I’m living in Salt Lake City for the first part of this year’s ski season. I’m not actually here for the skiing – I’m here for my wife’s job – but it is one hell of a happy accident. From the living room in our tiny, temporary house, I can see the peaks of the Wasatch Front, and as I write, the sun is just starting to glint off the fresh blanket of white that drapes the foothills.
In a town like this, this time of year is defined by anticipation. Every dusting of snow brings us closer to opening day. Every bit of base that falls brings us closer to safe backcountry lines and a world of endless winter exploration. When I look up at those hills, no matter what else I’m feeling, I get excited.
But if you’re a newcomer to skiing or snowboarding, perhaps you’re feeling a bit more nervous than excited for your first trip into the mountains. That’s totally fine! Just read on for some tips on how to make your beginner ski or snowboard experiences great ones.
What Gear Do You Need?
First and foremost; What are you strapping to your feet? If you’re new to alpine snow sports, you should know that there is a lot more to them than just sliding down a mountain on your feet. There’s the view, the family time, the morning coffee in a thermos, and the ice cold beer in the hot tub in the afternoon. However, all those awesome perks don’t mean that the most important aspect of it all isn’t the skiing and riding.
Your equipment is definitely important, and ski/snowboard technology is advancing at a rapid rate. But as a beginner skier, you likely don’t yet have the skills to take full advantage of that technology. Therefore, I would suggest renting equipment the first few times you hit the slopes. Buying equipment is a major investment, and deciding what skis, boots, or snowboards are best for your body and your skill set will probably go better after trying out a few options. But hey, if you’re looking to gamble, or just want to learn on the best available gear, check out all the skis and boots we have in stock for beginners.
Your first few times on snow, you definitely want to focus on comfort and economy of effort. So, think lightweight skis or boards, and boots you’re sure won’t cause blisters or numbness. Take it from someone who was a beginner skier for the better part of 5 years, nothing ruins a ski day like frozen feet and nothing ruins a whole ski vacation like blisters on your first day.
When renting gear from a shop, be honest about your skill and experience level. This information helps the folks there put you in the best equipment possible. Once you’ve skied a handful of times and you have a better sense of your riding style and ambitions and are ready to make that investment in personal gear, come on back to SKIS.com. We’ve got all the latest technology to help you graduate from beginner skier to expert.
What Should You Wear?
Like I mentioned above, as a beginner skier, your first priority should be comfort. When in the mountains, comfort is synonymous with preparation. On any given ski day it could be windy, cold, sunny, rainy, warm, cloudy, or snowy.
In order to ensure that you’ll stay comfortable and able to focus on your turns, you’ll need to be prepared for every weather possibility. Be ready for the worst, and ski gods willing, you’ll enjoy the best.
For specific tips on what to wear check out some past blog topics from our experts: Layering – Long Underwear – Renting vs. Buying. And finally, wear a helmet! Beginner or not, helmets will keep you warm, make you look cool, and just might save your life. For a more in-depth idea of what you should be wearing out on the slopes, take a look at Part 2 of this blog on ski clothing essentials.
Where Should You Go?
Like a lot of aspects of skiing and riding, this depends on your budget, but there are some basic requirements you’ll want to consider. If you’re skiing with a large group, especially a group that contains skiers and riders of all levels, large resorts usually have terrain to make everyone happy. Generally they work to keep you, as a beginner skier, safe by separating beginner and expert terrain. Meaning you won’t be dodging speed demons while you’re learning to stay upright.
For beginners, the best aspect of large resorts is often their ski schools, which I’ll touch on in the next section. Finally, large resorts have more infrastructure to keep you happy and entertained off the slopes. So if your butt is cold and sore from sitting down one too many times on the snow, there’s always a bar, restaurant, or lodge close by where you can warm up and shake off those beginner blues.
Don’t want to ski a big resort your first time out? Despite all the positive aspects of the giant ski areas, there are some drawbacks. First is the high cost. When I take a beginner out, I generally take them to an affordable hill.
As a beginner you aren’t ready to ski the whole mountain, so why pay full price at a huge resort when you might only experience a fraction of its terrain? If budget is you primary concern, it’s probably worth getting comfortable on slopes that don’t break the bank while saving your big investments for when you’re more capable of fully enjoying them.
Learning to Ski or Snowboard
Should you take lessons? Unequivocally, yes. Lessons from a real ski or snowboard instructor are unfortunately not literally priceless (quite the opposite), but if you want to shed your beginner status, and fast, they are by far the best way to go about it. I took 8 years of ski lessons as a kid even though my Dad is (even to this day, despite pushing 70 years old) the single best skier I’ve ever seen. And thank god. Sure those lessons taught me to ski, but they also saved me from 8 years of crying and screaming at my Dad.
What IS priceless about ski school is that it helps you maintain your relationship with your wife, your husband, your uncle, your kids or anyone else who might offer to teach you what they know on the snow. How do you put a value on something like that?
Learning to ski or snowboard can be a tiring and sometimes even painful process, but man if it isn’t rewarding. Once you get comfortable out there you’ll be amazed at how much ground you can cover on a day of skiing.
The ability to get deep into the isolated, frozen wilderness is unparalleled by any other outdoor activity and the freedom you’ll feel ripping down a mountain with the wind on your face is something that can’t be done justice through the written word. So take these tips, and fight through that beginner label. Once you’re on the other side, you won’t regret it for even a second.