Skiing or snowboarding seems like such a silly idea. I mean, whoever invented these sports is some kind of crazy genius. Who would have thought it would be a good idea to strap your feet onto slabs of wood and slide down mountains in the snow!? My husband Marc was keen to attempt to learn to ski together, but I have to admit, I was very dubious at first. I have terrible balance and I HATE the cold. Still, I gave it a go, and made plenty of mistakes while I slowly got the hang of this skiing malarkey. So, I thought I should share my top 12 mistakes to avoid for newbie skiers. Hopefully this will help other snow newbies to enjoy the slopes!
If you feel like you already know the basics, then have a look at my blogging friend Alissa’s post with tips for intermediate skiers. Or, if you’d prefer to give Cross country Skiing a go, have a look at Susan’s post about Cross Country Skiing in Minnesota.
Mistake 1: Buying *all* the gear
If it is your first attempt at skiing or snowboarding, you really don’t need to buy everything! You can rent equipment (skis, poles, helmets etc.) If you pay for a lesson, equipment rental may be included in the price. If not, it is possible to rent skis (or snowboards) by the day, to test out what you need. It is also possible to rent equipment for a whole season. Last year, I rented skis, ski boots and poles for $120 for the entire season (from Sports Junkies on Main Street, Vancouver)
For clothes, if you can, borrow from friends. Or if not, buy them second hand, or from discount events like the Turkey Sale. You don’t need to have the very latest gear to learn to ski! In fact, it seems cool to have super retro gear, so if you can find vintage clothes from the 80s, you’ll still fit in on the slopes!
Mistake 2: Not waking up early
I know, I know, you want to relax at the weekend. The thing is, the snow always seems to feel best early in the morning, when it has been freshly groomed. It feels even nicer if it snowed over night. So, set an alarm and do your best to get to the slopes at the start of the day. If you need to buy tickets, you want to arrive at the ski resort at least 30 minutes before the lifts open. If you arrive right when the slopes open, you may be waiting a loooong time to buy tickets.
You can always have a nanny-nap, once you get home *after* skiing.
Mistake 3: Forgetting sun-cream
Sun-cream, sunscreen, whatever you call it. You do need to remember to protect your skin from the sun! The snow is great at reflecting the sun’s rays, so even if you feel chilly, you can easily end up with a red conk. You might also end up with goggle sun-burn marks. Nooo!
Mistake 4: Not visiting the washroom before you get started
Regular readers are going to think I am obsessed with toilets after my loos with a view post! Still, it can be a bit of a palaver to find a loo when you’re out on the slopes. You’ll need to ski down to find a lodge, then take off your skis and poles and find a place to lean them…and walking around in ski boots isn’t particularly easy!
I find it is best to go for a pee before you head for the lifts.
This may also save you from mad-husband-syndrome if your partner gets huffy when you suddenly need to pop off for the loo. Not that I have any experience with that kind of thing.
Mistake 5: Not taking a lesson
When you are a total beginner, it can really, really help to spend a little money to attend a ski (or snowboarding) class to get you started. This will help you with the basics, ensure you’re using your equipment properly and it should encourage you to get out onto the slopes yourself!
Mistake 6: Choosing your route
Firstly, take a look at the trail maps! When you are first getting started, it’s best to stick to the green runs. People move more slowly on those runs, and people are encouraging (rather than pissed off) if you fall over when you’re getting off the chairlift!
Once you feel a little bit more confident, you might want to try some of the harder blue runs. Just be aware, some slopes look easy at the top, but they may get more technical lower down. I personally waited until I had graduated from pizza/snow-plough-style skiing and was confident(ish) parallel skiing before I tried the blue runs.
Also, be aware that the hills change hugely after big dumps of snow or after they have been groomed. Just because a slope is scary and filled with moguls one week, it may suddenly become easier another day after it has been groomed.
Mistake 7: Slowing down before the flats
Sometimes even green runs have steep-ish moments, often before looong flat sections, or before you need to make it *up* a hill. These are the times when you need to keep your speed up, to give you enough momentum to zoom along the flat areas. If not, it’ll be hard work to push yourself along the flats, or worse, to duck-walk up a hill.
Mistake 8: Stopping after bumps
Try not to stop on steep sections of the slopes, or after bumps. This is because the snow-lovers higher up the hill won’t be able to see you when they come whizzing down the slopes. I have been knocked over a few times by skiers and snowboarders, and it can really hurt, so avoid this if you can!
If you have fallen over, or if you have to stop, try to skooch over to the edge of the slope. This should help keep you out of harms way.
Mistake 9: Attempting moguls too soon
Moguls are natural mounds of snow that build up when a ski-slope has not been groomed for a while. When you are first getting started, it is best to avoid them, as it can be difficult to navigate around each bump! However if you find yourself on a mogul-filled slope, don’t panic. Don’t ski straight over them, instead, try to ski around them, or across the slope at the top of each bump. I have found the moguls are often smaller at the edges of the piste, so if in doubt, head to the edges.
Mistake 10: Eating too much at lunch
After waking up early and skiing for a few hours, you will probably be really hungry! Still, try not to eat anything too heavy if you are planning to head back out to ski some more. I love a good meaty burger, but I have found after eating so much, I am much less good at skiing, as all my energy is going into digestion.
I also tend to avoid chips/fries out on the slopes. They are so salty that it just makes me thirsty for the rest of the day, no matter what I drink.
Feel free to ignore this if you only plan to ski for half a day! You can eat loads and head home for a nap!
Mistake 11: Forgetting snacks
This knowledge was passed on from one of the lovely ladies in my Adults learn to ski class on Cypress Mountain. On one particularly cold evening, we were all starting to fade, when she saved us with what she called “lift chocolate.” Since then, I often have a few squares of chocolate in a pocket, just in case I need a mini sugar rush on the slopes. I hardly ever actually need it, BUT it is sooo good when you’re suddenly tired, cold and hungry. Plus, if you offer it to the person next to you on the lift, you may well make a friend for life!
Mistake 12: Finishing your ski season too early
This final mistake is just to make sure you have the best possible season! Last year we noticed that December and January were crazily busy on the slopes around Vancouver. February was still busy, but the queues were shorter and night skiing was way less packed. Then by March, the slopes are far quieter, and it is easier to park, get food and queue for lifts. It seems like the closer you get to spring skiing, the fewer people there are out on the slopes.
Most ski hills near Vancouver close at the end of March, but if you head to Whistler, you can ski right through April (last year, it was even possible to ski in May!) We had some of our best days at the end of the season when the sun was shining and there was plenty of space on the slopes.
If you are planning to learn to ski or snowboard, I hope these mistakes to avoid for newbie skiers will help you make the most of your time on the slopes! Or, if you are already an skiing or snowboarding pro, can you think of any other mistakes to avoid for newbies that I have missed?