OUTDOOR EXPLORER: 10 Tips for First-time Skiers and Snowboarders

Tom Wagner, Outdoor Explorer

Tom is a lifelong skier who has worked as a ski instructor, ski patroller and is currently the Executive Vice President of Winterplace Ski Resort


Ask any skier or snowboarder what their favorite annual vacation is, and they’ll probably tell you a story about a ski trip. It’s such a fun and exciting sport that has the bonus of taking place in a beautiful mountain environment.

However, without a little preparation you can easily spend more time on your backside than gliding down the mountain. As you get ready for your first time, take these ten tips for beginners into consideration.

Do Some Research Before You Depart

Like most sports, there are a few safety rules and points of etiquette to keep in mind. These predominantly include common sense and good manners. It is also important to have suitable clothing and equipment.

A quick visit to the resort’s web site can provide you mountain information to make the trip more enjoyable.  Visit the resorts “Mountain Facts” and “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) web page. These will typically provide you with area information about the weather, elevation, lessons, rentals, clothing, and resort suggestions that will help prepare you for your first visit.

Don’t Overdo it on Your First Trip

Often new skiers tend to push themselves too hard, too fast. There is no need to be overly cautious, but you’re learning a new sport and making movements that are new to you.  Going slow allows you to concentrate on proper technique and to get comfortable with the new skills that will allow you to enjoy the thrill of gliding on snow. Taking it slow allows for the development of the skills needed to better explore the mountain.

Dress in Layers

As I like to tell everyone “there’s no such thing as bad weather – just inappropriate clothes”.  If you dress correctly, you’ll be able to stay comfortable in almost any weather.

Dressing in three layers is typically best. Start with a base layer designed to keep you dry by wicking sweat from your body. The mid layer provides insulation that keeps you warm.  Avoid wearing cotton.

The outer layer needs to be a waterproof and windproof jacket to break the wind and keep you dry. Having an outer shell that is breathable is also ideal. Gore-tex is a well know waterproof/breathable fabric but can be expensive. There are many other alternatives available for a lower price.

Rent Equipment

Make sure you like the sport before purchasing equipment. Most rental shops offer new gear each year. This allows you to become familiar with the sport while developing your skills.  Renting allows you to test a good selection to gear while developing equipment likes and dislikes. This will make the gear selection process much easier when it is time to purchase.

Stay Hydrated and Carry Snacks

Nutrition is key for all sports, including skiing. Choosing the right food and drink will help you recover faster, stay hydrated and make sure you have plenty of energy throughout the day.

Avoid alcohol when on the slopes. Nuts, fruit, chocolate, are good to carry for a little energy pick-up. Remember to stop to rest and drink plenty of water.

Get in Shape Before Ski Season

While most people at all levels of fitness can enjoy skiing, the fitter you are the faster you’ll learn, and the more fun you’ll have. Jogging, cycling, hiking, are all good preseason activities.  Regular cardiovascular exercises prior to your trip will provide for a much more enjoyable day on the slopes. Be sure to incorporate stretching and perhaps some form of yoga.

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Just because its winter, that doesn’t mean you won’t need sun protection. You can get sunburned very quickly in the mountains. Packing sunscreen, chap stick, and polarized goggles or sunglasses reduces the risk of exposure to the wind and sun.

Always Ski With a Friend

Skiing with a friend is always more fun – even if you’re both beginners. It helps to have someone with you in case you fall, injure yourself or lose your way.

If you have a friend that has a little more experience, that’s an added benefit.

Take a Lesson From a Professional Instructor

Ski instructors will not only teach you how to ski, but they will also take you on the appropriate slopes to ensure that you have a fun experience. The best instructors enjoy teaching others as much as they enjoy the sport itself.

Don’t Give Up

Whatever you do, don’t give up on skiing until you’ve given it a fair shot. Everyone falls while they are learning and there may be times that you question whether all the effort is worth it.

Once you get through the learning curve, you’ll be rewarded with exhilarating experiences for the rest of your life and will enjoy the best sport on earth.

Read more explorer blogs

This post was last updated on March 18, 2022