Author: Stefan Woutersen
If you or your children are about to embark on your first ever ski holiday, you’ve come to the right place.
Let us start by saying welcome to the wonderful world of skiing. We know that your first trip to the mountains can be daunting but we’re here to provide you with some basic information that will make your trip all the more enjoyable.
So, without further ado, here’s our ultimate beginner checklist:
1. Learn the Basics
Before you go, it might be worth having a few lessons closer to home, to familiarise yourself with the basics.
There are plenty of indoor and dry ski slopes in the UK where you can get a taste of what to expect on the mountain. You can read our guide to UK slopes here.
2. Prepare Your Body
It will also be worth aiming to tone up the muscles you’ll predominantly be using when skiing: your legs and core. I find that squats, wall-sits and ab exercises are particularly good for this.
As with any sport, the fitter you are, the easier you’ll find it.
3. Get a Check-up
If you’ve previously had an injury which you’re concerned will be an issue when skiing; don’t let it be a worry.
4. Get a Ski Pass If Needed
As a beginner, you’ll most likely need a ski pass from your first day on the slopes.
Ask your ski school in advance as some resorts do have beginner slopes which can be freely accessed (although it’s not particularly common), but you’ll soon progress to easy greens and blues which require lift access.
5. Book Your Lift Pass in Advance
Your lift pass is your only way to access the lifts and gondolas, which take you to the ski slopes.
If you book in advance, you’ll likely get a better deal – be sure to research all the various options and offers available (or let us do the hard work for you!).
6. Pre-book Your Equipment Rental
We highly recommend that you rent equipment for your first attempt at skiing or snowboarding. The rental shop will be able to match you with gear that suits your dimensions and your needs. Once in resort be sure to allow a couple of hours to collect your equipment, in case of queues.
Here’s our guide to renting or buying skis.
7. Don’t Skip the Helmet
Don’t forget to hire a helmet – always put your safety first!
8. Book Lessons
If you’ve never skied or snowboarded before, it’s essential that you book lessons.
Whilst they might seem expensive, qualified instructors are going to ensure you learn all the basics correctly and safely, unlike your friend who went on a handful of ski holidays as a child and hasn’t skied since!
9. Pack Smart
Pack a range of clothing layers to wear under your ski jacket. I always take a thick hoodie, a lightweight padded down jacket and a thin fleece in my bag as a bare minimum for a ski weekend.
Double check you have packed enough, as buying gear on the mountain can be very expensive. Snow+Rock have some great options available.
10. Don’t Forget Eyewear
Both sunglasses and goggles are essential when skiing. Goggles can’t be rented so if you don’t own a pair; why not borrow some from a friend to save buying your own?
11. Be Sure to Pack Sunscreen
The sunlight doesn’t just come at you from above, it reflects off the snow beneath you.
The fact that you are physically closer to the sun also means that the UV light is more powerful. Apply regularly and don’t be fooled by clouds!
12. Bring a Lip Balm with SPF
Your lips need the same, if not more, care than the rest of your skin. They have to battle the UV rays and the wind drying them out! So, have your lip balm handy and apply regularly to fight back the chapping.
13. Set Your Alarm to the Local Time
Most lifts open at 9am and lessons will start around that time. Know where to meet your instructor in advance.
14. Pack a Snack
Take a drink and a snack with you – skiing is exercise after all, so you need to stay hydrated and energised. A small backpack might come in handy to carry these.
15. Check Your Mindset
Confidence is perhaps the most vital part of the whole skiing experience – for the most part your mind-set will be THE determining factor in how fast you learn.
Come to your lesson ready to make mistakes and laugh them off. Your confident attitude will spread and make the lesson more fun for everyone involved.
If you are timid in your approach and quick to give up, your first lesson might feel like it never ends!
16. Don’t Ever Ski on Your Own
As a beginner, it’s much safer and easier to ski in a group. Be sure to take a piste map with you (available from the main lift stations) and if you do find yourself lost and unable to pinpoint your location on the map, head to the nearest ski lift where the staff will be able to point you in the right direction.
17. Remember It’s Not a Competition
Skiing is a unique sport in that it pits you against the snow-covered slopes of the mountains. There’s no competition or game involved and no outside pressure to perform well.
You are taking part purely for the joy and satisfaction that comes from learning how to navigate the terrain with control and even grace.
18. Listen to Your Body
If you’re tired, take a rest. Most accidents occur towards the end of the day when skiers are tired and have less concentration. If your accommodation has spa facilities, make use of them and be sure to pack swimwear.
If you’re travelling with kids, read on for some additional advice…
1. Mentally Prepare Your Kids
Your child’s experience can make or break your holiday. Mentally prepare them for the idea of skiing before you go, by showing them videos of skiers of all ages and abilities.
Try to get them excited about the sport before they set foot on the mountain. If they have a good time, you can guarantee they will be pestering you about your next ski holiday soon enough!
2. Layer Up
Bursts of activity will leave kids hot and a short trip on the ski lift will have them cold again. Make sure they have enough layers on to avoid ever feeling cold. They can always take a layer off if they’re too hot.
3. Bring Gloves
Make sure the kids like and are familiar with their gloves or these little hand warmers will be the bane of your trip. They should be able to slip them on and off without assistance and feel comfortable wearing them. Their instructor may not have the time to help with fiddly bits of gear so making them a little self-sufficient goes a long way.
4. Apply Sun Protection
Be sure to liberally apply sun protection to your child’s face and encourage them to reapply it at lunch time. Don’t forget to catch the underside of their nose, sunlight reflected off the snow is just as dangerous.
5. Visit the Ski School
If you’ve booked lessons for your kids (which we highly recommend), visit the ski school office the day before. Ask about meeting points, confirm timings and let them know about your child’s skiing experience so far.
6. Consider Private Lessons
When booking lessons, it may also be worth paying that bit extra for private lessons, particularly if your kids are super young. That way, they will be well catered for if they get tired, cold, hungry or need the toilet; things that can sometimes be overlooked when in a group with multiple children.
A few days in, once they’ve settled into the routine of a day spent skiing, that’s the perfect time for them to join a group and make some pals!
7. Give Them Some Money
Leave your children €5-€10 (or the equivalent local currency) to cover the costs of snacks and drinks. The instructor will likely stop for 15 minutes in a cafe to let the kids rest.
Alternatively, you could provide them with a snack, but either way they need the energy to come back to their skis raring to go.
8. Manage Teacher Expectations
It’s worth bearing in mind that not all ski school instructors will be completely fluent in English but don’t let this be a concern. Some great teachers might have weak English skills but be great fun to ski with versus a perfectly fluent teacher who isn’t as good at keeping the kids entertained.
9. Don’t Give Up at the First Hurdle
If your child comes back from ski school crying; it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the instructor’s fault – they might have just not enjoyed the cold temperature, or missed their mum and dad.
We know it’s tricky, but from our experience, they will thank you for it eventually.
Ready to Go?
You should now be set for your trip but if you have any other questions, do let us know as we’d be more than happy to offer further advice!
Get in touch today and let us help you ensure your trip is so good, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start skiing earlier!