By Claire Hudson
Skiing undoubtedly requires some degree of physical fitness, willingness to suffer the elements at times, and determination to overcome the natural fear almost everyone experiences at some point. Nothing can top the exhilaration of a crisp, clear, winter day, gorgeous mountain scenery and the feeling of having accomplished something a little out of the ordinary. Whether you’re 5 or you’re 50, anyone can pick up skiing and get good at it. Skiing can be different for everyone in many ways. For example, some people ski for fun, while others ski for competitions. Skiing is a joy that is unique to each person, but ultimately it will always be the best winter activity anyone can do.
Skiing isn’t a sport that takes an hour to learn, it takes a lifetime. The best skiers are still finding ways to improve. Just look at how professional ski instructors take clinics every year or ski patrollers attend annual classes to relearn possibly forgotten material. If you’re just starting out, remember there is a lifetime of improvement ahead of you. With that being said, these tips are a great place to start.
The first thing to make sure you do is bend your knees. Beginners aren’t used to being in a squatting position all day (most people aren’t), so a lot of the time they’ll straighten their legs, messing up their form, balance, and control. Bending your knees does a number of things. It forces you to shove your shins into the front of the boot, gaining control of your ski. It also centers your upper body above your legs, keeping your balance over your sweet spot. When you bend your knees you’ll also be more prepared to try small jumps and potential uneven terrain.
Another very important basic is staying evenly balanced over your skis. Skiing puts you into a pretty uncomfortable and awkward position sometimes. The boots push you forward, but the weight of the front of your skis scoots you back. Keeping your legs squarely under your torso with your shoulders pointing downhill will give you a stronger technique with more control. Keeping your body weight directly over the ski’s narrowest point or the sweet spot will have the ski work for you, not against you.
The next tip is to make sure you go slow and have patience. Learning to ski takes time. Only the most insanely incredible athletes will be able to move from a “green” (beginner) to a “blue” (intermediate) run in one day, and even then there will be many hiccups along the way. Having unreasonable expectations of your abilities will get you extremely frustrated and leave you wanting to do the “walk-of-shame” down the run. If this happens, take a deep breath, focus on what you know, and try again. Once there, talk to someone who has some skiing IQ about what you are doing wrong. Move on. Eventually, you’ll get there if you just have a little patience.
Being dressed for the weather is often overlooked, but can potentially change a whole day of skiing. It’s likely that you don’t have the right gear and clothing for a day on the slopes, but there are a few things you should eventually get. Proper fitting boots are the most important item on that list. Good boots make the difference between a bad and good day and not learning at all and becoming decent. You should also buy a pair of snow pants. You’ll be falling a lot, and you’ll need to stay warm. A helmet is also a wise investment, as you can’t predict everything you do or the actions people around you take. Other items you should wear include gloves (for warmth), goggles (sunglasses break easy and snow blindness is a possibility), and ironically the most important sunscreen.
Lastly, make sure to start out on the right terrain. You wouldn’t go to Hawaii and surf the tallest waves if you’ve never surfed before, so you shouldn’t go to a ski area and go straight to the most extreme runs. Watching as advanced skiers head to the extreme terrain as you head to a green, can be tough, but it will be worth it in the end. Green or beginner runs are flatter, shorter, groomed, and not steep so there are fewer obstacles and factors to screw up. When starting out, look to see if your resort has a magic carpet so that you can slowly build up to a chairlift.