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7 Tips For First Time Skiers To Be Successful

So you want to learn to ski but your not sure what to expect, if you can, or where to go. I learned to ski when I was 6 so this is a long distant memory for me. My wife came to the country a few years ago after growing up somewhere tropical and needed to learn to ski because Michigan winters are a soul sucking cold miserable time if you don’t do something fun. Here are 7 tips for first time skiers getting ready to head to the mountain.

I taught my wife to ski (she had language barriers that make professional instruction difficult) and after 20 days of skiing, she could competently parallel turn on blue runs out west. These are things that I feel contributed to our success.

I don’t recommend anyone to teach their spouse, friend or relative to ski. Seek professional help.

7 Tips For First Time Skiers To Be Successful Learning To Ski

1 – Take lessons

The number one thing. Do not try to teach yourself to ski or think you can go to the mountain, strap on a pair and send yourself off from the top and think it’s going to end well. It won’t. This will probably result in you going uncontrollably fast and crashing into something or someone and hurting yourself.

Unless you have some underlying reason, like you don’t understand English well, go take lessons from a professional. They know what they are doing. Your friends may know how to ski but they don’t know how to teach it. I successfully taught my wife to ski and did a lot of research to find teaching techniques and drills to practice. There were definitely “moments of conflict” out on the slopes on several occasions.

Take group lessons, they are cheaper than private. I’ve taken advanced level lessons at Whistler the past several years and I still improve. They are fun and a good chance to meet people. Sometimes you get things by watching other people get it.

2 – It’s not that hard

If you set a manageable plan for yourself and have reasonable expectations of progress anyone can learn to ski. You will more than likely be able to competently make it down the mountain under control (able to turn and stop) after your first full day. You won’t be going down steep runs or going fast. You’ll get that taste and feel like you accomplished something. Being in good shape helps when learning to ski but it’s not essential. You can learn to ski no matter what your condition and body shape is. See our article on skiing overweight tips to learn more.

3 – You’re going to fall. It doesn’t hurt.

Everybody falls. Snow is a lot softer surface than dirt or pavement. I’ll choose falling while skiing over falling on a mountain bike any day. I’d choose to fall on skis over slipping and falling while running or walking down the sidewalk too.

Stick to runs that aren’t steep until your comfortable. This will keep you from going to fast. Most falls seem to be a loss of balance where you fall to one side or the other and pop out of your ski bindings. Unless your out west skiing double black diamonds with big rocks or drops around, the risk of injury from a fall is really low.

skiing at pine knob

4 – It gets a lot easier and more fun once you can parallel turn.

When you first learn to ski, you’ll do a snowplow stop and turns. This is basically using the skis to push snow and not running on the ski surface or edges. It uses a ton of leg muscles and gets tiring very quickly.

The progression from snowplowing or wedge turns (pizza turns for your children) is then to parallel turns. This is where you use the edges of the ski to turn and ride the ski surface. The leg muscle force required for parallel turns is exponentially less then plowing. You also have much more turning and stopping control enabling high speeds and steep runs. This is the holy land you should be planning to get to when you start.

ski instructor at Whistler

5 – You can’t learn it in one day or just a few days.

This is where a lot of people really struggle. They expect to take a lesson and know everything or take a weekend and they will know it after that. You’ll know how to snowplow on beginner runs but you won’t learn parallel that fast.

Parallel turns really require 10 to 20 ski days to learn and get good enough to be able to ski the whole mountain anywhere. If your really serious about learning to ski you should set a plan to go at least 10 days your first winter and preferably 15-20 days. If you only go 4 to 5 days a winter you’ll forever be stuck in snowplowing, legs hurt a lot ski hell.

You need to put the time in during each day. Only doing 4 to 5 runs and calling it a day won’t get you anywhere either. You need to put in a few solid hours, take a break, then put in a few more solid hours. There is no substitute for getting more vertical.

In our case, I planned a trip to Whistler BC to participate in TheCamp at the end of our first winter so we had a plan to get enough ski days in to make it possible.

Click here to learn more about how long it will take to learn to ski.

lesson group at Blackcomb

6 – What to wear to stay warm and dry.

Nothing ruins the fun more than being cold and miserable. Make sure you wear warm clothes for your first day. At a minimum, a warm winter coat, and some form of waterproof snow pants, long underwear, a sweater, ski socks or other wool or heavier socks.

Do not try to go in jeans. Jeans are cotton which turns into wearing an ice suit as soon as you fall the first time. This will happen pretty fast into your first lesson. Look here to learn more about what you need for your first day skiing.

7 – What ski resort to start at.

If you’re really serious about learning it’s a good idea to get a season pass somewhere that allows you to ski the 10-15 days you need. Most season passes break even between 5 to 10 ski days. I recommend someplace that has a decent amount of vertical drop. You’ll get more skiing time in for the time spent at the resort if the mountain is taller. If you are taking lessons, typically you get a fixed time of instruction.

If you’re at a taller mountain you get more skiing time and less lift riding time. You may have a closer mountain but if it’s really short you won’t necessarily get more ski time in even after accounting for driving time to the taller place.

If you aren’t sure where you can go to take ski lessons you can google “Ski lessons near me”. That should bring up any local ski hills that have lessons. Every local ski hill offers beginner lessons. If you are thinking of learning to ski as part of a vacation then any big ski resort will offer beginner lesson packages.

Go Have fun

The last point. Have fun learning to ski. I hope these tips for first time skiers will help you have a great time and become a good skier. What is better on a winter day than flying down the slopes somewhere. Leave a comment below on your thoughts on learning to ski.

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selfie for info block

About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an outdoors enthusiast always looking forward to my next adventure. I spend as much time skiing, biking, and paddleboarding as I can. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for all things outdoor adventures and to help other people have as much fun as me.

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