How Long Does it Take to Learn to Ski? The SIMPLE answer

by Simon Naylor | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

Every new skier wants to know how long it's going to take them to learn to ski. It's a great question and here's the answer:

It takes an hour to learn to stand, get some balance and go a few meters and stop slowly on your skis. It takes a few hours to go down a very shallow gradient and then start a wedged turn. It takes a day or two to start slowly turning left and right on a green slope (wedged turning), and up to a week or two to start turning more confidently (parallel turns). Beyond that, it takes years to develop strong technical skills for jumping, off-piste terrain or mogul skiing. 

learning to ski

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Read on if you want to know the fastest way to learn to ski and what to expect from your first days on the slopes.

Main factors that impact your learning curve. 

If you're young, a fast learner and have high agility, you can learn to ski within a few days. If you're unfit, easily tired and don't have much sports experience it can take a few weeks to develop the basic skills.

  1. Age. You can ski at any age, but the older you get the harder it can become. The reverse is true if you have high movement sports experience. 
  2. Fitness & Strength.  You can be unfit and still ski, but the fitter you are the easier it is to learn and progress.
  3. Attitude to risk & fear.  Having the attitude to lean into the turn improves your skiing. Being timid on the slopes can make you more likely to fall. (Likewise, over-confidence can cause injury) 
  4. Balance. Experience in balance and foot control will really help your learning curve. Balance skills acquired through sports like slack-lining, ice skating or squash will allow you to react quickly to the movement of your skis. 

Learning to ski timeline.

The time it takes you to learn to ski is dependent on the factors outlined above. But here's what the average new skier can expect from their first few days to weeks on the slopes.

For an adult, I would plan on five good ski days, at least, before you really get the hang of it.

James Miller, Expert skier from the Lake Tahoe since 1988.

First Few Hours

In the first few hours of your skiing adventure, a lot happens!

You'll be learning how to put your ski boots on and how to walk in them. 

You'll learn how to clip your skis together and attempt your first ski over the shoulders walk towards the gondola - the cabin that takes you up the mountain. 

You'll then learn to walk on snow in your boots (dig in with the toe of the boot while walking uphill and the heel first while walking downhill).

You'll learn how to put your ski boot into the skis (toe first into the bindings and then press down with your heel).

You'll learn how to walk in your skis and slide down a shallow gradient and come to a stop.

You'll get used to the feel of your skis moving over the snow and you'll repeat this a few times. 

When you're ready, you'll begin to practice the famous snowoplough or pizza stop. 

Once you're familiar with the basic snowoplough position to slow and then come to a stop, you, you'll now be looking at taking your first ski lift - usually the magic carpet.

day 1 skiing

You'll come off the magic carpet and head down a short slope. 

You may stumble a few times, but quickly regain your composure like nothing happened.  

Congratulations, you're now on moving skis! Throughout the morning you'll repeat the magic carpet maneuver and get more confident at coming down a short 10-50m slope and then coming to a stop in a snowoplough. 

Throughout the morning you'll build up to more distance and get more comfortable with the feel of your skis attached to you.

Day 1

Depending on how your legs are feeling, you may move from the magic carpet to your first green slope chairlift experience. 

You'll learn how to get on and off the chairlift, where to put your poles and how to rest your skis on the pull-down bar.

On day 1 you may also begin to start learning how to make your first snowoplough turns.

By placing more weight on one foot than the other you'll learn the process of moving towards the left or the right of the slope. 

In a ski lesson, you'll be following your fellow students in a duck line behind your instructor and he'll be explaining how to shift your weight to cause you're to shift direction.

Day 1 Skiing Recap: You'll know how to put your ski boots on and how to carry your skis. You can expect to be up and on your feet within the first day. Expect to fall over plenty of times. You'll learn how to use ski lifts. You'll learn how to snowoplough or pizza stop and begin to learn the process of wedged turning. You're likely to fall over quite a few times and cross your skis as you get used to their length. Day 1 is all about getting used to the sensation of sliding over the snow if that's all you do - then you're doing just fine. 

Day 2-4

You can snowplough nicely. Your snowplough turns left and right are evolving into a tighter wedged shape with your skis closer together. You're now linking your turns and zig-zagging down the green slopes.

You'll keep practicing on your wedged turns, you'll be gaining confidence and committing to each turn more. Muscle memory from the previous day is kicking in, but your legs are still tired and can feel like jelly. 

You've realized that by leaning downhill into the turn, you're able to turn easier than when you lean back.

You'll occasionally stumble and fall, but your gaining confidence bit by bit.

You're learning the basics of edge control and you'll practice stopping on the slope and then tilting the edges of your skis to slide down for a moment before flattening back up to stop. You'll practice this a few times to develop a feel for how a parallel slide feels.

Day 5-10

Your turns are getting smoother, more confident and your skis are closer to a parallel turn than they've ever been.

You're stronger on one turn than the other, but you're getting to the point where it's all going to click into place.

Your weaker side, one ski just takes that extra bit of effort and never seems to get fully parallel.

You've attempted your first hockey stop and you're learning to dig in with the edges for a faster stop. 

You're confident getting on and off lifts and you're moving up to the blue runs. 

Day 10-20+

You can parallel ski and stop. You look ahead and plan your turns to avoid others. Your turns are more fluid and you're learning to lean more into the turns. 

You're slowly cracking the code. You can parallel ski & you can hockey stop (no snowplough anymore). You're not scared of fast skiers around you and you can comfortably turn at speed.  

Day 20+

You're working on tighter parallel turns and intermediate skills. You've come so far, but you then you realize how much there still is to learn. 

Mike learns to ski in a week.

The fastest way to learn.

Without a doubt, the fastest way to learn is to take 1-1 ski lesson from an instructor. They'll not only know how to ski, but how to teach to ski. They can progress at your level and introduce you to each concept with clear instructions and visual demos.

The next fastest way to learn to ski is to have patient friends who can ski teach you. 

The next fastest is to watch youtube videos, others on the slope and have your own adventure.

I run through every pro and con of each method over on my article: Why You (Don’t) Need Lessons to Ski. Unbiased Pros Vs Cons 

Final thoughts.

The time it takes to learn to ski is different for everyone depending on your level of fitness, agility and sport experience. 

Every new skier goes through the same stages of learning, from sliding to snowplough to wedged turns to parallel stops.

with modern ski equipment and good instruction an average adult can be skiing simple green terrain at the end of their first day.   But, for those skills to take hold it'll be on the order of three to five days before they're really comfortable on skis.

David K, Ski instructor. 

While some pick it up much faster than others, learning to ski is a challenge. 

A rewarding, tiring challenge. The more you ski, the easier it gets and the more fun you have.

As I've said before: no one ever regrets learning to ski.