5 Things Beginning Skiers Should Know

5 Things Beginning Skiers Should Know

There’s a secret to enjoying the cold days of winter: Fully embrace it. Take one glance at snow-sport enthusiasts and you’ll notice their smiles only grow bigger as the summer’s warmth fades. If you’re looking to beat seasonal depression and cabin fever, there’s one sport that has propelled people through the darkest season for over six millennia: skiing.

Though ancient practitioners took part in this for utilitarian purposes, somewhere along the way folks found that gliding across swaths of snow was downright fun. Follow the guidelines below and you’ll find the same—but beware; skiing can get addictive!

1. Cotton kills.  Don’t stack on thick cotton socks and thermals. There’s a reason outdoor folks stay away from this fabric during winter: its inability to shed moisture (sweat, snow) can lead to hypothermia. Instead, opt for a “wicking” fabric—a synthetic or merino wool—to wear next to your skin. If it’s a cold day, top that with a fleece or down insulating item. Your final layer should be a water-tight, thin jacket to prevent wind and precipitation (or those falls in the snow!) from seeping in.

And take note: One pair of thin wool or synthetic socks, please! Trying to stuff bulky socks into the snug fit of ski boots only restricts circulation (read: cold feet).

first time skiing

2. Go small or go home. Gone are the days when the longer your skis were, the better a skier you were considered. And if you are eyeing those fat skis all the cool kids are rocking, consider them a reward for later—much later. Right now you want a ski that will stand at about nose-height and has an hourglass shape to help you turn more readily. When in doubt, rent it out.

3. Don’t be peer-pressured. Unless your friends are actual ski instructors, the first couple of times you hit the hill, go with people at the same level as you and take a group lesson. All too often first-timers never ski a second day because their more advanced friends took them straight to an expert run and left them with little to no instruction on how to manage those long sticks stuck to their feet. Talk about a bad day! Ski instructors are trained to move you through physical and mental progressions that will give you confidence and build a solid foundation; you’ll be smiling down the hill—not screaming in terror. 

4. Accessorize. We’re talking poles, goggles, helmets, gloves—and no, your gloves don’t need to match your boots.

First, grab a helmet. Don’t think it looks cool? Remember, you are surrounded by speeding objects with a lot of mass (people). Protect your head. Secondly, check that your gloves have warm interiors and a waterproof outside layer. Next, have something to cover your eyes. Goggles are best, but at a minimum, wear full-coverage sunglasses. Sun reflecting off the snow can damage your eyes, while moving at higher speeds causes unprotected eyes to tear up, blurring vision. Lastly, poles, though not necessary at this stage (consult your instructor), can assist beginners in getting up and moving across flat areas. Look for a length that, when gripped, leaves your elbow bent at roughly 90˚.

5. This is not Pride Rock. No one is holding you up so everyone can see. Relax. If you fall (you will), laugh it off. Those who don’t let egos get the best of them learn more quickly, smile the most, and take home the best memories—isn’t that what you came for, after all?



About the Author


Gina Begin

Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Over the years, she has been consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.