My first time skiing was in the midwest, where I originally learned the sport. From what I remember, the few times I went I felt like I had the hang of it. So when I moved to Colorado, I figured I’d give skiing a try again and naively assumed I’d catch on the same way I did when I was younger. On the contrary, the Rocky Mountains are quite a bit bigger than the “hills” of the midwest, which was made evident when I was already covered in snow less than 5 seconds after taking off.
I am now an avid skier, hitting the slopes most weekends in the winter. Looking back, there are a few things I wish I would have known before skiing in Colorado for the first time. Keep these handy for your first-timer ski trip so you can avoid rookie mistakes. For an added bonus, dive into the evolution of skiing through the years. It will make your experience even more interesting having knowledge of skiing’s history!
Take a Lesson
Starting off with a lesson from a professional is the best way to learn appropriate techniques from the start. While snowboarding wasn’t my thing, skis felt much more natural to me. Yet, it still wasn’t intuitive what exactly I needed to do with them. As a beginner, one of the most important parts of learning from an experienced skier is how to control your speed, along with turning and stopping. These basics will help the two long sticks attached to your feet feel a whole lot more comfortable than when you started out.
First time skiers typically either underdress, or overdress with too many bulky layers. I fell into the later category my first time on the slopes. If you are struggling to focus on staying upright on your skis, being cold or uncomfortable on top of that is only going to make your experience more frustrating.
Avoid bulky cotton clothing like thick sweatpants or sweaters as the cotton will stay wet all day and you’ll feel as uncomfortable as Ralphie in A Christmas Story. Instead, you’ll want to wear quick drying material and waterproof pants to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable all day.
While it’s very likely you’ll have most of the clothing you need already in your closet, it might be useful to pick up a few key items for your first time skiing. A good place to start is REI or Backcountry for some great deals on high quality gear. Some sort of ski mask like a balaclava or buff (my personal preference) will also come in handy on especially cold or windy days.
Remember to Eat and Drink
This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re out on the slopes without taking a break. At the very least, make sure you have some water to stay hydrated and a snack like a protein bar to munch on during the day.
Bring the Right Gear
You can usually rent gear directly from the ski resort, but check their website beforehand because sometimes they’ll offer a discount if you reserve gear online in advance. While most will have helmets available to rent, not all of them will have goggles — and both are important for your first day of skiing, so make sure you’re prepared ahead of time by knowing what gear is rented out.
Pizza is Your Friend
And by pizza I am referring to the snowplow. This is the standard basic technique taught to beginners to help you slow down and stop when you are first starting out. The more parallel your skis are, the faster you are going to move. When you start to point the tips of your skis toward each other by tilting your skis inward, you begin to slow down.
Snowplowing earned the nickname “pizza-ing”, since this technique looks like a slice of pizza. Just make sure you don’t move the skis too close to each other because you don’t want them to criss cross and get you all tangled up.
Pay Attention to the Signs
You don’t want to get stuck on terrain that is way above your skill level. Stick to the greens your first time on the slopes and look out for the signs telling you the terrain’s difficulty level. Just one more reason to stay alert while skiing!
If you have yourself convinced your never going to progress beyond the bunny hills, that’s going to become the truth. Find your inner confidence and try stepping your game up a notch. Ask a staff member if you’re unsure — some green runs are more difficult than others, and they can help point you in the right direction for your skill set. Don’t force yourself into anything you really don’t feel ready for, but taking on small challenges here and there is the key to improving!
Getting up at the top of a big mountain, especially on the slopes of Colorado, is a big feat and can seem intimidating when it’s your first time skiing. It’s not for everyone, but if you have the opportunity you have to try it at least once. If fast-paced and downhill isn’t for you, there’s always snowshoeing to try next!
Have you tried skiing before? Tell me about your first time in the comments below!