I used to think that since I didn’t learn to ski as a kid I had missed the opportunity to enjoy the sport. Ever. I was wrong. After only six days of group lessons over the course of two winters, I’ve learned enough to be able to ski down intermediate slopes. And I’m having a blast.
I suspect I’ll be learning for as long as I’m skiing. But having survived the initial training stage, I have a few tips for those of you who might want to learn to ski.
1. Sign up for ski school. Your significant other might be a pro, a world champion even. But you need a teacher who is not sharing your bed. Ski school can be pricey but, trust me, divorce is way more expensive.
2. Have patience. Skiing is exhilarating but it takes baby steps to get there. Give yourself time to learn the basics right and your progress will be swifter. Some of the moves are counter intuitive so don’t trust your body to know what to do. That’s why you’re paying an instructor.
3. Go to a ski area with good ski conditions for beginners. Don’t take your baby steps on ice. Or on slopes that are not meant for beginners. You won’t learn, you won’t enjoy it, and you’ll end up giving up.
4. Make sure that you are warm. Don’t underestimate how cold it can get up on the slopes. You’ll be outside for hours, and riding the lifts can be particularly freezing. Bulky jackets and pants make you look 4 sizes bigger but they keep you warm. Bring with you liner gloves, hand warmers and a neck warmer even if it looks like you won’t need them. Better to have your pockets stuffed than have to cut your lesson short because you’re losing sensation at the tips of your fingers.
5. Don’t be scared of falling. Fear is the worst impediment to learning to ski. Sure, tumbling in the snow is no longer as much fun as it was when we were children and only 2 feet off the ground. But better let yourself fall than resist it and end up falling really badly because you’ve twisted yourself into a pretzel trying to fight gravity.
6. Take a break. If you have a whole week to play with, make sure to take a day off. If you’re doing the intensive 3-day ski school as I did, you might want to take the afternoon of Day 2 off. Skiing is such an intense exercise; your entire body will be hurting. Missing a day (or an afternoon) might seem like a waste but it will give your legs some rest. It’s hard to ski when you’re tired. That’s when all the injuries happen.
7. Don’t ignore the altitude. If you’re going from sea level up to 8 thousand feet or more, you’ll feel it. Some of us experience it more violently than others but even if you don’t get a bad headache, you will be performing at a lower level. Make sure to drink a lot of water during the first couple of days. Especially, if you’re like me and don’t want to give up the glass of wine with dinner.
8. Stretch before and after you ski. I know it’s the last thing you’ll want to do after a long day on the slopes but you will thank yourself for it the next day. You’ll be sore; there is no avoiding it. But at least you’ll be able to walk.
9. Spoil yourself with a spa visit and a massage. Before you book your hotel, make sure that they have at least a Jacuzzi. Submerging in hot water will work miracles on your tired legs. Being in a hot tub outside, surrounded by snow, is a lot of fun too. You should also book yourself a massage for Day 2. You will need all the help you can get to make it back to the slopes on Day 3.
10. Stop and smell the pine trees. Make sure to enjoy yourself. You’re doing this for fun. Don’t let fear or competition blind you. Take in the panoramic view, inhale the fresh crisp air. Feel the sun and wind on your face as you fly down the slopes. Absorb the energy of the people around you. Excitement is contagious. And so is skiing. Once you get the bug, you’ll find it hard to stay away from it.