7 Tips for Surviving Your First Ski Trip

What to know before you hit the slopes for the first time

On your way up the lift for the first time, you’ll look down at the other skiers effortlessly swooshing back and forth down steep slopes and think to yourself, “they make it look so easy.” But don’t be fooled by appearances. Yes, skiing can be a graceful sport, but if it’s your first time on the slopes chances are your form will be anything but elegant.

That’s OK, though. There’s a first time for everything, right? With a good instructor and few practice runs on the bunny slopes you’ll pick the sport up in no time. Use the following seven tips as your official first-time ski trip survival guide.

1. Rental Boots are Uncomfortable
I'm not saying you need go out and get fitted for your own pair before your very first time skiing, but just realize that with a rental pair you're bound to deal with a bit of discomfort. It's not unbearable, but by the end of the day you'll probably be thinking, "Get these big, bulky things off of me!"

2. Start on the Beginner Slopes
Well this one probably seems like a no-brainer, but I'll reiterate it anyway. If you've never skied a day in your life, start out slow and preferably with a more advanced skier who can show you the ropes. You might even want to take lessons if it's an option. Maybe one day you can ski down the black diamond trail, but for now stick to the greens and use the buddy system so a friend can help if you fall or lose a ski.

3. You Will Fall
Remember what it was like learning to ride a bike without training wheels? I bet you fell a few times before you got the hang of that. The same theory applies to skiing, but luckily you’ll be covered in layers from head to toe so at least you can’t scrape up your elbows and knees. The key to remaining upright is to lean forward slightly and keep your shins pressed against the front of your boots; this will keep you in control of your skis. But even with all the best technique tips, you're still bound to take a few tumbles, so don’t let it dishearten you. Dust the snow off your shoulder, stand up, and get right back at it.   

4. Become One With the Chairlift
Don't stress about it. Relax, squat back a bit and let it scoop you up. Hold on tight to your poles and enjoy the ride. As you approach the top, point your skis upward. When the ground levels out start to stand yourself up, then let the chair tap the back of your legs in order to gain some forward momentum. It also helps to plan who will turn in what direction when you reach the top, so keep open communication with your lift mates.

5. Take Wide Turns
Instead of flying down the mountain in a straight line, make wide turns looping back and forth across the trail. This will help slow your speed, and the slower you go the less likely you are to fall. So take it easy by aiming to cover more terrain. Just keep an eye out for other skiers and snowboarders who may cross your path.

6. Prepare For Pain
Maybe you run five miles every morning or lift weights at the gym for an hour every evening after work; well, it doesn’t matter how fit you are because after skiing—and especially after your first time—you will feel fatigued. You’ll be moving your lower body in ways it’s never moved before, and you’ll probably be clutching onto your poles for dear life, too. So, prepare to deal with some aches and pains in the days following your first run. But don’t worry, it’s nothing a dip in the hot tub can’t fix.

7. When In Doubt, Pizza
“Just remember, pizza and French fries.” That’s what everyone will tell you when you’re learning to ski. You’ll hear it so many times that eventually you’ll start having hallucinations of greasy fast foods sliding down the slopes. “French fries” means keep your skis straight, which in turn will make you go faster, while “pizza” means pointing the front of your skis towards each other to form a wedge shape, which will slow you down. If you ever feel yourself starting to pick up too much speed, just pizza. And sure you can grab a slice when you get back to the lodge, too.


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