13 Tips on How to Start Skiing – A Beginners Guide

by Simon Knott | Updated On: April 1st, 2022
start-skiing

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So, you have this newfound interest in skiing, and you want to go but you know nothing about it. What can you do? Who can you talk to? And where can you find the information?

Learning to ski or snowboard takes time and practice but reading and watching videos on the subject is a good start. Then going for a trial lesson at a snow center or dry slope is a good introduction. It’s simplest to book your first vacation through a packaging company, that can advise on resorts, accommodation, ski hire, and lift tickets.

friends-skiing

1. Research

Skiing is a more complicated sport to learn than many others. The equipment is alien to the newcomer and often the terrain where you ski is just as foreign. Luckily there are plenty of resources where you can learn many aspects of the sport.

There are plenty of blogs, articles, and skiing websites that offer detailed information about starting skiing. Similarly, YouTube has plenty of instructional skiing content.

2. Snow Centres and Dry Slopes

If that research fires your enthusiasm try a visit to a snow center or dry slope.

You can hire all the equipment you need and book in for your first lesson. Instead of buying a ski jacket and snow pants, borrow them from a friend, you can buy them later.

You will need the clothing as snow centers are kept very cool at -1° C to -5° C. Go early in the day for the best snow and avoid peak times like weekends and school holidays if possible. Take a friend so you can learn together and have more fun.

Dry slopes are made from nylon bristles and the slopes are usually outdoors, but equipment and clothing hire is the same. Both snow centers and dry slopes give you a good introduction to skiing and allow you to familiarise yourself with the equipment, walk-in boots, and carry skis and poles.

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3. How to Book your First Ski Trip?

If you’ve decided skiing is for you, then organize your first trip. If it’s not for you – that’s fine, you had a go. Luckily you don’t have a load of kit, which is now useless to you.

As this is your first ski trip you will have plenty of things to remember. So, for simplicity book this trip through a vacation company that sells complete packages. Everything will be organized from one place, and you will have a rep at the resort, who can help with any questions you have.

Some vacation companies specialize in first-time trips, and they should be able to guide you through the booking process and make suggestions as to how your trip can be improved.

A typical European vacation package will include flights to and from your destination, return coach transfer to your resort, accommodation (and meals if you book them), ski equipment hire, ski school, and a lift ticket (this is your pass to gain access to the lift system).

4. How to Pick a Ski Resort

Vorarlberg

As this is your first trip keep things as simple as possible:

  • Make sure the ski instructors speak good English – most do
  • Make sure the ski school is close to the lifts
  • Pick a resort with plenty of easy and beginner runs
  • [Europe] Ski lessons are expensive, so save money with trips to cheaper countries such as Bulgaria and Andorra5

5. What Sort of Accommodation is Available?  

There are usually three types of accommodation in ski resorts, all of which will have ski boot rooms, where you can store your skis and equipment overnight:

* Self-catering Apartments

These apartments usually have a living area, including a small kitchen and then a separate bathroom and bedrooms. Skiers enjoy their flexibility and their own space.

* Chalets

Chalets are often traditional wooden houses, which accommodate from 4-25+. Skiers sleep in double en suite rooms and eat in the dining room and lounge. Usually, breakfast and dinner are included.

* Hotels

Hotels are usually larger and more commercial. You can choose which meals you want to eat in the hotel.

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5. When is the best time to go skiing?

December is quiet until Christmas and New Year but there may be a problem with the reliability of the snow. If you decide to go in December, choose a resort at a higher altitude where the snow will be reliable. School vacations make resorts busier with longer lift queues, so, if possible, book your trip outside these times. January is usually a quieter time, so it is a great time to go, so long as you don’t feel the cold. Things gradually warm up and become sunnier through February, March, and the beginning of April, when prices drop because the snow coverage isn’t as good.

6. Equipment & Clothing to Take

  • Ski jacket
  • Ski pants
  • Ski gloves
  • Ski socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Goggles
  • High Protection Suncream
  • Lip Balm

If you can borrow all or any of the above for this trip, take advantage. If you’re interested in skiing dies off over the year you won’t have invested hundreds of pounds in clothing and equipment.

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For other clothing think in terms of layers to keep warm. Use a thermal, polyester T-shirt as your base layer, as this is much better at moving moisture away from the body. Then use two further layers to create good insulation. What you wear each day will vary depending on how energetic you are, whether it’s a sunny day or what time of year it is.

Ski pants are generally made from nylon or polyester, with an additional polyester padding for insulation. Although they are quite thin, they are waterproof and offer good protection from the wind. If you are going in very cold months such as January, it’s a good idea to take a pair of thermal insulation/long johns too.

7. Collecting your Ski Equipment

Your vacation rep will give you a voucher to take to the ski hire shop to collect your skis and other equipment. It is normal practice to collect your equipment in the afternoon before you start skiing the next day.

Ski-Rental-Shop

The ski shop assistant will measure your feet first and give you a pair of boots to try. If this is the first time trying them on, ask the assistant to show you the best way. Then stand up and lean forward slightly with your knees bent. In this position, your big toes shouldn’t be touching the inside of the front of the boot. This is the position you’re going to be in most of the day as you ski.

If something else doesn’t feel right about the boot or it’s painful, then explain the problem to the assistant and they should be able to find a solution. Once you are happy with your boots the assistant will adjust the bindings on your skis, so your boots fit correctly.

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Then, you will be given a pair of ski poles, which should be as high as your elbow. Lastly, hire a helmet. A ski shop helmet is not the most fashionable, but it could save your life. Then you’re ready to go.

8. Enroll in Ski School

The price of the ski school in a resort varies considerably depending on the celebrity of the resort, the school itself, the type of lesson, and the time of year that you book.

Ski-School
Photo by EaglebrookSchool licensed under CC BY 2.0

Generally, schools offer individual tuition or group sessions for about 6 to 10 skiers. Naturally, individual tuition is a lot more expensive, but you do get the undivided attention of your instructor.

In a group, you will be taught by the instructor but you will also be able to observe the other skiers in the group. Some will be skiing correctly and others not, which offers good insight into how you should be skiing yourself. Combined with the instructions from the teacher this can be an effective way to learn.

At first, it can be quite challenging when you start skiing because you’re starting as an absolute beginner. However, bear in mind the other people in the group are in the same position. It’s best to adopt a mindset that you are bound to make mistakes as you pick up the techniques.

This is a great icebreaker in the group, where gradually everyone transforms from humiliation to trying hard to make it work, which is fun. You won’t become a competent skier overnight but even after a morning lesson, you will already have techniques to practice before the next lesson. This group mentality is often a lot more supportive than individual tuition, and you’ll probably make some new friends into the bargain.

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* Do I book for a half-day or whole day?

Whether you book for a half-day or whole day really comes down to a matter of choice. If you are keen to progress and have the energy to apply yourself then a whole day lesson would be a good choice.

However, sometimes skiers feel that when they are taking a lesson they are not actually skiing properly, and they can feel cheated. If this is the case then stick to half-day lessons, where you are getting several hours of tuition, but you then get the freedom to go and try it out on the runs for real.

* Arrive Early

Aim to arrive early for your class. These first few days of skiing are complicated as you have to remember all your skiing equipment and clothing. Getting ready will take a lot longer during these first few days.

Arriving early also gives you the chance to chat with the other students in the class. This is a good icebreaker, which will reduce any anxiety you have and make you feel like you’re part of a group effort. You spent good money on these lessons, you might as well get your money’s worth.

* The Instructor

Ski-instructor-Sandra
Photo by David B. Gleason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The instructors in ski schools work full-time during the season and so they will have taught hundreds of new skiers. They must go through a rigorous training program to become an instructor. So they know what they’re talking about.

Always approach a class with an open mind and a willingness to learn new techniques. The instructor will sometimes guide you to change your behavior, so don’t take this as criticism he is just showing you how to improve. If there is anything you don’t understand or you need help with, always feel free to ask.

9. Keep your energy up

In your early days of skiing, your technique will naturally not be that efficient.

This will change as you get better but, in the meantime, you will use more energy and lose more water through perspiration than normal. If this goes on for some time you can feel dehydrated. So always make sure you take a small bottle of water and a snack to keep up your blood sugar levels.

10. Practice

Skiing-in-black
Photo by Ruth Hartnup licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you take the option of half-day ski lessons, it is well worth using the afternoon to build on the progress that you’ve made. Your first couple of lessons will be quite tough, as you will be trying to coordinate several new skills, including balance, ski control, and posture.

However, you will soon find some of those skills are automatic, leaving you to concentrate on the remainder. As you keep practicing take a moment now and again to recognize your progress. Think back to your first lesson and how your attempts went.

Once you have found a simple run you can ski down without too much problem, then ski it again several times. By repeatedly skiing the same run you will find your confidence builds each time.

When you first skied this run, possibly part of it was difficult, icy, or steep, but after practicing it a few times, what was so difficult at the beginning is suddenly quite easy. Use this technique to push yourself. Eventually, this first run will start to feel boring, as if all the challenge is gone. So, find a new run that offers just a bit more challenge and build your confidence on that one.

11. Confidence

skiing-in-blue

Confidence is often one of those things you don’t know you’ve got until it’s gone.

When you start skiing you have zero skills or knowledge, which is bound to make you feel anxious. But over time through practice and repetition, your confidence slowly builds, so you can take on bigger and bigger challenges. There are several techniques you can use to help you build and maintain your confidence:

12. Ski with similar abilities

It might be tempting to ski with someone with a better ability who could really help you to develop your own skills, however, this isn’t necessarily so. Maybe at first, you get high because you’re skiing with someone better but then you quickly realize you’re out of your depth.

At best you can leave and at worst you can carry on, maybe have a bad fall, and severely dent your confidence. It’s best to think of confidence as something you top up little by little. It’s very rare that confidence improves suddenly.

So, when picking partners for skiing always choose those of similar ability. This way you will feel relaxed and focused, allowing you to enjoy skiing much more. At the same time, you can still watch each other’s techniques and learn from them. Knowing your limits will stop you from making rash choices, which can damage your confidence.

with-friends
Photo by Barney Moss licensed under CC BY 2.0

13. Learn the Rules on the Runs

Take a few minutes to learn the international rules which apply for skiing and snowboarding.

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