Is Skiing Scary The First Time?

by Simon Knott | Updated: September 20th, 2023 |  Skiing Articles

Frequently, when you ask someone who hasn’t been skiing what it’s like, they will tell you it’s going to be freezing cold and you’re likely to break a leg. Ask the same question to someone who’s been skiing a few times and they will tell you that you’re going to love it, and find it exciting, with amazing views, food, and drink. So, who’s right? Is it going to be a scary experience? Or is it going to be new and exciting?

Skiing can be scary the first time. There is so much to know about clothing, equipment, lift tickets, ski lifts, not to mention skiing. However, by confronting your fears you will discover that reality is not as threatening as you first thought. The only thing you need to fear is fear itself.

Skier in Yellow

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When you do any activity for the first time you are bound to have some fears about it. Will I be able to get the hang of it? Am I going to look like a right idiot?

As you haven’t skied before you have no experience to be able to judge how difficult or frightening it is. The only evidence you have is that thousands of people go skiing year after year, so they must be enjoying it, otherwise, they wouldn’t keep going back.

If you’re going skiing for the first time you clearly won’t have any experience but that doesn’t stop you from being prepared. By doing some planning you can educate yourself, so any fears you have will be much more in proportion to reality and less threatening.

Do Some Planning Before You Go

Ski Fun Trip

Search for some blogs about skiing for the first time. You’ll find all sorts of experiences of other people, what they were frightened of, how they coped, and what they wished they’d known. There are numerous videos on YouTube about learning techniques, as well as thousands of clips on how not to do it.

Find out what clothing you need. Just go for the essentials, if skiing doesn’t work out for you, and there’s no shame in that, you won’t end up with a wardrobe full of gear. Beg, buy, or borrow for the most part but do get a reasonable ski jacket and ski gloves. By the time you leave for your trip, you will be accustomed to what you’re going to wear, which will add to your confidence.

Get fit. It’s easy to imagine skiing is a passive sport. You jump on the ski lift and then ski down with little effort. Admittedly, the ski lift is the easy part but skiing down uses a lot of effort from the legs and body. So, unless you are already fit, start a simple fitness program, which will strengthen your legs, as well as improve your stamina. There are several simple videos on YouTube about getting fit for skiing. Getting fit is a great way to deal with stress as well, which will help to make your first days on the run more relaxing.

Wear layers to keep warm. Wear a polyester base layer, which will be much better at wicking moisture away from your body. Natural fibers such as cotton tend to hold moisture, which will leave you feeling wet and cold.

Take a small backpack out each day, so you can add or remove layers depending on how warm you get. You will feel much more confident if you are feeling comfortable in your clothes and gear.

Invest In Some Lessons

If it’s your first time in the snow, learning some techniques from an expert will really speed up your ability to ski. While learning in a group you will be able to observe other beginners and notice when their technique is right and when it’s wrong.

The ski instructor will demonstrate the first stages of skiing, concerning balance, stance, and cornering with a snowplow. This will all be conducted in the beginners’ area, which is away from the main runs and consists of a flat area with some small slopes to practice.

A few people don’t feel intimidated during these early skiing lessons, but the majority find the first few hours on snow slightly stressful. It’s good practice to try to understand your fears, so you can learn to keep them in proportion.

For example, some people when they start skiing are fearful that they will start off down a hill, accelerate rapidly without being able to control the skis, and finish with a dramatic crash. There are numerous other 'fear' scenarios but, often, they all finish with going out of control and crashing.

So, if you establish that your fear is to do with going out of control and crashing then create a situation where you can ‘act out’ this fear. Find a quieter part of the slope and asked some friends to join in. Then in turn start off slowly down the slope and then fall over to one side as if you’ve crashed accidentally.

You won’t hurt yourself, but you will understand what happens when you fall over. You will then have to recover from the situation, get up and carry on skiing. It might seem pointless at first but you’re learning a valuable lesson that there’s no shame in falling over and you don’t always get hurt.

Next time you’re on a run, a few days later, you might suddenly feel anxious about crashing but you can remind yourself of your experiences on the nursery slopes and reassure yourself about your ability.

Build Your Skills Little By Little

Colorado Ski Trip
Photo by Bryon & Olivia licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

After a few lessons and some practice on simpler runs, you will start to notice your technique is improving. You’ll find you can relax a bit more rather than feeling hunched up when you ski.

Your confidence will grow as you learn to master coordinating skis, body, arms, and poles, and at the same time, your fears will diminish as you understand that the original threat skiing had isn’t real.

As the saying goes, ‘Learn to walk before you can run.’ When you decide to try out a new technique or maneuver make sure it’s a small step. Confidence is slow to build and quick to demolish.

By taking lots of small steps, you will improve faster and feel more assured. Feeling overconfident and diving down a steep, red run and hoping for the best is unlikely to end well!

Find The Right Pace

You’re on vacation, right? Then find a pace that suits the vacation spirit. Give yourself time to break off from the runs and have a coffee. You will be burning upwards of 600 calories in a short day of skiing, so it’s easy to get tired.

If you give yourself regular breaks you will find your mind will be clearer and you will be less likely to experience stress and fear. Go at the pace that you feel comfortable with. Don’t be cajoled into skiing harder runs if you don’t want to.

Ski Lifts

Every skier has a ski lift story. It’s a miracle so many skiers are transported safely, what with the combination of moving equipment, ice, and people wearing awkward gear. What could go wrong? But surprisingly, little does go wrong apart from the odd messy departure.

If you have fears about ski lifts, visit a couple just to watch other people using them. You might even see someone fall but you will see the operator can stop the lift immediately, sort out the problem and start it once again.