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If you are thinking of booking a ski holiday or have already taken the plunge, then you will probably be dealing with both sheer excitement and a good dosage of pre-holiday nerves. After all, the thought of going down a slippery slope (excuse the pun) strapped to two boards for the first time, would make anyone anxious!
But you needn’t worry. Thanks to the rapid developments in technology that I won’t bore you with, skiing is a sport that is easy to learn, a joy to be able to do and a fun hobby to have. To make you feel at ease and to make sure you rock the slopes in no time, here are some essential skiing tips for any beginner skier:
Book a holiday with other beginners
If you go on holiday with your family or friends, make sure there are other beginners in your little group, or you will find yourself alone on the piste or having to book ski school for the entire duration because the experienced skiers in your group won’t hang around for you. After all, they only get to ski for this one week a year and will want to make the most of their time on the slopes. If you usually travel on your own with your kids, you could try a single parent ski holiday. This will guarantee company on and off the piste – skiing on your own is really not much fun.
Get the right gear
You might ask yourself what to pack for your skiing holiday: Aside from ski jacket, ski trousers and ski gloves, you also need warm socks that reach to your knees (to prevent rubbing against ski boots), sunglasses or ski goggles and layers! You don’t need to spend a fortune on your first ski holiday, so head down to Decathlon or search your wardrobe for breathable layers, turtlenecks and fleeces. Thermal underwear is not a must, warm socks and/or tights would work too. Just beware that good ski socks will prevent shin pain and quality ski gloves will keep your hands warm and dry so don’t buy the cheapest. Don’t forget that you will need waterproof boots with a good grip if you are planning to go tobogganing or just generally heading out in the evening.
How warm you need to dress obviously depends on the time of year you are travelling. If you have booked an Easter or even summer ski break, then you can most probably ditch the snow boots, thermals and go for sunglasses over goggles. Just don’t forget the sunblock!
Whatever you do, don’t buy your own equipment. You can rent skis, poles, ski boots and helmets from ski hire shops in any resort. Some will even have clothes to rent but not all so this is something you would need to check before you set off. Alternatively, find a UK supplier that rents out ski clothes.
Prepare with ski exercises
Skiing requires muscles we don’t use on a daily basis. So, whether or not you go to the gym regularly, make sure you prepare yourself with specific ski exercises. These should include balancing and strengthening exercises as well as stretching. Your body will thank you for it, as skiing can be more demanding than you think! As a beginner, you won’t be used to bending your knees all day so good thigh muscles and healthy knees are a must. Concentrate those on training your legs and core muscles as they will take most of the strain. One thing is certain: If you get those muscles ready for the slopes, you will have more fun skiing and prevent injury.
Consider visiting a snowdome or dry slope
As few of us have a ski region within a few hours’ drive from home, the only way to get in a little practice before your ski holiday is by trying a snow dome or dry slope. Snow domes give you the opportunity to get used to skis in real snow albeit in a small indoor ski centre. You can even book ski lessons. An alternative is a dry slope where you will be practising on rubber mats. It’s not the best way to learn but it will certainly prepare you a little better for the real thing.
Book yourself into ski school
Booking skiing lessons before or latest as soon as you have arrived at your resort is absolutely essential for beginner skiers. This is not to say a friend could not teach you if he or she has the time, patience and knowledge to instruct you how to stand, slide and snowplough your way down your first slopes – not to forget, how to get onto that lift. Using a button lift, T-bar or chair lift can be a nerve-wracking experience for first-timers. Learning in a group is huge fun as you take tumbles together and laugh with each other. So, don’t hesitate to book ski school, even though it might feel a little awkward at first standing in line with other 40 something adult beginners listening to a young and fit ski instructor!
If you prefer to go to a 1:1 private lesson, prepare for the cost. At a hefty hourly rate, which starts before you have even made it to the lift, you will want to make sure to make the most of it. Whether you book ski or private lesson, one thing is clear: Getting professional ski lessons will help you learn the correct techniques, which will pay off for years to come.
Learn piste safety rules
It is important to know the rules of any sport to prevent accidents which could result in injuries to yourself or others. And another reason to book ski school: Your ski instructor will ensure you know the basics which include, amongst others:
- Never stop in a place where you cannot be seen or where you might obstruct someone’s path.
- The skier ahead of you always has right of way. This means the person behind must choose their path in such a way as to not endanger the person ahead
- If you wish to overtake another skier or snowboarder, you must leave space to not obstruct or endanger that person.
- Skiers and snowboarders must always be in control and not move at speeds beyond their ability.
These are just some of the piste safety rules the International Ski Federation (FIS) has developed. Beginner skiers should know that ski rules are there to protect them on the piste. So, if you feel threatened or scared those first few days on a busy blue run, remind yourself and others, that you are not holding up the traffic! Those faster, more experienced skiers are perfectly able to get around you, in fact, that is exactly what they must do.
Don’t worry about the piste map
Piste maps can be pretty intimidating with their confusing lines of blue, red and black! But don’t worry, at this stage, you won’t be required to read any maps. Your instructor or friends will guide you down the easy, blue and red runs and once you have progressed, you can tackle the task of reading a piste map. Aside from that, many experienced skiers still struggle with this and still manage, so don’t worry about it just yet.
Like with any other sport, you’re not going to be able to master skiing immediately. Be patient, set mini goals and respect how much you are improving every day. Being a great skier is all about the technique, so focus on that primarily, the rest will come naturally with lots of practice.
We hope you are feeling less apprehensive and a little better prepared for your first ski trip. Don’t forget skiing is a fantastic, fun sport for the whole family, it just takes a bit more preparation than a beach holiday.