Skiing is a great sport. It’s one of the best ways to spend a snowy winter day. Learning to ski can change winter from a miserable cold experience into the best time of your life. Skiing is not hard to learn and you can do it at any age. What do you need for skiing the first time? Here is a few essentials you should get or borrow to have a great day skiing on your first try.
- Skiing Essentials – What Do You Need For Skiing The First Time
- Outfit Tips – How To Dress For Your First Day Skiing
- Packing Tips – What To Bring For Your First Ski Trip
- Go Have Fun Skiing
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- Recent Ski And Snowboard Articles
Skiing Essentials – What Do You Need For Skiing The First Time
1 – Skis, boots, poles and helmet
The obvious first thing your going to need is a pair of skis, boots, and poles. If you are a beginner skier going to the ski area for the first time you should use rental equipment rather then buy your own. A good set of skis will set you back $500 to $1000. A good set of boots will run $200 to $400. A set of poles can be anywhere from $25 to $100. The skis you need for learning to ski are very different then the skis you see experts sliding down the hill on.
Don’t go borrow a friends old skis or pick up a random set of used old equipment. Newer designed skis are much easier to turn and stop. Old gear will make both harder to learn and less safe. Nothing will ruin your skiing experience faster than an injury from bindings that didn’t release when you fell using hard to turn skis.
If it’s your first time how do you know you will enjoy it enough to go again? We all hope everyone who tries skiing will become a life long lover of the mountains. Sadly this isn’t true. Until you’ve skied enough times to know you’re in it for the long haul, you should stick to rentals. See our article on renting vs buying skis to learn more.
Helmets are very important and you should wear one skiing. Most ski resorts will rent helmets along with skis, boots, and poles. Get one and wear it. One of my close ski friends got a concussion standing around at the bottom of the mountain by the ski lift. An out of control skier ran him down. Accidents happen and you never know when.
2 – Ski pants
If you want to enjoy skiing, you will want to wear some kind of insulated snow pant. Can’t I just ski wearing jeans? Skiing in jeans is one of the worst, cold, miserable experiences you can have. If it’s your first time skiing, you’re going to fall. When you fall wearing jeans or anything else made of cotton, they are going to immediately soak up a bunch of snow. The snow is going to freeze inside the jean material. Your legs and butt are going to be cold for the rest of the day.
Pick up a pair of basic ski pants. They do not need to be expensive. Bib pants are much warmer than regular pants. Cold air doesn’t go up the back of your jacket riding lifts or when you’re sitting on the snow.
3 – Ski jacket
Any winter coat that will keep you warm for a few hours outside in below freezing temps is good enough. It should be waterproof or at least water-resistant. As a new skier, you’re going to be spending some amount of time rolling around in the snow. You look through your winter wardrobe before heading to the mall for this item.
If you happen to live somewhere warm and don’t have a good winter coat then you will need to pick up a ski jacket. For your first time, look for something warm and waterproof. 3 in 1 jackets are good when your not sure what you want or need. 3 in 1 jackets have a zip in insulating layer that can be removed on warmer days. They can be worn as a shell or fully insulated jacket.
- Waterproof: Water-repellent rain jacket can work under over 10000mm pressure head. Keep your body always dry
- Windproof: Adjustable hook & loop fastener cuffs and stretchable glove with thumb hole help seal in warmth
- Multi Pockets: 2 zippered hand pockets, 1 zippered chest pocket (passport or cards stowed), 1 internal pocket
4 – Ski gloves or mittens
You will want to find some warm mittens or gloves that are also waterproof. You’ll be pushing off the snow to get up several times on your first ski outing. Mittens are warmer than gloves if you tend to have cold hands in the winter. You really don’t need finger dexterity while skiing. Holding poles isn’t difficult. You’ll need to take your hands out of your gloves to use your phone or anything like that.
I find that gloves that go over my jacket sleeves are warmer and better at keeping snow out of my sleeves. Other people go the opposite way and like their coat sleeves over their gloves. I find every time I fall snow gets rammed up my sleeve that way. It’s a personal preference thing and you’ll figure out what you like best.
5 – Ski goggles
Ski goggles will keep your face much warmer than a pair of sunglasses and block the sun, wind, snow, and ice. It can get pretty windy on a chair lift and more face protection is better. You will be much more comfortable wearing goggles on a cold day.
Do not spend much on your first pair of ski goggles. If you decide you like skiing you’ll need to buy a helmet. Helmets have venting that works with goggles to prevent fogging. The helmet and goggle from the same brand are shaped to fit well together. This minimizes goggle gap. You don’t want to be a gaper on the mountain. Different helmets fit different shaped heads better. When your ready to invest in good ski equipment, go to a ski shop and buy a helmet and goggle that work well with each other.
Please see our complete ski goggle guide here.
6 – Ski hat
I personally always wear a hat while skiing. Some people find that the helmet is enough insulation on its own. The earmuffs built into helmets give me headaches from pressure on my ears so I always have to remove them. I have tried several helmets and always get them. On a subzero cold day, the helmet may not be enough to keep you warm so it’s a good idea to have a hat in your pocket just in case.
For a ski hat, it is important to choose something that works under a helmet. This means no big fluff balls or other features. The hat needs to be tight fitting and I prefer it covers my ears. Hats with big thick stitching or a loose fit will bunch up under a ski helmet and be uncomfortable. They will prevent your helmet from sitting on your head right.
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- ONE SIZE FITS ALL NOGGINS: With our 89% polyester 11% spandex blend, our beanie will fit comfortably
7 – Neck gaiter or balaclava
A neck gaiter or neck warmer will help keep your head warm and keep snow and water from going down into your jacket. You can also pull it over your face and nose to act as a face mask on colder days. They are cheap and something I like to wear on all but the warmest of spring skiing days.
Balaclavas cover your entire head instead of just your neck. They can work as a hat under your ski helmet. They protect your neck and ears from the wind. They are good when you want something a bit warmer than a neckwarmer.
- SHOW OLD MAN WINTER WHOS BOSS: Be ready for anything this winter. Your neck will be warm and cozy
- ADVENTURE INTO THE ELEMENTS: Our neck warmer is your perfect companion for hitting the slopes
- ROCK YOUR STYLE: Our neck warmers are reversible – rock one style on the slopes and another going out with friends
8 – Base layers
Base layers or long johns or long underwear are the first layer to put on. Look for something made of synthetic material and not cotton. Wicking and breathable materials are preferred. base layers are available in a variety of weights. I tend to go medium to heavyweight here. You can always remove mid and outer layers when you’re getting warm on a warmer day. On a cooler day, a lighter base layer isn’t a lot of good.
On a really cold day, you can double or triple up on base layers. One heavy weight base layer is warm enough most days. If you plan on skiing on a -20F day you need all the layers you can get.
9 – Ski socks
The first thing to consider is what is going on your feet. I prefer medium to heavyweight ski socks. I never find that my feet have any tendency to feel too hot. They do tend to feel cold sometime.
Good socks are important. You will notice that they don’t have seems around the toes. Seems are pressure points. Pressure points cut your circulation off quickly once you clamp your boots down. Don’t go for any kind of cotton sock or any sock with a seam. Seams going over the top of your toes will get pinched by your ski boot and cause your toes to go numb.
You should never double up on ski socks. You will inevitably get a wrinkle somewhere in the overlap that will have the same effect as a seam. If it’s cold wear a pair of heavyweight ski socks and then you can add toe warmers into your boots if you need them.
- BREATHABLE, WARM & COMFORTABLE – Made in a wide range in sizes of a Merino Wool blend that is LIGHTWEIGHT, BREATHABLE and PREVENTS build-up of SMELL. It also helps keep feet dry due to it’s moisture wicking properties.
- OVER CALF DESIGN (OTC) – High calf design & elasticity for the ULTIMATE COMFORTABLE FIT. Perfect for skiing, snowboarding and other snow sports.
- STAYS UP – Equipped with NON-SLIP CUFF that ensures that the sock stays up. Socks slipping down in the boots is a thing of the past!
10 – Ski sweater
A good wool sweater or heavy fleece works well as an outer layer. They will keep you warm on a cold day. Avoid a pure cotton sweater or cotton sweatshirt. Once you start sweating, anything made of cotton will turn into a sweaty, spongy cold mess. The last thing you want on your first day skiing is to be miserable and cold after your first hour on the snow.
11 – Sunscreen
You’re going skiing in the middle of winter. Why would you need sunscreen? The snow is excellent at reflecting sunlight back at you. If you happen to be learning to ski somewhere at higher altitudes more UV rays are reaching you. You can get a sunburnt face in a few hours on the mountain. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following:
- Broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
- SPF 30 or higher
- Water resistance
For more information on sunscreen click here.
12 – Lip balm
Along the same lines as sunscreen, your lips can get chapped and sunburn easily while skiing. Keep a tube of lip balm in your ski jacket to apply while skiing.
- LIP CARE: When youre hitting the ski slopes keep your lips protected with Burts Bees All-Weather SPF15 Lip Balm
- SPF LIP BALM: Infused with Zinc Oxide, this broad spectrum lip balm provides sunscreen benefits
- MOISTURIZING: This conditioning lip treatment leaves your lips smooth and refreshed with a matte finish
13 – Hand warmers and foot warmers
If you’re the type that tends to always have cold hands or cold feet than you might want to pick up some hand warmers. You don’t want to ruin your first day skiing with cold feet and hands. Toe warmers stick to your ski socks and can go into your ski boots. My wife uses these almost every time she goes skiing. I never use them. If I was going to go somewhere like Banff that has a reputation for being really cold I would stock up.
See our review of toe warmers and boot heaters here.
- Safe, natural long-lasting heat – odorless, disposable, single-use item, do not apply directly to the skin.
- To activate – remove warmer from outer package, shake to activate. Warmer heats up in 15-30 minutes.
- When to use: outdoor sporting events, skiing, snowboarding & hiking, or taking your Pet for a walk
14 – Lift tickets
If your going skiing you will need a lift ticket. Most ski resorts have discounts if you buy your lift ticket ahead of time. The most expensive way to buy lift tickets is the ticket window on your ski day. You can save a lot of money buying your ticket before the day you are skiing. Most ski resorts offer package discounts if you need lessons and rentals.
15 – Ski lessons
If you are heading to the mountain to go skiing for the first time, lessons are absolutely essential. Do not try to teach yourself to ski. You are putting yourself and everyone else on the hill at risk if you do. Skiing is not difficult but it is not intuitive. For the best chance of success sign up for skiing lesson at a highly rated ski school taught by a professional ski instructor. Of any skiing tips I know for beginner snowboarders or skiers, this is the most important one.
Learning to ski from a friend or significant other is also not a good idea. I did teach my wife to ski and it was a bumpy road, to say the least. I would not recommend it to anyone under normal circumstances. She took a beginner lesson but is a non-native english speaker and couldn’t understand the ski instructor. If you have children, lessons are a good idea for them too. They will have more fun learning to ski with other children at a ski lesson than with you.
For some tips on stopping (the most important beginner skier skill) see our article How to Stop On Skis.
Outfit Tips – How To Dress For Your First Day Skiing
Staying comfortable, warm and dry will make your first time skiing much more enjoyable. You have enough to concentrate on while learning to ski without the distraction of being soggy and cold. Below are some tips on how to dress for your first day skiing or snowboarding.
Check the weather forecast – dress for the climate
Winter weather conditions can vary a lot. You can have -15F temperatures and snow. You can have a 50 degree winter thaw day. With luck, it won’t rain on the day you choose to learn to ski. Always check the weather forecast for the mountain when deciding what to wear. Wear more layers on colder days.
Layer for comfort
Learning to layer for skiing will make your ski days much more comfortable. Having a mid layer or down insulator you can take on and off if you are hot or cold is a great idea. Double layering on base layers and mid layers can help on the coldest of days. You should never double layer ski socks. The below chart has some clothes recommendations for different temperatures. To learn more see our guide for what to wear skiing.
Use what you have to save money
You don’t have to go out and buy a completely new wardrobe for your first day skiing. Skiing is an expensive sport no matter how you cut it. You can’t avoid lessons, lift tickets, and rentals. If you have a winter coat it will most likely be good enough for your first time. If you have friends that ski you can try to borrow things like ski jackets, ski pants, goggles, hats, and gloves. There are some companies that rent ski outfits at large ski resorts. It can be worth a quick look to see if there is one around you or where you’re going.
Waterproof, breathable and synthetic. Never wear cotton
Avoid all clothes made of cotton for skiing. Cotton loses all it’s insulating value as soon as it gets wet. Cotton does not dry quickly. Look for synthetic materials that are breathable and wicking. You want to move moisture away from your body so that you will stay warm and dry. A warm and dry skier is a happy skier.
Hand warmers and foot warmers can save your day
If you tend to have cold feet or cold hands when outside during the winter stock up on some hand and feet warmers. They are not expensive and can save your day if it’s cold out. Buy some and keep them with your ski gear just in case.
Sunscreen & lip balm
If it’s going to be a sunny or partly sunny day out on the mountain bring sunscreen and lip balm. It is very easy to get sunburns on your face and lips while skiing. The sun is bright and the snow reflects it back at you like a mirror. You don’t want an awful goggle tan for weeks after skiing. Sunburns are no fun. Bring some sunscreen with you.
Wearing ski boots
Ski boots are not the most comfortable, easy to walk in, or easy to put on boots in the world. There are some things you can do to make them more tolerable.
Never double up on socks inside your ski boot. Wearing 2 socks on a foot will result in wrinkles or bunches that will cut off your circulation.
Don’t put anything inside your ski boot except your foot and your ski sock. Baselayers and ski pants do not go inside the boot. Anything other than your sock in the boot will wrinkle or bunch and cause pressure points. Pressure points lead to soreness or cut off circulation. Both are bad.
If your toes are banging into the front of your boot while skiing they are too big. Too big will feel comfortable when you’re trying on boots for the first time. It is very likely the rental shop will give you boots that are a size too big. You don’t want to get skier’s toe from banging your toes into the front of your boots. If your ankle isn’t held securely go back in and ask for a size smaller boot.
Packing Tips – What To Bring For Your First Ski Trip
If you are lucky enough to go on a trip to learn to ski, you probably aren’t quite sure what to bring. Here are a few ski trip essentials to make your first time skiing a success.
The first thing to pack since you are going to learn skiing is your ski clothes. If you are going on a 1 week trip with 5 days of skiing there are a few things you’ll need more than 1 of. You will want at least a couple of sets of base layers. You will want a few sets of ski socks. Some hotels have laundry where you can wash and reuse. A lot of hotels do not. Ski socks get funky after more then a couple of days wear.
It’s a good idea to lay your ski clothing out to air out and dry after each day’s skiing. Don’t bundle them up where they will stay damp overnight.
The hot tub is an integral part of ski culture. It just feels good. Every good ski hotel at any ski resort will have a hot tub. Everyone will go there at the end of the day after skiing. This is where all the good stories get shared. Bring a bathing suit if you’re going on a ski trip.
Apres ski wear
Apres Ski is what happens after skiing. It is perfectly acceptable to hit the slopeside bar in your ski gear for a refreshing beverage at the end of the day. When heading out in the evening for dinner and entertainment you’ll want to change first. Casual is the dress code for almost anywhere at a ski resort. Jeans with a fleece or sweater are the international evening ski resort outfit of choice.
Go Have Fun Skiing
I hope you are prepared now to go out and have a great day. Remember it takes a few times out to really get it. If you stick with it you’ll be successful.
You might also like:
- What do Ski Slope Ratings Mean? Helpful Guide for Beginners
- The Best Ski Gear For Beginners – How To Gear Up Without Breaking The Bank
- The Best Ski Goggles Under $50 Helpful Guide
- The Best Toe Warmers For Skiing Of Winter
- How Long Does It Take To Learn To Ski? Learn Now
- What To Wear Skiing? Helpful Layering Guide For Winter
About the author
My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water. I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions. I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.