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Ski beginners guide | The ultimate guide | Ridestore Magazine

You've seen the Instagram pictures, you've heard your colleagues, friends, and family talk about their trip after they get back, and you’ve finally given in and booked your first ever ski holiday. Here come the nerves and the panic; you have no idea where to start. What do I wear? What do I pack? What do I need to know for my first ski trip? Well, never fear, because we have put together a beginners’ ski guide to answer all those questions and put you at ease. So once you read this, you can focus on looking forward and counting down the days. After all, there is nothing on this earth quite like skiing.

One thing you can be sure of without any prep is looking stylish and like you know what you are doing. Check out our ski jackets, ski pants.

Table of contents

Things to consider before going on your first adventure

We don’t want to overcomplicate things. We want to keep them as simple and stress-free as possible, but going on a ski trip isn't exactly like taking a city break or a beach holiday; There's a little more preparation involved. But don't worry, as this is precisely what we are here for. We'll keep it simple and ensure you have all the basics covered. 

Booking

It all starts with the booking, right? The moment you and your family or friends take the plunge and press that elusive "book now" button. But before you do, take a second to consider a few things that will save you time, money, and energy. Remember, there are more parts to booking a ski trip than an ordinary beach holiday. 

Packages: It might feel old school to book a package deal with a reputable tour operator, but it’s one of the best ways to do it. Big tour operators have access to better deals to ensure prices stay low, plus they often have "beginner ski" packages whereby, in a straightforward transaction, you can buy your flights, transfer, hotels, ski pass, ski hire, and ski school all in one go. 

Timing: Consider booking outside of school holidays. Not only will this be more cost-effective, but also, when it comes to ski school and ski tuition, you'll have your pick of the best instructors who'd otherwise be tied up with school groups and families. 

Spending: Make sure you put away more spending money than usual. Ski holidays can be more expensive, but mostly it's the additional costs such as food and drinks. You are burning more calories and expending more energy, so you'll want to ensure you buy enough food and drink to keep you sustained during the days.

Maintain a proper stance

Fitness

Staying fit is something we should all strive to do in everyday life anyways, but if you have your first ski trip coming up soon, it becomes even more important. It would be a good idea to work on your cardiovascular fitness a few months before you head out to the mountains. Your cardio fitness will enable you to be able to ski all day and breathe comfortably — the air can be a tad thinner at high altitudes, and good cardio health makes this change easier to deal with, It’s nothing to get too worried about, but you’ll likely feel short of breath quicker. So improving your cardio is a great way to counteract the effects.

Doing a little strength training is also a top idea to prepare for your ski holiday as you'll likely experience aches after your first few days after doing new movements, and strength training will minimise those aches. Don't let this deter you — we promise you'll be hooked by day two, and a little quad-ache won't bother you at all. 

Cost

Ski holidays can be costly. You can undoubtedly have cheaper holidays if you don't choose to ski but for what it has in cost, skiing more than compensates for in the value of experience.

Unlike other beach or city breaks, you’ll have more to factor in than simply flights, accomodation and spending costs. Remember to consider your lift pass, equipment, and outerwear too.

How to prepare for a day skiing

Okay, now you've made it to the mountain, you're all checked into your accommodation and ready to hit the slopes. Now, all that’s left to do is check off the last few items on the list in order to prepare for a day of skiing. So let's dive (or instead-clip) in.

Ski Pass

Organising your ski pass is a big part of the adventure. Once you know your ski pass is sorted, you'll feel instantly more organised. Booking your ski pass in advance is always a good idea. Many resorts have ski passes specifically for beginners as they allow you to access just the nursery slopes for a reduced price. You can book in advance either via your package operator or the ski pass office. Then you simply pick up the pass in the resort. For specific advice, be sure to ask your tour operator or the attendants at the ski pass office, and they'll be happy to assist you with the right type of ski pass.

Stretch

Skiing is exercise, after all, and being a beginner is always hard work. So be sure to stretch before heading out for the day. This will help alleviate some of the inevitable muscle aches and ensure you are mentally and physically ready for the day's experience!

Hydrate & eat well

We know we are beginning to sound like a broken record — skiing is expensive, hard work and tiring, but that's why this point is critical. Be sure to hydrate. Drinking plenty of water will help you adjust to the altitude too, and while burning all the calories it takes learning new skills, be sure to eat plenty and stay nourished.

How to prepare for a day skiing

Ski clothing

Now for the fun part, what do you wear? How do you ensure you stay warm and cosy on the slopes while looking fabulous? Don't worry, we've broken it down for you!

Ski outerwear

The key to confidence on the slopes is looking good. This starts with a killer ski jacket and ski pants combination. we recommend keeping it simple for your first set and ensuring quality and warmth. Look out for jackets with all the important features, such as pockets on your arm for a ski pass and a powder skirt. The pants also need to be insulated, with snow gaiters around the ankle and water-resistant technology, in case of a snowy fall from time to time.

Thermals / base-layers

Your thermals and base layers are essential items for extreme temperatures and can be the difference between comfort and freezing. You need a base-layer top and bottoms which hug close to the skin and are comfortable. They aim to be breathable when you're working up a sweat but lock in the heat for the cold days. It is also recommended to have a mid-layer for when the temperature drops. The mid-layer is more like a comfortable jumper, looks cool when you take your jacket off, but locks in extra heat when needed. 

Accessories

There are also necessary accessories to complete the ensemble, which are practical, but also the key to a suave slopestyle look. You will need a pair of ski gloves and ski socks to keep the fingers and toes toasty. You will also need a neck warmer or facemask for your face and neck and, of course, a helmet and goggles. The helmet should be a non-negotiable accessory that fits well and is fastened snug around the chin. We recommend trying the helmet on with your goggles before buying to ensure comfort and avoid a gap between your goggles and helmet (this is cool skiing 101). 

Ski clothing

Ski equipment

We all might know what basic equipment is needed for skiing, but have you ever thought of how long the poles should be? Or how long and wide skis you should get? Let’s find out!

Skis

When renting or buying a pair of skis as a beginner, head to a professional ski shop to get hooked up. They will make sure the length of the skis is the right length for easy control when making turns. The skis should also be thin in width, with a slight upturn at the tip. These are usually referred to as piste or alpine skis.

Bindings

Your bindings will need to be adjusted for you to prepare your skis for hitting the slopes. The ski shop will set your bindings to your boot size and ensure you can easily clip in and out of them. The binding settings (DIN settings) are essential as a beginner so that when you fall (which we guarantee is how you will improve), your foot unclips from the bindings, which will help to keep you from injury. 

Boots

Getting the right ski boots is essential, as boots can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  So choose wisely. Just like the skis and bindings, go to a professional shop, where they will fit your rental boots for you and ensure comfort. If you take the plunge to purchase your boots, they can be heat moulded and custom-fitted to your feet, making you feel like you're skiing on clouds. 

Poles

Ski poles are used to help you initiate turns and maintain balance. The height of the poles is the important part, so make sure to check before leaving the rental shop. Stand in your ski boots and grab the pole, turn it upside down, so you're holding the tip (just under the basket) and check your elbow is at a 90-degree angle. To use your poles, utilise the strap by gripping onto the handles with the strap loosely around your wrists.

Ski equipment

Skiing basics

If you’ve never skied before, the tips below are essential to get you started. But in case you’re already a bit more experienced, reading the basics might be a fun walk down the memory lane. We’ll go through everything from boot comfort to your first turns and falling.

Boot comfort

Your boots should be tight, strapped around your foot, so your heels don't lift, with flexibility on your calves, for the all-important 'lean forward' technique. They should feel comfortable, with room for your toes to wiggle, but with your foot and ankle locked in tight, so there is no potential for twisting. Make sure it is only your socks tucked in your boots and that they are pulled up, so the padding is on your calf. 

Clipping in

Your skis should be flat on the snow, parallel to one another and not on a slope. Use your poles to help balance and make sure there is no snow in the binding or under the boot. Slide the front toe edge of your boot to the front of the binding, then line your heel up with the back of the binding and push down onto your heel. Your heel and foot should clip into place, with the clip at the back now sticking upwards. Do this on both feet, and boom, you're all clipped in and ready to go!  

Starting

When going from standing to moving on skis, you need to begin with a solid stance and posture. First, bend your knees slightly and push your shins forward to lean on the front of your boot. Trust the boot to support you. You’ll need to maintain a forward-leaning position at all times for balance and control. Next, face downwards on the hill, plant your poles and push-off, keeping your feet hip-distance apart and your skis parallel. 

Stopping

Once you start skiing, 'pizza' and 'french fries' will have a new meaning, and once you learn them, hopefully, you will never forget how to stop when skiing. Whenever you feel like you need to slow down or stop, continue to lean forward into your boots, actively bring your toes and the tips of the skis closer together, so they resemble a triangle (or a pizza slice, if you're hungry), ideally leaning on the outside leg. Make sure the tips don't cross but just come close enough to slow you down or stop.

Ski more

Turning

To control your speed, you need to make small but regular turns, with still enough momentum propelling forward, to initiate it. Begin by leaning and shifting your weight slightly to the outside ski. So when making a left turn, lean on your right leg and lean on your left when turning right. Keep pushing on the outside leg until your body and skis begin to move in that direction. You should then make your skis parallel again and propel diagonal across the piste until you initiate your next turn.  

Falling

Falling whilst learning to ski is all part of the process and is proof that you are improving by pushing yourself. You will learn from falling and your confidence will grow. Your main aim when falling is to avoid hitting your head or hips. If you feel yourself falling to the side, try to land with your arms tight to your sides, and don’t try to ‘catch’ your fall with your hands or elbows. Ideally, your skis will come off, but if not, try to make sure your skis stay parallel to the slope and your feet and legs stay close together to avoid any torsional injuries. 

Slope best practice

There are a lot of best practices a skier should keep in mind when on a busy slope. In fact, it can be a lot to think about when trying to concentrate on not falling, but once you get the hang of it, these will become second nature. The standard protocol is to not take up the whole slope by traversing horizontally before each turn, which makes room for your fellow skiers. When stopping on a slope, try to stick to the edge so you don't block a path, and make sure to look up the hill and check its clear before setting off downwards again to avoid collisions. Be sure to read the FIS code of conduct before you hit the mountain!

Tips for beginners

Dress in layers

There is nothing worse than wearing the wrong clothes to ski in. Being too hot or too cold can ruin your day. Dressing in layers is the best way to avoid this. You’ll start your day warm and cosy and if you get too hot you can simply remove a jumper or jacket.

Rent your equipment

Don’t feel pressure to purchase your ski equipment right away. Consider renting first while you get a feel for what works for you and helps you build confidence on the slopes.

Get in shape before the ski season

Skiing is a workout, so a little light training before skiing is always a good idea. Think about working on your fitness and moving, in general, to get those muscles warmed up.

Protect yourself from the sun

The sun is much more powerful at altitude. Therefore to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays, be sure to wear SPF 50 minimum while skiing, this includes sun protection for your lips.

Don't ski alone

While you are learning, avoid skiing alone, enjoy the company of more experienced skiers and learn from them as you go.

Take professional lessons

Taking lessons from the best instructors in the business will be a sure-fire way to ensure you pick up skills and style as quickly as possible. Take private lessons or check into ski school!

Wear goggles and a helmet

There are a lot of accessories to think about for skiing and we know it gets complicated, but just don’t forget your goggles and helmet back at the hotel, these are 2 of the most important items to keep you safe.

Forget the poles (for now)

When learning to ski, pop your poles down for a moment and instead acquaint yourself with the movement in your legs, knees, and hips, this way you won’t use your poles as a crutch and instead harness them as a tool.

Don't be afraid of falling

Falling means you’re trying. Failing or falling, like in any aspect of life, doesn’t demonstrate a lack of skill but rather a passion and enthusiasm to try something out of your comfort zone.

Don't give up

Skiing is inarguably difficult at the start but don’t be deterred. Don’t give up, stick at it, and we promise the hard work will pay off and you’ll never look back.

Tips for beginners

Tips for the resort

No one likes being new at anything, particularly when it makes you stand out and seem like you might not know what you're doing. Therefore an article that professes to be the beginner's guide to skiing simply must include resort logistics. These little things will ensure you look like you know what you're doing. 

Chairlifts & queuing

In terms of queuing etiquette, it's a free-for-all, particularly in the Alps. The best technique is to queue on the inside of the curve if it as one as the queue will move quicker. But honestly, just be prepared to hold your own. Give someone an inch, and they’ll take a mile! As you are queuing, take the pole straps off of your wrists. You will come to a set of gates, the gates open and close automatically, to let people through at the right time to get on the chair lift. As soon as the gates open, shuffle yourself through the gate and continue going forward until you get to the line that shows where your ski tips should be. 

Once you are on the line waiting for the chair to arrive, hold both your poles in one hand, and look over your shoulder to see the chair coming. As soon as the chair reaches you, sit down on it, lift your skis up gently, and let your skis slide off of the end of the platform. As soon as you are clear of the platform, pull the safety bar down, making sure that everyone on the lift is clear of it first, and rest your skis on the ski rest. If you are on a modern chair lift with a bubble and it is windy or snowing, you can pull the bubble down over your head to keep warm.

Getting off the chair

Just as you are coming into the station, lift the safety bar up, make sure that everyone else on the chair lift is ready and take their skis off the rest. As the chair lift arrives at the station, make sure you keep your ski tips up so they don’t get caught on the lip.

As you reach the flat area, put both skis on the ground and ready yourself to stand up, still holding both poles in one hand. Once you are far enough away from the lift, you can put your pole straps back on your wrists and ready yourself to ski off.

Walking in ski boots

Walking in ski boots can be really challenging. It's much easier to walk normally when walking on a flat surface, just don't overthink it: heel and toe. However, if you're walking uphill, try walking on the tips of your toes, kicking into the snow. Then to walk downhill, use your heels to dig into the snow. The same principles still apply for stepping up and downstairs, but be sure to walk slowly, take your time, and hold the bannister. Better to be more cautious in order to avoid slipping or tripping

Carrying your skis

Carrying your skis on your shoulder is the most stylish way of carrying your skis as well as the most practical. Clip the skis together base to base and lift them onto your shoulder, then grab the front of the ski and tilt them down and then you can balance your arm on the tip of the ski for comfort and ease. 

Sometimes you find yourself in places where carrying skis on your shoulder is’t practical like in a gondola queue for example. So once again, make sure your skis are linked together then

grasp the upper part of the ski bindings, ensuring that its ski stopper is placed correctly in the second ski stopper so that your skis remain firmly attached. Next, wrap the skis with your arm to hold them vertically against you.

Carrying your skis

Ski schools vs self teaching

As a beginner, you should utilise the exceptional ski schools in your resort. Don't teach yourself or have a friend or family member teach you, as they may miss some basics and safety tips. You will ultimately become a much better skier by learning the basics and gaining confidence in a lesson with a professional ski instructor. 

Group lessons can be a fun way to learn, as you’ll learn with other people at your level. It is also a cheaper way to get in your first few hours of lessons and gain the fundamentals of skiing. Or you can book private lessons, which will be a more personalised experience with your instructor. A 1-to-1 lesson or a smaller group means you get more time with the instructor, giving them the opportunity to provide more feedback and guide you with your technique. Whichever type of lessons you choose, we guarantee you will be a confident and cool skier in no time, with a solid set of skills to work on.

Skiing FAQs

When is the skiing season?

The ski season generally runs from November until May for Glacier resorts, but for lower resorts, around 1500m or higher, the season will start in December and run until April. Check the resort’s website for ski lift opening dates and times. You might strike lucky and be able to ski until summer and throughout in some destinations.

How dangerous is skiing?

Of course, like any extreme support, skiing is dangerous. But as long as you prepare, adhere to the FIS code of conduct (which are the rules of the road, so to speak) and ensure you take on board all the advice and tuition of your instructor, you'll be fine. Just listen, be aware, be careful and be respectful.

When is the best time to go skiing?

It depends on what kind of weather you prefer. If you like snow, cold temperatures, and more traditional winter conditions, it’s a real experience to feel the atmosphere of a ski resort over the holidays. The weather can be less settled throughout January, but the snow is usually good as it’s one of the coldest months. February is a solid choice and allows the most time for snowfall to accumulate in lower resorts especially. But it is the peak month, so watch out for half-term and long lift lines!Head out during March if you prefer slushy snow with bluebird spring days, or leave it until early April if you want to dodge the crowds and squeeze out the last days of the season. Just don’t expect prime conditions!

What age is best to start skiing?

There is no age at which it's best to start skiing. If you have ambitions to be an Olympian, perhaps starting at a young age is the smart choice, but as long as you are fit and healthy and willing to put in the time, effort, and commitment to learning, there is no right age to start skiing. Many even first clip in only once they’ve retired. So you’ve got no excuse, really!

Where do I get a ski pass?

There are a few avenues in which to acquire a ski pass. First up, when you book your ski holiday, if you do this via a tour operator, you’ll usually have the opportunity to purchase the pass within a package. The next option is to pre-book directly through the ski pass office online, then simply head to the office and pick up the pass or passes once you arrive. Failing that, you can also organise the ski pass when you arrive at the resort.

What should I eat and drink?

We love carbs. Carbs are a great option to ensure slow-release energy while skiing, which, after all, is a good cardio and muscle workout. Also, be sure to stay hydrated during the day with plenty of water to alleviate the effects of altitude and replenish what you sweat out.

What time are the ski slopes open from, and when do they shut?

This varies from resort to resort, be sure to check the resort website daily as it often changes depending on the weather. Pay additional attention to international resorts, ski resorts that straddle two countries can often have strict lift times, be sure you don't get stuck. Generally, most European, Asian, and North American resorts’ lifts run from 9-3:30 pm or similar. Further north, when the light is lost earlier, that closing time can sometimes be closer to lunch. If you like the idea of skiing in the afternoons or evenings, look for resorts that offer night skiing! Yes, that’s a thing, and it’s awesome!

What if I get lost on the mountain?

Call 112. This is the emergency services number for Europe, and they'll be able to assist you.

How do I avoid injuring myself when skiing?

Skiing is an extreme sport, and like with any exercise, injuries are possible. But be sure to stretch, take it easy and listen to your instructor, and you'll be doing all you can to stay safe! But, of course, always remember to wear a helmet.

Wrapping up

And that is all for now, folks —a quickfire introduction to skiing for beginners, including all the most important information to make the experience a little bit easier. Don't overthink it, don’t panic, instead focus on the enjoyment, the atmosphere and the excitement. Few things in this world compare to the experience of skiing, and that, after all, is the most important thing!

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