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Myths are usually generated out of ignorance or mischief, but they can easily take hold and become truths in some people’s minds. These are some of the most common skiing myths and how you can debunk them.
Skiing and snowboarding are complex sports, and there is always something new to learn. Don’t be afraid to challenge any myths you come across by asking an expert for an explanation.
1. You must be crazy! It’s freezing out there!
Most of the time when you’re skiing, you will be active either skiing down a slope or walking towards the next lift. The time spent on the lift can be chilly if it’s a cold and windy day, but on the next run, you will soon warm up again. A good ski jacket and two layers underneath should see you through most conditions.
Take enough layers to keep at a comfortable temperature and remove layers if you start to get too hot. Make sure your gloves are effective in the cold and buy a pair of glove liners if you’re going out in frigid temperatures. Heated mittens work wonders in colder temps.
2. I don’t like heights! I’ll probably ski off a cliff!
The first time you go skiing, it’s easy to imagine you will be close to drops and cliffs as you make your way down the slopes. However, the terrain you ski on has been carefully designed to reduce any hazards as much as possible. So, you may come across a cliff edge, but it will be highlighted and fenced off so it doesn’t present a danger. Just stay within the bounds of a ski resort until you’re an expert-level skier.
When you first start skiing, you will be in the safety of the learner area, a long way from any hazards higher up the mountain. So, you can spend time building your confidence before venturing to higher slopes.
3. I’m not that fit. I’m bound to break a leg!
You don’t need to be super fit to ski but getting prepared with some simple exercises will help you to learn more quickly and give you better stamina throughout the day. It’s important to progress at your own speed; skiing is a recreational sport, not a race.
There are plenty of free exercise courses for skiers online. As with any exercise little and often is better than a couple of crazy days before you leave. Exercising the different muscles will leave them toned and better able to deal with any falls or slips.
Tip: If you’re already reasonably fit from regular exercise concentrate on the muscle groups used particularly in skiing to improve resistance.
4. My skis will fly off accidentally when I’m skiing
Fears about equipment failing all fall under the umbrella of a generalized fear of disaster. However, skis will only break away from ski boots if they are subjected to a twisting force, such as in a faster fall. If your ski bindings have been properly set up then the likelihood of the ski breaking away during normal skiing is very slight.
Reassure yourself that your skis are firmly attached to your boots. When you’re standing still lift one leg up and shake it as hard as you can. You will find it’s almost impossible to make the ski break away from the boot.
5. I’m going to hurt myself when I fall
When you’re learning skiing or snowboarding falling over goes with the territory. However, in the beginning, your speeds will be lower, and your falls will be easier. In time as you improve your technique your falls will become less and less frequent and so the fear of them diminishes as well.
If you have repeated fears of hurting yourself when you fall you can dispel some of them by acting out a fall, to prove that you don’t necessarily get hurt. On a quiet, gradual slope pick up a little speed and then fall to one side or the other. This will build your confidence as you reinforce the idea that falling doesn’t mean pain.
6. Going forward is OK, but slowing down is so hard
When you’re first starting out on the snow the wedge or snowplow will be your go-to stance, to enable you to control your speed. Your ski tips will be close together, while at the rear your skis will be wide apart. The friction between the skis and the snow at this angle is enough to regulate your speed.
Therefore, to turn when you’re skiing in a wedge you need to apply more weight to the front of your right ski to turn left and conversely more weight to the front of your left ski to turn right. It’s the inside edges of the skis that dig into the snow to create the turning momentum.
7. I need to get all the right kit for first-time skiing
It can be overwhelming when you first look at the amount of clothing and equipment you can take on a ski vacation. However, before you go investing $100s on new clothing and equipment check out what’s available second-hand. You can often pick up some real bargains, where items have only been used a couple of times.
On your first few trips, you will have plenty of other things to think about so simplify the kit you need by renting as much of it as possible. That way if skiing isn’t for you there is no great loss you can simply return the rental items. If you decide is going to become a lifelong hobby, then you have plenty of time to invest in your own kit at your own pace.
8. I’m going to make a fool of myself in group ski lessons
During your first beginner lesson everyone will be in the same boat, all probably fearful of making a fool of themselves. In fact, everyone is so busy concentrating on what the instructor is saying that they won’t have time for watching anyone else.
Try to make friends with others in your group. You can share learning tips, laugh about mistakes, and turn the lesson into fun, but don’t forget to listen to the instructor.
9. I lean backward when I’m skiing because I feel more in control
It’s very common for novice skiers to lean back when skiing. Unfortunately, the more you lean back the less the fronts of the skis are in contact with the snow and it’s the fronts of the skis where all the control is.
It’s worth practicing the correct ski stance or posture right from the get-go. You will use it every day, so it’s worth getting it right from the outset. Aim to keep your whole-body weight balanced over the middle of your skis, which should leave you leaning forward slightly.
10. I’m bound to have an accident and need to be airlifted off the slopes
Whenever you tell someone you’re going skiing there is the inevitable joke about breaking a leg. The same joke would never be made to a swimmer, and yet statistically, swimmers are 30 times more likely to die in the water.
Strains and sprains are not uncommon in skiing, which make up most evacuations from the slopes. Serious injuries are quite rare and much more likely to happen in the backcountry.
Make sure you get fit before you go skiing. It’s a strenuous sport and preparing your muscles and joints beforehand will go a long way to protect you. Always wear a helmet, more and more skiers do. Understand the rules and regulations of the slopes so you don’t become one of the statistics.
11. I was told to fit correctly ski boots should be painful
Ski boots in the 70s and 80s looked good from the outside but sadly inflicted a lot of pain on unsuspecting skiers.
Time moves on and designers have now cracked the trade-off between snug fit and comfort. So now you can wear a pair of rental ski boots all day long with little discomfort.
If you’re renting boots take time in the shop and ask one of the assistants for help to get the right size. Boots come in different widths as well, although these aren’t usually measured.
So, if you’re struggling to find the right size asked to be measured for width as well. Wear one pair of skiing socks in your boots, and don’t be tempted to use thicker walking socks.
12. Why does the cold always fog my sunglasses
Often, on a cold day when you stop by the side of the run and chat with your friends, you find your sunglasses fog up, so you can’t see where you’re going. It’s not the cold that causes it, it’s the moisture in your breath.
Push your sunglasses a bit farther down your nose, so the lenses are farther away from your face. This lets fresh air travel up and behind the lenses to stop them from fogging up.
13. Chairlifts are complicated; there are so many things to remember
In principle, chairlifts are simple but there are a lot of factors that can influence how smoothly your journey goes. It’s a good idea to keep your wits about you on chairlifts as situations can quickly get out of hand.
If you’re using a chairlift for the first time, always go with someone who is experienced.
Concentrate on what’s happening as you approach the loading area and keep yourself aware of the other passengers.
Tip: Once you are sitting on the chair don’t be tempted to reorganize anything, you’re bound to drop it. As you disembark plan your exit, for example, if you have a snowboarder on your left, exit to your right.
14. You need to learn skiing when you’re a teenager or younger
On average, one-third of the students in ski lessons will be adults. So, there is nothing to say youngsters have the advantage. In fact, if you learn to ski when you are older there are some advantages.
You will probably make better use of the ski lessons, you will have more patience, and you will be prepared for challenges.
If you are learning to ski when older it’s even more important to make sure your fitness is as good as possible. Take a few tryout days at a local slope or an indoor snow center – it’s a good place to build confidence in a safe environment.
15. Using your shoulders makes turns easier
It’s not effective to use your shoulders and upper body to make parallel turns. If you finish each side of the run facing the edge of the run, then you are using your shoulders to make the turn. Instead, always keep your front facing downhill as you transition through the turn.
To start a turn, lean forward smoothly and allow your hips to crossover the downhill ski. The skis should start to drop downhill so that you can transfer your weight onto both of the skis.
16. It’s difficult making a turn around the ski pole
The idea of turning around the ski pole is often taken too literally. It’s not a case of jamming the ski pole into the snow and pivoting around but has more to do with using the tip of the ski to mark when the turn will start.
It’s particularly useful on steeper runs when you’re feeling apprehensive as it creates a definite starting point, which halts any indecision.
As you ski straightforwardly just before you initiate a turn the pole needs to be pushed into the snow on the inside of the turn at the side of the front of the ski.
17. There is no need for sunscreen on cloudy days
Several different risk factors come together when you’re in the mountains which can drastically affect the risk posed by sunlight:
- The altitude means the UVA and UVB rays have come through less atmosphere and so are stronger
- With snow all around the UVA and UVB rays strike the skin directly and are reflected from the snow surface
Make sure you use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) and remember to reapply it during the day. Always wear eye protection which filters out UVA and UVB rays.
18. Why are rules needed for skiing
Surprisingly, there is no obligation for ski resorts to educate skiers and snowboarders about the rules and regulations on the slopes. Often the rules seem like common sense but some of them can save your life.
19. A couple of beers at lunchtime relaxes you for the afternoon
It’s very tempting when you put up to a bar at lunchtime with amazing views, sunshine, and fantastic food to have a couple of beers. You’ve earned it, you’re on vacation.
Everyone reacts differently to alcohol so there is no right or wrong it all comes down to a matter of personal choice.
20. Thick socks make ski boots more comfortable
It’s easy to assume that thick, walking socks will make your feet more comfortable inside the ski boot. However, they aren’t necessary as the ski boot is enough to keep your feet warm. Also, the thickness of the fabric means there will be more play when the boot is done up.
Ski socks are made of thin, man-made material. They allow the ski boot to accurately hug the contours of your leg and foot.
21. A helmet gets in the way of enjoying the outdoors
Head injuries can be fickle – what starts off as a minor knock can turn into something life-threatening. Thankfully this is rare but is it worth the risk?
If you’ve never worn a helmet, try renting one for a week. You’ll never notice it and you’ll probably never go skiing without one again.
A lot of people’s fears are based on half-truths and nonsense, which probably gets dreamt up in bars. So, always check out any piece of skiing wisdom you come across.
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