Skiing is a fantastic sport and is a great way to be outdoors and active during the winter. If you’re thinking about taking it up as a past-time, there are a few things you should keep in mind as a beginner. Whether you prefer the rush of downhill speed, or would rather see the scenery as a cross-country skier, getting off to a good start is very important.
Get the Right Equipment
Don’t settle for using those old cross-country skis in the garage to try your hand at downhill skiing (or vice versa). Get the right skis. At first glance, it may not look like it matters but it most certainly does. Cross-country skis are usually lighter and have less flex to them than those designed for downhill or alpine use. Downhill skis also have a metal edge to help with turns at high speeds, something you don’t need on a cross-country trek. Accidents, injury and just a poor skiing experience is likely when you try to ski with the wrong equipment. And while we’re talking about equipment, don’t forget other safety items like goggles and a helmet.
Learn Trail Codes
Unlike cross-country, downhill runs are graded for difficulty and beginners really need to respect these markings. You can put yourself in danger otherwise. There are two systems: North American, and then the rest of the world. Thankfully, beginner or novice routes are marked in green no matter where you go, which should make it easy to remember. After that, blue routes are for intermediate skiers. The advanced and expert levels are marked with black or red, depending on the location. As a beginner yourself, look for green runs and trails.
Learn How to Stop
Being able to just stay upright on your skis is pretty important, but after you get the hang of that, you need to learn how to stop. For safety’s sake, you should be able to control your movements enough to prevent careening somewhere out of control. Plowing into a snowbank doesn’t count as learning to stop. This isn’t as much of an issue with cross-country enthusiasts, though even on a trail you can find yourself sliding out of control on even a low rise.
Don’t Stare at Your Skis
As you get used to moving around with long planks attached to your feet, it’s hard not to watch them as you ski. Watching your skis means you’re not watching the upcoming terrain, and that means an accident is waiting to happen. Trees, bumps, turns and other obstacles can quickly come up when you’re skiing and staring at your own skis means that you aren’t going to catch them fast enough to maneuver properly.
The best way to manage your balance and movement is to keep your knees bent. Beginners tend to stand too straight and lock their knees in an effort to stay in control of their balance. A looser stance means you will react quicker and there will be less strain on your joints as you ski. It’s better for control and helps prevent injury.
This applies to downhill skiers only, finding out what kinds of lifts are available before you arrive at your resort or ski run. Knowing how to properly manage a chair lift, a gondola lift or even just a rope tow can make your day a lot more fun. Watch a few videos if necessary to see the right techniques for each kind of lift, so you’re ready when you arrive. Knowing how to get in and out of a chair lift isn’t going to help very much if your ski spot just has a rope tow.
Take a Lesson (or Two)
You don’t have to commit to an 8-week ski intensive, just let an instructor show you the basics so you start off your skiing experience the right way. Most runs and resorts will have someone available to offer lessons, even just a single drop-in session, for guests who want to pick up a few skills.