What to expect when you ski for the first time

03 July 2013

The cool mountain air breathing into your face as you speed down a beautiful snow covered mountain is one of the most fun and exhilarating experiences out there. Skiing is an incredibly addictive sport and one that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Skiing for the first time can be a scary and daunting experience, but get it right and you’ll soon fall in love. We’ve come up with a simple guide for first time skiers on what to expect when skiing for the first time.

Olympic chairlift 760

It’s going to be challenging

At first, it’s going to be challenging. Unless you have ice-skated or rollerbladed in the past, skiing is a completely different experience to anything you might have done before but will be an amazing experience. Once you get started, you’ll soon start to relax and enjoy yourself.  The more you ski, the more your confidence will grow and the easier it will become. Remember, everyone feels the same when they ski for the first time, so you're not alone. 

Ski Lessons

When skiing for the first time, it is highly recommended to take some lessons. How about with Meribel ski school? Even if you just take one to get yourself familiar with the basic skills and manoeuvres needed, it’s going to greatly enhance your experience. It’s most likely that you’ll have a group lesson, with people that you probably don’t know, so don’t feel embarrassed. It can be easy to get intimidated when having lessons with strangers. Everyone is in the same boat as you, with everyone focusing on themselves so no one will be watching you. Usually in the first lesson you’ll learn how to turn, slow down, stop and how to ride the ski lifts. Lessons are usually half a day, so you’ll have the morning or afternoon to practise on your own with friends and family. You might only want one lesson to get the basic skills, or you might prefer to have more, it’s going to depend on how quickly you pick it up and what you want from the lessons. If you really want to learn quickly, having private lessons can be an advantage. The instructor is going to be focusing only on you, allowing you to progress quicker than if you were in a group.

You’ll be in the beginner’s area

When you’re a beginner you’re going to be starting in the beginners area, especially if you’re with a ski instructor. This will have a lot of flat area and a very small nursery slope, as well as a simple ski or button lift to take you to the top. It’s great for practise and to help get your confidence up. Even if you’re not going to have lessons this is still a great place to practise at the start before going onto the bigger slopes.

You might lose your balance

One fact that you need to remember and understand before you start is that you’re going to lose your balance! It’s par for the course with skiing; everyone falls. The key is just to laugh and get straight back up. It doesn't hurt because the snow is soft and you won't be going that fast. Part of the fun is watching your friends and family fall. It’s important to remember that it’s going to happen, even when you get more confident and advanced. Sitting in your cosy chalet at night talking about the laughs you had when everyone was stuggling to stand is one of the best parts of the experience! Just learn how to quickly get back up and have fun! 

Don’t get intimidated

When skiing for the first time, you’re going to be slow and shaky at first. What can become really annoying is when you’re taking your time going down a slope and a small 6 year old child whizzes past you at breakneck speed. It can be very frustrating when you see just how young these children are and how good they are! Don’t let them put you off and just keep going. They ski all year so it’s what you’d expect!

Ski boots will feel different at first

Ski boots will feel quiet different to your normal shoes and might take a bit of time to get used to. When getting fitted for snow boots at the ski hire it’s important to remember that they’re not going to be the most comfortable in the world, but your foot should be snug and not move about too much. If by the end of the day your foot is in crushing pain, go and change them. Excruciating pain is definitely not right and you need to make sure you have reasonably comfortable ski boots to have an enjoyable time. It’s also important to remember that it's not the easiest to walk in ski boots! If you have to walk to the slopes in your boots leave plenty of time if you’re a beginner, as it’s quite difficult, especially if the roads are icy and you're not use to them. If possible it is a good idea to carry your ski boots and change into them when you’re at your destination. This might not always be possible, so just be aware it might take you a bit longer that you planned. Over time, you should get use to it. 

Quick Tips

  • Don’t wear cotton or nylon clothes, as these absorb water, so make sure you have good waterproofs. Waterproof trousers and a waterproof jacket/coat are good and wear warm thermals underneath. It’s not going to be any fun if you end up getting soaking wet by the end of the day. You want to be cosy and warm not wet and cold.
  • Get good gloves. There’s no point taking your favourite knitted mittens onto the slopes, as these will soon become soaking and your hands will be freezing. Good waterproof gloves are a must. Try to get ones that won’t let in any snow,  long gloves or ones that can be tightened are good.
  • Ski passes are very expensive, but usually they will offer access to the whole of the resorts terrain. For a first time skier this is going to be unnecessary as it’s unlikely you’re going to be going on the black and red runs! It’s better to go for a less expensive ski pass with limited access. It’s a good idea to ask your instructor what they recommend. If by the end of the holiday you’re getting more confident and want to experience some different slopes, you can always upgrade your pass
  • Take lip balm and sun cream with you. It’s odd to think that on a mountain where it’s freezing that you might get sunburnt but often it is very sunny. The snow also will reflect the sun back up to your face, making it very easy to get burnt, so remember to apply sun cream to your face and behind your ears. Lip balm is also essential to stop getting dry, cracked lips.
  • Don’t be pressured into going onto bigger slopes by your family or friends who are more advanced. It takes a long time to build up your confidence but only takes seconds to shatter it, so resist and only go where you’re confident. An easy slope for them might not be easy for you, so stick to what you know and build your confidence gradually.
  • Because it can be very sunny, it’s advisable to take sunglasses or skiing goggles onto the slopes. The sun reflects on the snow to make it incredibly bright and difficult to look at, so having sunglasses handy can be a real blessing.

Remember, it's all about having fun! 

Two people walking in the snow with snowboards

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