Skiing is not a sport for everyone, there are many who simply won’t enjoy it. However, many people who try skiing once and then never again were not given a fair chance, because they were brought by a “friend” who probably made no serious effort to give them the basic information they needed to avoid being miserable. Here then is a list of advice for a new skier. It can also be used by would-be instructors to help you give a novice the best possible skiing experience.
As a beginner, you should have reasonable expectations about your first day out. Hopefully, many of the things below will give you a better idea of what to expect. But there are some important basics to be prepared for.
- You will fall down. A lot.
- It is hard to get up, and this can be embarassing.
- There will be six-year-olds skiing circles around you, and this is infuriating.
- You will be alternately bored and terrified, and not very often in between. Too slow and too fast are right next to each other for beginners.
The good news is that after the first day or two, most of these problems go away. And even on the first couple of days, you can still find a lot of space for enjoyment, but that depends on a host of other important details. How good or bad your first day is depends on understanding and following the advice below.
Friends: This is the most important decision you’ll make for your first skiing experience. Find someone who is willing to go to the ski slopes and blow off a day of their own skiing enjoyment in favor of helping you out. This is hard to do. Find someone with inexhaustible patience. This is also hard to do. If you are comfortable with the notion, maybe you can just go by yourself. Better yet, go with someone else who has never skied (and share the information here with them). They should be someone with similar patience and tempermant, as well as similar fitness and athletic ability. Misery loves company.
Instruction: If you happen to find that friend who will stick by your side all day and has inexhaustible patience, you’re off to a good start. They also have to be able to teach you how to ski. Some very good skiers are completely intuitive, and have no concious idea of how it works. You can find this out in advance by asking them for a dry skiing lesson, in your living room. If they seem confused or unsure, find someone else. (You will benefit greatly from a good dry lesson in advance. I’ll also try to explain a little bit of how to ski later on, so you can think it through.) If your friend is not perfect, I’d recommend paying for a lesson. Group lessons are fine if you are naturally athletic, otherwise get a private instructor so you can go at your own pace.
Falling (and getting up): As I said before, you will fall. If you happen to have any control over your fall, try to fall uphill. Try to land on your butt. Try to make your fall like a feet-first baseball slide. The hard part is getting up.
Now the irony here is that the steeper the hill is, the easier it is to get up (because you have less far to go). The problem is that the boots keep you from flexing your ankles, so you can’t get your legs under you very well.
Get your feet downhill from you, and tuck them as close to your butt as you can. Then push yourself up onto your feet in a squatting position (use the poles if you have to) and then stand up. If you have a few frustrating failures, let your friend or instructor help you up — you’ll get plenty more opportunities to get up later, and the frustration can be the biggest enemy.
Improvement: How fast you improve will depend on your fitness, and natural ability. But for most people, the first two days (three to five hours per day) will be rough, but after that you’ll really start to feel you’re getting the hang of it. One important factor is that you’ll ski worse when you’re tired. So if you start out on the second day feeling like you’re improving, but then by the end of the day you’re falling more than ever, it is because you are tired, not because you’re not learning.
It’s important to have good conditions your first day. And take things at your own pace. You may at the end of the day still find that you don’t care for skiing. But if you follow all of the advice above, you’ll at least know you’ve given it a fair shake.