I’ve got to admit, when I took my first ski trip I was a bag of nerves. For days leading up to the trip, I was crushed with anxiety. Before I’d even left home, I’d convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to ski, that I’d spend the whole trip rolling down the mountain rather than skiing it, that I’d be freezing cold and that I would just generally hate it. But you know what? I actually LOVED it and that ski trip now ranks as one of my most favourite winter travel experiences ever! If you’re contemplating taking your first ski trip, this survival guide for first-time skiers will give you ten crucial tips to help you have a better experience.
1. Pick a beginner-friendly ski resort
Not all ski resorts are created equal and no matter how experienced you are, make sure you pick a resort that is suited to your level. There’s a perfect ski resort for everyone and one that’s suited to beginners won’t necessarily be enjoyed the same way by an expert. Every ski resort is so different so it’s really important to do your research and pick your resort carefully. Beginners will benefit from choosing a resort that offers good quality ski schools, nursery slopes and plenty of low, easy runs to build confidence and skills. I found that both Val d’Isere in France and Saas-Fee in Switzerland were perfectly suited to novices.
2. Don’t just hit the mountain blindly, book lessons!
If you think you’re just going to be able to throw on some skis and slide off down the mountain, please DON’T! Doing so will not only put you at risk of serious injury but in reality, you’re not even likely to be able to stand up on your skis let alone ski down a mountain on them! The best investment you can actually make is to enrol in ski school and book some lessons first thing. Your instructor will teach you the important skills of learning how to stop (snow plough all the way!), how to change directions as well as other general, basic skiing techniques.
When I was in Val d’Isere, I took small-group lessons with New Generation Ski School and I couldn’t believe how quickly my confidence increased and my skills developed. Day one saw me graduate from the nursery slopes to tackle my first green runs and by day two I was hitting the blues! I couldn’t believe how fast I was learning and it was all thanks to excellent lessons.
3. Mastering the art of the chair lift is really tricky
I’m just being upfront you guys but getting on and off the chair lift takes some serious skill. When getting on, you have to shuffle forward quickly, trying hard not to step on others’ skis, and be in position ready for the chair to scoop you up from behind. Coming off is even harder as you have to try and line your skis up nice and straight and push off from the chair at precisely the exact moment and ski off without knocking into anyone! There were only a handful of times that I managed to NOT fall over coming off. This is normal for beginners though so don’t feel too embarrassed. If you take small-group lessons, your instructor will most likely be nearby to help you if you run into trouble.
4. Always have a buddy on the mountain
This one goes for everyone out there, not just beginners. Not only is it more fun skiing with a friend, but it’s also a lot safer. If something goes wrong, it’s a very smart idea to have someone looking out for you who can help if needed.
5. Having the right gear matters
Believe me when I tell you that staying warm, dry and comfortable will make or break your ski trip. Even though it might be tempting to just pack the wintery gear you already have in your cupboard at home, chances are it’s just not going to cut it on the mountain. All of your ski clothing needs to be waterproof, breathable, warm and protective. I’d definitely recommend packing the following: a ski jacket, ski pants, gloves, beanie, goggles, neckwarmer, base layer, mid layer and warm socks. You’ll be able to hire skis, ski poles and ski boots at the resort so no need to worry about those until you arrive. It’s also a good idea to pack some comfy shoes like these that you can get on and off easily for when you head to and from the ski shop.
6. Keep your energy levels up
Being out in the harsh elements skiing all day really does use your energy levels up… fast. You’re being very active and you’re body is working hard so it’s super important to give it the fuel it needs to keep going. Have a big breakfast packed full of protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer and throw a muesli bar into your pocket for a mid-morning snack. You’ll be ravenous come lunchtime but fortunately, there are loads of places to grab a hearty, filling lunch on the mountain. I could never say no to a cheeky glass of rosé on the side too!
7. Book really nice, cosy accommodation
Having a warm and cosy place to come home to after a cold day on the mountain makes such a difference if you’re cold and tired. While you can definitely do it on the cheap and book a budget room to keep costs down (let’s face it, skiing isn’t cheap), if you can afford to splash out, treat yourself to a luxurious chalet! In Val d’Isere I stayed at the beautiful Marwari Chalet organised by bespoke ski operator, Powder White and in Saas-Fee I booked a room at the gorgeous The Capra Saas-Fee. Both were absolutely beautiful and made my newbie skiing trip that extra bit special.
8. Always be aware of your surroundings
One of the biggest causes for mishaps on the slopes for newbie skiers is simply not being aware of their surroundings. Remember, you’re sharing the run with lots of other skiers – it’s not just you out there! When you’re going down a run, try and use your situational awareness stay out of the way of other skiers (if you can). Try and have a general sense of who’s generally uphill and how fast they’re moving and also if there are any potential obstructions downhill that you need to avoid. Suddenly stopping in the middle of the run is also never a great idea since those above you might not anticipate that and could run in to you.
9. Après-ski will most likely be your favourite time of day
If you don’t know what après-ski is, it’s about to become your favourite thing about skiing. No matter what kind of ski day you’ve had on the mountain, whether you’ve tumbled down the slopes like a snowball or you’ve conquered the hardest runs out there, everyone comes together and catches up on the day over après-ski in the late afternoon. Basically translating to ‘after ski fun’, head on over to one of the many après-ski bars dotted around the village and warm up over a mug of mulled wine or two. The atmosphere is always buzzing as everyone excitedly recounts their adventures on the mountain!
10. Only do what feels safe to you
Even if you’re starting to feel pretty confident, it’s so important to remember that you’re still a beginner. Don’t let yourself be pressured into attempting runs that are clearly beyond your level. It’s just not worth the risk of injury, which is a very real possibility in these scenarios. Even though I felt quite confident attempting blue runs towards the end of my trip, there were a few occasions where I started to pick up so much speed that I felt like I was flying down the mountain out of control! I had to try really hard to slow down and it really scared me. Remember to always err on the side of caution and take it easy and slow.
Interested in some other posts about travelling in the wintertime? Check out:
- Travelling to Europe in Winter? Here’s 10 Things You Should Know
- 10 Quotes to Inspire a Love of Winter
- Throwback to My Greatest Winter Experience Yet