It had been a plan in the making for quite a while, but finally happened for me this winter: skiing! I had to give it a go, as it is just about Thomas’s favorite to race down the slopes on fresh snow. And I both looked forward to learning how to ski, and was quite nervous about it. Can you still learn to ski if you didn’t start when you were a toddler? (Yes.) And how do the lifts work, what are the best skiing tips for beginners to learn fast, and is it scary? These and so many other questions went through my mind in the weeks before my first ski trip.
With two of those trips behind me now, I’ve been able to answer a lot of the questions and make quite a lot of progress. I thought this would be a good time to share some of my best skiing tips for beginners, at least the ones that helped me the most. And no, they aren’t tips from an experienced ski teacher, but instead from someone who has the struggles of beginning skiers fresh in her mind. As tips from other recent beginners helped me out a lot, this blog contains the best skiing tips for you other beginners out there! And of course some of the struggles that I dealt with…
‘Hey beginner skier, it’s going to be a ton of fun!’
Allow me to start with the most important tip: just go out and experience it, to see what it’s like for you. Skiing is typically the kind of thing that some go nuts about, and others vow to never do again after their first time. And both are absolutely fine, of course! Whether or not you’re going to like skiing can be hard to judge upfront. And should be something you don’t worry about too much, which is obviously easier said than done… Fact of the matter is, masses of people love skiing, so it’s worth trying if you think it might be your thing!
After my first experiences out on the slopes, I can say it is great. The fantastic views in places hidden away on normally distant mountaintops, the adrenaline rush you get when you successfully make it down your first steeper slope, and mostly: being outside all day in winter and having to focus on nothing but making your turns on the slope. The rest of the world can seem very far away when you’re out skiing.
Skiing for beginners: the struggle is real
You’re bound to struggle as a beginning skier. And yes, I speak from experience again. And because misery loves company, here are some of the struggles I ran into:
- Fearing or being uncomfortable with heights is very natural. It isn’t strange to prefer to be on flat ground over standing on the edge of a cliff, as this historically increases your chances of survival. That’s how I tried to calm myself as I skied by (yes by, not on) a black slope. ‘It’s normal!’ But when the fear of heights really kicks in, it can get in the way of your fun for a while.
- It can be tough to eat or drink enough when you’re out on the slopes. Without noticing, you’ll burn through a lot of calories on your average ski day. If you don’t eat and drink loads (not necessarily during après-ski if you’re into that…) this can get to you during the week.
- The lifts are really simple once you know how everything works. They’re not rocket science, but were definitely a source of stress for me at the start.
- The weather can make or break your skiing experience. Last week, I was on a new and steep part of a blue slope. This would have been fine with blue skies and without wind, but the opposite was true. At the top of the chairlift, we landed inside a cloud and couldn’t see more than 5 meters away (as you can ‘clearly’ see on the left picture below). With the wind racing across the steep slope, I can tell you it wasn’t my most successful descent… I believe there were two moments where I froze and yelled at Thomas ‘Help, I don’t know what to do!’ Funny stories to tell now that we’re back, but definitely not fun at the time 😉
- Last but not least: blue isn’t always blue. The slopes are graded in difficulty with colors. The toughest are black, then comes red and the easier slopes are blue. In some countries, such as France where we were, there are even easier green slopes for the absolute beginners. I was eager to explore a bit more of the ski resort on some blue slopes. But of course, not every blue slope is the exact same level. Some are narrow, some wide, some sections are almost flat and some sections can honestly be more worthy of a red slope. This can be pretty tricky to figure out when you’re new in the area.
Skiing tips for beginners
Enough on the struggles! My first skiing winter has filled me with the best skiing tips for beginners, that at least helped me out a lot:
Beginner skiing tip 1: Mornings are your best friend
When the lifts open in the morning, the slopes have been freshly groomed and most people are still sleeping. There’s little in the quality of slopes to make your experience any more difficult than it needs to be, and you’ll have all the space in the world to make your turns wherever you want. It’s absolutely the best time to be on the slopes. My tip? The first lift, every morning, no exception!
Beginner skiing tip 2: Trust is key
Frozen from fear on the slopes, your skiing style is bound to suffer. It’s absolutely vital to relax. Make sure you don’t overestimate yourself too much and foolishly take a lift that means you’ll have to go down a slope over your level. Start with the easy slopes near the valley, and gain experience and confidence there. Once you’re ready, up the difficulty a bit, until you feel comfortable on the more difficult slope. And continue! This way you build up without going over your limit.
Beginner skiing tip 3: Slower isn’t necessarily easier
On your first steep slope, making turns can seem a little difficult. Once you have your skis turned towards the valley in the middle of the turn, your speed will pick up possibly a bit faster than you’re comfortable with. That’s why a lot of beginning skiers have the tendency to go down a steep slope as slowly as they can, and enter the turns with almost zero speed. Which to be honest, is the safe option. But it also makes the turns quite hard! When you enter with slightly more speed, the turn will be a lot easier to make. It feels unnatural at first, but when I caught on to this, I was able to conquer the steeper sections with a lot less trouble.
Beginner skiing tip 4: Make the most of your days by stopping in time
Ahh, days go by so fast when you’re out skiing. If you’re spending a little more time in a ski resort – say, a week – make sure you rest enough. This often means: stop skiing in time to recharge for the next day. Maybe it even means you’ll stop after the morning on your first day. Skiing takes more energy than it may feel like at first. Going into it, I had trouble accepting this, but by lunch time I could do little else than continuously fall. Even on the slopes I had little trouble going down, I failed time and time again. You’ll undoubtedly get to the point where it feels as though your legs won’t do what you want them to. And that’s the time to call it quits for the day! I even try to stop a little before the moment arrives, just to be sure.
Beginner skiing tip 5: Not every ski resort is the same
Some ski resorts are a lot more suitable for beginning skiers than others. Do your research before you go: are important descents okay for beginners (green or blue) or do you have to go down red slopes? There are plenty of resorts that have central descents on red or black slopes, and it will get annoying quickly to have to take lifts down every other descent. Reading some reviews, or checking some of the ski maps can help. Especially if you’re going early or late in the season, also check to see whether the easier important descents are already or still open. Most resorts have live information on which slopes and lifts are open.
Beginner skiing tip 6: Find the hidden gems
Some slopes are a lot busier than others, especially in the afternoon. This means there are more fellow skiers to dodge, ánd that the quality of the slope goes downhill a lot faster. Usually the central blue descent to the main village gets really busy between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, and trying to find some of the more hidden or decentral blue descents can help you find the perfect slopes even in the afternoon! The best way to do this is to join someone who is familiar in the area, or to check out some of the different descents every day.
Beginner skiing tip 7: Don’t think, just do!
Maybe this is the most important tip of all in my opinion. When you’re skiing, just make your turns, relax and choose a pace that you are comfortable with. And then, just do it! The more you think, the more difficult it’s going to get. Try this when you’re out for a hike or walk: the more you think about how you place your feet on the ground, the more difficult it will get. Same goes for skiing!
I hope these tips and stories of my struggles help you during your first experiences out on skis or snowboarding. Which struggles did you have as a beginning skier?