As the saying goes; “first impressions are everything”.
Never has this been truer than for your first skiing holiday. A bad first experience is enough to put you off skiing for life.
If you’ve never skied before then your first time on the slopes will make a huge impact on how you view the sport, your attitude to any future skiing holiday and even on how good a skier you become.
You may not be aware of how to fully prepare for your time abroad. After all, a ski holiday is unlike any other holiday you will experience.
It’s physically demanding, the weather can be difficult and what could have been an awesome experience could be ruined simply because you didn’t prepare properly.
So, if you’re unsure what to pack, concerned about making a fool of yourself or don’t know what to prepare in advance, then read on to find out everything you need to know before your first skiing holiday.
Perhaps the biggest factor which will affect how much you enjoy your holiday is the resort. You need to do some serious research into where you go. If you’re going in a group of all beginners then you’ll need a resort with a lot of beginner pistes.
Depending on where in the world you go, the name for beginner slopes may vary. But they are commonly called “green runs”. Sometimes they may even be labelled as ‘beginner’ or ‘nursery’ slopes.
These are where you will learn the basics and practise before you are ready to take on bigger runs.
Having a wide variety of easy slopes prevents boredom and also means you don’t get comfortable on just the one run.
If you are going with a mixed group then you’ll need to make sure there are plenty of harder runs as well.
Having grumpy friends whine about the number of slopes will certainly put a downer on your holiday.
Catered or Self-catered
Another big thing to consider when booking is where you are staying.
Most ski resorts divide accommodation into catered or self-catered. Depending on your preference, this can really influence your time.
Catered chalets are more expensive but they do make life much easier.
Obviously, not having to go shopping and cook dinner is a big bonus. But you also get lots of little extras.
After a long day on the slopes you will be tired, so knowing someone has tea and cake waiting for is a wonderful feeling.
You’ll also know the costs from the start so it’s easy to stick to a budget once you arrive.
The less well-known benefit of a catered ski chalet is that the staff are full of knowledge and advice.
They will know which runs to avoid in the afternoon because they are icy and which lifts have the longest queues. They’ll also be able to point you to a decent bar if you need a drink!
However, self-catered isn’t all bad. You’ll have much more freedom to cook meals that you like and it’s considerably cheaper.
It’s also nice to be able to lounge around however you like without strangers around.
Whichever you choose, it’s definitely worth considering this before you book as you will need to comfortable. When you’re tired, achy and cold, you need to be going back to your ideal haven of peace.
Whatever that means for you.
Skiing is physically demanding.
Not only are you learning something new, but you’re on your feet all day.
If you really want to make the most of your holiday and giving skiing a proper go, then making sure you are in decent physical shape beforehand will benefit you massively.
You don’t need to be a top athlete to ski but if your idea of a workout is walking upstairs, then you may struggle with a full day on the slopes.
Another useful preparation tactic before you fly is to take a few lessons on a dry slope.
There’s nothing like skiing on proper snow but you’ll enjoy your first experience much more if you can put your skis on the right way!
Taking a few basic lessons before your holiday will benefit you no end. Firstly, you may absolutely hate skiing and know straight away it isn’t for you, in which case, you’ll save yourself a lot of money.
But if you can stand up, turn slowly and are able to take a lift then it won’t feel like such a waste of money and time when you get to the resort and spend the entire day learning how to catch a button lift.
Skiing can expensive, but luckily you don’t need to buy all the gear straight away. Almost every resort in the world has rental shops where you can hire skis, boots, poles and helmets for the duration of your holiday.
The boots are the most important piece of equipment you need to ensure are right.
Uncomfortable boots will ruin your entire trip.
Don’t be afraid to try on several pairs in the shop before deciding which ones to go with.
Your boots shouldn’t be too tight or they’ll cut blood circulation and your feet will freeze. But too loose and you won’t be able to control your skis.
It’s also a myth that you need to wear several pairs of socks.
Modern boots are very warm and well-made so one decent pair of socks should be fine.
Wearing too many socks can actually have the same effect as tight boots; your feet will be cold within an hour.
Always remember, if your boots are hurting you after a few days, you can go back and change them.
Your poles will be given to you based on your height so you won’t need to worry about this at all. This is the same for your skis.
However, the shop assistants will also ask for your weight. This is so they can set the binding which attaches your boots to your skis.
If your skis are calibrated to your weight, when you fall the ski will detach cleanly and you won’t break an ankle. Most shops have scales, but it’s worth knowing your approximate weight in case they don’t.
While a helmet is not necessarily the most important piece of equipment for a beginner, it is worth renting one if you can.
You probably won’t be going at fast enough speeds to do any serious damage to yourself but they are good if you fall at any speed. Even stationary! Helmets are a great way to keep your head and ears warm.
Some resorts have made helmets mandatory if you want to take ski lessons so bear this in mind. More about ski-schools later.
You’ll be most comfortable if you prepare layers of clothing.
Weather on the mountain can change very quickly from sunny and warm to windy and cold so you will appreciate being able to take off and put on layers as necessary.
A good base layer is key. Invest in good thermals as they provide the most warmth. Other layers don’t need to be specific for skiing.
Some decent tops and a jumper underneath your coat will be fine.
Your outer layers must be waterproof. There’s nothing like a cold damp feeling in your bones to ruin your day. This applies not only to your coat and trousers but also to your gloves.
Cold fingers are a real downer.
Managing your expectations is so important to make sure you have a good time.
Even if you are particularly sporty and don’t have a problem picking up other activities, you may not find skiing the easiest.
Watching others effortlessly glide past you can be disheartening.
Especially if you’ve been trying for a few days.
But being good at skiing takes time, patience and practice.
If you assume you will be flying down difficult runs on your third day, you may be disappointed when in reality, you’re still falling over on every turn.
Accepting that becoming good takes time will make sure your holiday isn’t ruined by shattered dreams.
I would highly recommend attending ski school on your first ski holiday.
The instructors make a huge difference to how you ski, not just on this holiday, but in the future.
Laying down good foundation skills will benefit you for life.
Additionally, ski school can be a blast.
A great instructor will make you forget your nerves and help you to relax into the newness of it all.
Instructors will also help push you while ensuring your safety.
They can take you to runs which you may never have thought you could do and will help guide you down.
They are the font of all knowledge for the mountain.
Going to ski-school will really help you make the most of your holiday. Even if you only do it for the first few days, you will find your time on the mountain much more enjoyable.
Call it a Day
Knowing when you’ve had enough is key to having fun.
Pushing yourself too hard in the first few days will mean that by the end of your holiday, your legs will hurt, your technique will be harder to nail, you’ll be tired, grouchy and frustrated with yourself.
Going back an hour early or staying in bed an hour later may mean you miss time on the slopes but as a beginner, you need quality, not quantity.
If you are skiing in a group and the rest of the group are significantly better than you this is particularly true.
There is no shame in heading back before everyone else.
Remember, others who have already nailed the technique will be exerting much less effort than you.
A slope which takes you 20 turns may take them less than 10.
That’s half the effort. Also, if others are faster, they may wait for you at the bottom of a slope meaning they get a rest.
What to Pack for the Slopes
Taking a small rucksack with some essentials is definitely key to enjoying your time.
While there is definitely a personal element to what you take, here are somethings to consider:
The sun refracts on the snow so rays are coming at you from all angles. Also, as you are higher up than normal, there is less atmosphere to protect you. Sun protection for face, and lips, is a must.
If it’s a changeable day, you’ll want to pack extra hats, t-shirts or even another jumper to make sure you don’t get cold.
These little packets of warmth can be great for keeping the chill at bay. Just snap, shake and feel the heat.
Don’t forget that skiing is a sport so hydration is key. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times so you’re never dehydrated.
Sometimes, all you need is a little pick-me-up. A bar of chocolate, some crisps, a cereal bar, anything that will keep your energy and your mood up.
And finally, the best tip of all…
No matter how good you are, no matter how many times you fall, you should be having fun.
This is your holiday, your choice, your money.
Don’t let the bumps and bruises and cold get you down.
Skiing is an awesome experience so don’t forget to take in the scenery, breathe, relax and have a good time.