So, you’re going skiing, eh?
How did I know that? Well, call it a hunch.
You’re excited, nervous, maybe a little scared? You’ve got visions of flying off cliffs flashing before your eyes… Let me stop you right there. You’re freaking out for no reason. Skiing is very good fun, and pretty safe too, provided you follow my advice.
There are lots of things that are handy to know before you go skiing for the first time, but we’ll limit this to five for now. Five essential tips, from me, to you, so that you get the most out of your ski experience.
Don’t be afraid to fall.
It may sound stupid, but falling is a natural part of learning, and in fact, is much more likely to happen if you’re tense and anxious about it. Stay relaxed, and loose, keep those knees soft, and focus on having a good time.
When you’re stiff-legged and scared, your adrenaline is pumping, your muscles are locked up, and you’re exerting lots of energy. Moving around when you’re like this is really difficult, which makes it tough to keep your balance.
Try it now. Stand as stiff as you can and have someone give you a nudge. You’re going to topple easily. Now put some bend in those legs, relax, and have that same someone nudge you again. Didn’t fall over this time, did you?
Being anxious about falling makes you stressed, and tires you out much more quickly, too. And when you’re tired, your reaction times suffer, as does your concentration. So it’s a double-edged sword. That intense fear of falling you have is going to play havoc with you. And while it’s easy me to tell you to relax, I know that’s not always as simple as that. Which gives us a great segue into our next tip — listening to the person who’s teaching you.
Always listen to the instructor.
Properly mastering the fundamentals will set a solid foundation for you to progress on in the future, so having a fully-qualified, professional instructor teach you is the right way to go.
Your instructor will not only tell you the right way to do things, they’ll also be there to encourage and support you as you go, as well as give you tips on how to correct mistakes as you make them. Because, let’s face it, you’re going to make mistakes. We all do.
But hey, you’re not out here to become a pro skier on day one. This is a process, and even the best skiers in the world were beginners once upon a time. So when you see those people flying down the hill at Mach 1, always bear in mind that they’ve got hundreds of hours of practice under their belts, and (probably) a whole bunch of lessons to boot.
So, listen to your instructor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The whole reason they’re there is to make you a better skier, so don’t be shy to ask for extra help or advice if you need it.
Go at your own pace.
Some people learn quickly, others don’t. It’s easy to become slightly disheartened after a lesson or two if people around you begin to pick it up a bit more easily than you do.
Speed is a big tripping point for a lot of skiers and I hear it constantly from those who’ve given up, or at least are on the verge of it. They say — I don’t like going fast and I feel scared and out of control. So skiing isn’t for me.
The problem here is that they haven’t mastered the basics before trying to progress to the next level. Going faster when you don’t properly understand how to control yourself is going to be scary for anyone. So go at your own pace. Make sure you know how to turn and stop properly before you step up your speed.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to be as fast or good as you think you need to be. You do what makes you feel good, and if perfecting the snowplough is that, then go for it. The mountains aren’t going anywhere, so remember to have fun, and progress little by little. It’s your holiday too, remember!
Don’t buy your own ski equipment (at least not right away).
For some, buying new kit is one of the best parts of a ski holiday. But for your first time, you really don’t need to.
If you buy beginner equipment, you’ll quickly outgrow it and need to buy more again. If you buy intermediate equipment (as lots do) to ‘progress into it’, then you’ll find it really tough to learn on. Intermediate skis are more cambered than beginner ones, which makes them more twitchy and responsive at higher speeds. This is also what makes them more difficult to use for beginners.
Having the right equipment for your skill level is imperative, so rent the right skis for your level when you are first starting out. Most shops stock levels of gear to suit all abilities, so don’t get sucked in by the notion of buying for your future self. Rent first, get your snow-legs, progress until you’re confident in your skills, and then invest in something you know is right for you.
Take is easy.
Skiing isn’t inherently tough, but it can be a little bit of a shock to the system at times. After all, you’ll be using a set of muscles you may not have even known you had.
That’s why it’s important to listen to your body. If your legs are aching, then take a break. If you’re tired, then call it for the day. Going down to the hotel at 2pm is going to work out a lot better for you than struggling on until 4pm and then losing the next day entirely because you’ve got leg cramps. So don’t be afraid to take a break, take off your boots, put your feet up for a bit. You don’t have to be out from the first chair to the last every day.
As an extra portion to this tip — pace yourself in the apres, too. Drinking and partying can be a big part of the skiing experience, but for beginners especially, it can be dangerous. You’re around ten times more likely to sustain an injury skiing if you’ve drunk alcohol, or you’re hungover. So pace yourself. Have a couple of drinks, sure, but get some good bed-rest, eat, drink lots of water, and be sure you’re feeling 100% before heading out.
So in all senses of the word, pace yourself. You’re there to enjoy the holiday, and doing some good skiing every day is at the core of that. Missing days due to sore legs or sore heads can put a real damper on things.
So, there you have it; my top five tips for your first time skiing. Some are obvious, some less so; but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I wish someone had told them to me before I hit the slopes for the first time.
But I guess you’ll just have to benefit from my mistakes. And don’t worry, I’ve made plenty more than the ones above, so you can be sure that there’s more advice coming!