your knees will help your body absorb all the random bumps and curves of the ski run. Plus, it forces you to push your shins into the front of your boots, giving you more control of your skis. Here’s a tip: if your heels aren’t fully sitting in the heel cups of your boots, bend your knees a bit more.
- Find Your Balance. Most beginners do one of two things: lean too far forward or too far backwards (often referred to as “backseat skiing.”) Keep your feet underneath your torso to have the most control over your skis. Most of your body weight should be felt between your heel and the arch of your foot.
- Don’t Start with a Flat. For many beginners, it may seem logical to find a flat run for your first ski adventure. While that is less scary, it is also difficult: you won’t be able to go anywhere (and if you are a snowboarder, flat runs are more difficult.) Opt for a beginner hill that still has a minor downhill slope so that you can gain a little speed to work on your skills.
- Know Your Pizza from Your French Fry. Your kid’s ski school lesson frequently sounds like the call line in a cafeteria: “Pizza! French fry!” But on the ski hill, these terms mean something different than a snack. When you first begin skiing, you will want to learn two skills: how to ski with your skis parallel to each other (like two french fries) or in a wedge (like a slice of pizza). Often, the pizza (or wedge or snow plow) is one of the first skills taught, since this is how you will initially learn to stop. A power wedge can slow you down or stop you in almost any conditions you will encounter in your first days skiing, so it is a great idea to master this skillset before tackling a bigger mountain.
- Practice Getting Up. Let’s be real: if you are a beginner, you are likely to fall more than a few times, and that’s OK! It’s a part of learning. But it is important to know how to pick yourself up safely so that an easy fall doesn’t become a disastrous downhill slide into a tree. Once you are on the ground, be sure to turn both of your skis perpendicular to the fall line of the hill. Then, use your poles above your uphill knee to help push yourself up. In doing this, your ski edges will dig into the snow so that gravity doesn’t cause you to slide down the mountain.
- Avoid Staring at Your Feet. It may feel logical to stare at your ski tips to make sure you know where you are going, but this is only going to cause you to fall more. Instead, fix your gaze ahead of your skis. Not only will this prepare you for upcoming terrain, but it will help redirect your body since your skis will likely follow wherever you are looking.