Tips for first-time skiers & instructors of first-time skiers
Skiing is not a sport for everyone, there are many who simply won’t enjoy it. However, many people who try skiing once and then never again were not given a fair chance, because they were brought by a “friend” who probably made no serious effort to give them the basic information they needed to avoid being miserable.
Here then is a list of advice for a new skier. It can also be used by would-be instructors to help you give a novice the best possible skiing experience.
As a beginner, you should have reasonable expectations about your first day out. Hopefully, many of the things below will give you a better idea of what to expect. But there are some important basics to be prepared for.
- You will fall down. A lot.
- It is hard to get up, and this can be embarrassing.
- There will be six-year-olds skiing circles around you, and this is infuriating.
- You will be alternately bored and terrified, and not very often in between. Too slow and too fast are right next to each other for beginners.
The good news is that after the first day or two, most of these problems go away. And even on the first couple of days, you can still find a lot of space for enjoyment, but that depends on a host of other important details. How good or bad your first day is depends on understanding and following the advice below.
Properly fitting ski boots are warm. Very warm. Completely warm. Do NOT where very thick socks, or more than one pair of socks inside your boots. If you are too stuffed with socks, you’ll lose circulation and your feet will be cold (again, make sure you can wiggle your toes).
Do NOT wear jeans, or sweatpants. You will be falling down in snow, and even if it is cold enough to be dry snow, some of it will stick to you and melt. If you get wet, it’s over. There’s no chance to stay warm.
At least wear shells (nylon waterproof pants with no padding or insulation). But I recommend thick ski pants for beginners. This is for the padding more than for the cold. A beginner will fall enough that even if the snow is soft, they may get bruised without padding. The ski pants will also help keep your butt warm on the lift.
Similarly, your jacket should also be waterproof. It doesn’t matter how heavy it is. Just wear layers. That way you can add or remove layers as needed. I also recommend a zippered jacket, not a pullover. If you can open the jacket when you’re hot, then you won’t sweat too much (if you sweat too much, and then get cold, you’ll never be warm again).
Gloves must also be waterproof. If they are lightweight gloves, you’ll probably want a liner. If gloves are too tight, it will reduce circulation and your hands will be cold. Some heaver gloves may start tight, and then open up as the insulation stretches. I’ve found that using liners for a few minutes to start, and then removing them can stretch gloves open so that they are warmer.
Falling (and getting up)
As I said before, you will fall. If you happen to have any control over your fall, try to fall uphill. Try to land on your butt. Try to make your fall like a feet-first baseball slide.
The hard part is getting up. Now the irony here is that the steeper the hill is, the easier it is to get up (because you have less far to go). The problem is that the boots keep you from flexing your ankles, so you can’t get your legs under you very well.
Get your feet downhill from you, and tuck them as close to your butt as you can. Then push yourself up onto your feet in a squatting position (use the poles if you have to) and then stand up. If you have a few frustrating failures, let your friend or instructor help you up — you’ll get plenty more opportunities to get up later, and the frustration can be the biggest enemy.
It is important to choose a ski resort with a good beginner’s area. The best thing to do is to ask us. You can’t call the resorts and expect honest answers. You want wide, not very steep slopes. And more than just one “bunny hill”, so you can work your way up gradually.