Advice from a ski instructor.
Skiing is a fantastic sport to get started in, but in too many cases a first bad experience leads to a first-timer never having the confidence or the desire to return for a second crack. The first time on snow is often far more challenging than many imagine. Getting set up with the right equipment can an ordeal in itself, and by the time you’ve arrived at the slopes it can be hard to know just where to start.
Your best choice? Take a lesson with a pro and get yourself going with the basics. It will pay dividends. But if cash is tight or you’re the kind of person who likes figuring things out on your own, you can go a long way just by avoiding a few very common first-timer mistakes and following these simple tips. Good luck!
Use adequate equipment
There is no need to have top-of-the-line equipment for your first day out on the snow. But it is important that your equipment is the right size and fitted properly.
Correctly fitted boots are the most important part of the ensemble. Too often, I have seen beginner skiers join a lesson with boots that are too big, which immediately prevents them from having enough control over their skis. Boots should be tight, without causing pain, and when you’re standing in a neutral position your feet should just be touching the end of the boot. When you push your knees forward, your toes should come slightly off the front of the boot. And no more than one pair of socks!
Skis should be around shoulder height and not too wide. Generally speaking, softer, shorter skis are better suited to beginners, so stay away from powder-specific models or race skis. An all-mountain model with a forgiving flex is the way to go. The rental store staff will be able to point you in the right direction. Note that it is always better to rent first and get a feel for what you like before buying.
Ski clothing should be light, waterproof and comfortable. It’s also a good idea to wear a few layers so that could can remove clothing if necessary. Skiing can be more tiring than it looks, even when it’s cold outside!
When you get out onto the snow, the temptation will be head up the chairlift or gondola and join the other skiers on the hill. Don’t do it.
Start by practicing on the flat and get comfortable walking, sliding and stopping in your skis. Consolidating these skills when you’re not too nervous about falling will help you immeasurably when you progress to the beginner slope.
On the beginner slope, practice stopping, slowing and increasing your speed, and turning in each direction. The fastest learners I have seen are always the ones who master these skills on a gentler pitch before moving onto a steeper one. If possible, it is always better to have an instructor guide you through these early stages.
Stand up and relax
Skiers should be balanced over the middle of their skis. Sitting back will make it harder to control the skis and very tiring on your legs. You should have a slight flex in your knees and in your hips, and your hands should remain out in front of you.
In addition, nothing in skiing should ever feel forced. Turning the skis and stopping on the snow only require gentle, subtle movements from the legs. If you find yourself thrusting, twisting or jerking, then it’s time to stop, relax and start over.
Teach yourself to stand up after falling
This one sounds obvious, but if you’ve ever observed a beginner ski hill, you’ll have noticed at least one person hopelessly stranded and unable to lift themselves off the snow after a fall. Don’t be that guy.
Avoid the embarrassment by teaching yourself to stand up on a very gentle slope with the assistance of a non-judgemental friend. Point your skis across the hill with your legs below you, tuck your legs as close to your body as possible, and use your hand to push yourself up over your skis. It will seem difficult at first, but take solace in the fact that it will get easier. Ironically, the more difficult the slope, the easier it is to stand up (you have less far to go).
Apart from having a great souvenir from your first day of skiing, having someone record you can be really beneficial. The chances are, even if you feel like you’re skiing like a pro on the first day, you’re not going to look like one.
Check the video and see where you went wrong – bad form is always accentuated by the screen.
Maybe you felt like you were balanced over the centre of the skis, but after looking at the video, realize you were almost sitting on your ankles. Perhaps you felt like your legs were turning the skis naturally, but on further inspection realize that you look like you’re steering a giant bus through a U-turn.
Next time you’ll know what needs to be corrected.