Skiing for the first time can feel extremely nerve-wracking. In fact, all skiers start as beginners, legs shaking, falling over sideways, and swerving left and right trying not to lose your balance or crash into anything. Let’s face it: there’s no hidden secret to skiing for beginners, besides just…doing it.
Whether it’s your first time on the slopes or you’re dusting off your skis for the first time in years, these tips for beginner skiers will help you get on your feet and flying down the slopes in no time!
Skiing for Beginners: Top Tips for First-Time Skiers
1. Pack warm and waterproof clothing
The challenge begins before you even strap into your skis…with your clothes! It’s incredibly important to pack thick, waterproof outerwear (pants and a coat), as well as thermal base layers and wool socks for underneath your coats. The outerwear will keep water and snow out, while the thermal layer will wick sweat and keep you extra warm.
For outerwear, we strongly recommend purchasing high quality outdoor wear from brands like Columbia, Burton, or Helly Hansen. A good ski set is waterproof and insulated, with lots of pockets to put your important stuff.
Thermal wear comes in lots of fabrics and varieties, but there is no better sweat-wicking cloth than Merino wool. Warm and dry yet lightweight and cozy, Merino wool base layers are the perfect pair for thick outerwear.
For more information on what to pack (plus a free downloadable version!), check out our complete ski trip packing list:
2. Wear goggles & a helmet
Not only do you need adequate clothing, but goggles and a helmet are a must for safety and protection. Goggles will help you keep flying snow out of your eyes, which can be especially problematic on snowy days or when there’s artificial snow being blown. Additionally, many sets of ski goggles are UV resistant as well, protecting your eyes from the harsh rays of the sun.
Additionally, a helmet is an important piece of gear to wear on the slopes. While you can purchase your own helmet, many ski resorts do have them for rent along with their other gear. Be sure to do your own research to make sure you have a helmet available!
3. Choose a beginner-friendly ski resort
While most ski resorts do have options for beginners, not all are created equal when it comes to first-time skiers. The good news is you can find beginner-friendly ski resorts practically all around the world.
There are lots of specific characteristics of a ski resort that can contribute to a good learning environment for less experienced skiers. While not comprehensive, a beginner-friendly ski resort will have the following characteristics at a minimum:
- Gear rentals
- Ski lessons (group or private)
- Bunny hills and beginner-friendly “green” trails
More on each of these later, but for now, you can start your research with these items in mind to choose a destination that accommodates first-time skiers.
4. Rent your larger equipment
You may be tempted to drop a ton of money on your own skis and boots, but we’d recommend holding off on this until you’ve got some experience under your belt. Not only is transporting ski equipment incredibly difficult, but it’s also very expensive.
Instead of buying skis, you can usually rent them from any ski resort for a reasonable fee. Renting allows you to get a feel for skis and get fit advice from an expert. Employees at basically every ski resort can take your measurements and make sure you’re fully outfitted for your first time out in the snow.
Once you’re more experienced, you can consider buying your own skis, but for your first few time, we recommend saving yourself some money and renting everything.
5. Take an introductory lesson
Taking a group or individual ski lesson is a great way to learn the basics of skiing in a supportive, hands-on way. Ski instructors are trained to teach absolute beginners and will help you learn the motions and techniques needed to become a more seasoned skier.
Luckily, most ski resorts offer lessons that range from first-time skiers to advanced. If you’ve never been skiing before or it’s been several years, a group lesson is a fantastic, cost-effective way to learn the ropes.
We recommend looking for resorts that offer a few different levels of classes, and that separate adults and children in group lessons. If you’ve got a few days at the resort, it could also be a good idea to take a few classes to sharpen your skills and get expert help with your technique.
6. Forget the poles (for now)
You’ve probably seen photos of skiers barreling down slopes with skiing poles in hand. However, for your first few times out in the slopes, you probably won’t need poles (and your instructor(s) will probably tell you to leave them behind).
Why? Because they’ll most likely get in your way as you’re learning.
Of course, take the recommendation of your ski instructor or the gear rental folks, but most beginner lessons will advise you to leave the poles behind.
7. Opt for an all-in-one package
Pro tip: if you’re new to snow sports, you can often save big on the costs of skiing for beginners. For first-time skiers, many resorts offer packages at a pretty hefty discount that include ski rentals, lessons, and lift tickets.
Often, these packages cost even less if you buy multiple days in a row. Sometimes, these discounts can constitute savings of 25-50% off the full price of rentals, lift tickets, and lessons all-in. If you’re planning a skiing weekend getaway, do some research to see if your resort offers a discount for newbies.
8. Bend your knees
It can feel natural to get nervous and stiff up or lock your knees when you’re skiing for the first time. However, this will usually just cause you to lose your balance!
Instead, as you’re skiing down the slopes, keep your knees bent and flexible so you can go over bumps and around curves with more fluidity and ease. The more you allow your knees to bend and move, the easier it will be to navigate through the snow (and the less likely you’ll be to go out of control or fall!).
9. Embrace the “pizza” formation
When you take your lessons, you’ll probably learn the “pizza” formation of aligning your skis. Expert skiers you see on TV or out on the slopes will have their skis parallel to each other, but when you’re first starting out, you’ll want to keep your toes slightly pointed inward to make sure you aren’t going too fast or skiing out of control.
The pizza formation is not only the way to control your speed, but it’s also a way to stop completely. Learning how to stop on your skis is an essential skill that you should truly aim to master, as stopping gives you the ultimate level of control over your velocity and movements. Practicing and owning the pizza formation, both while moving and when stopping, is an important skill that you’ll use throughout your skiing journey.
10. Look up, not down
This one might seem self-explanatory, but when you’re out on the ski trails, it can be easy to break. While you’re skiing down the slopes, be sure to keep your eyes ahead of you, NOT on your feet. Keep your gaze centered down the hill to your destination and keep your eyes ahead, otherwise you could easily lose your balance or run into someone in front of you.
Looking ahead is not only helpful for balance, but it’s also necessary for your safety and protection.
11. Start out on smooth, easy slopes
After you’ve got a few runs under your belt, you probably feel ready for the double black diamond trails…right? Probably not.
Our suggestion is to stick to easy trails (green trails and training areas) for the first several times you’re skiing, so you can practice proper techniques like turning and stopping. The more you practice on easy trails, the less you’ll have to worry about things like jumps, drops, and obstacles in your way. It’s safer to stick to easier trails when you’re starting out.
Once you feel totally confident in your skills (over several days of skiing), you can try some of the next-level blue trails. Don’t worry, they can wait for you!
12. Don’t be afraid of falling
Spoiler alert: you’re undoubtedly going to fall when you’re learning how to ski. It’s inevitable. You might fall on your side, or faceplant, or get your legs tangled in all kinds of impossible ways. You might not even know how you fell. However, what’s most important is that you pick yourself up and remain confident as you continue to learn and practice your skills.
Why? Because everyone, everyone falls when they’re learning to ski. So, don’t fear it. Embrace it.
13. Take lots of breaks & hydrate often
It has been 4 hours, you’ve been zipping down the slopes like a pro…and you’re exhausted. Don’t forget to take breaks to rest and, most importantly, continue to hydrate. Because it’s cold and snowy, it can be easy to forget to take breaks and drink water, but this is an absolute must, especially because skiing is such a workout!
When we go skiing, we always bring a Hydro Flask with ice water inside so we always have access to ice cold, clean water between ski runs. However you choose to handle your breaks, be sure to take them often and with plenty of water on the side!
14. Learn to control your speed
When you’re learning to ski, going fast is easy…but going slowly is not. In addition to flying down the slopes at top speed, make time to practice control and speed regulation. Your instructors should teach you some strategies for this, like skiing in curves and using the “pizza” formation, but employing these skills on the big slopes is really the only way to improve your control on the trails.
Getting a feel for different speeds and mechanisms for control is a critical part of any skier’s journey, and it’s good to keep those skills sharp as you transition from a novice to a more experienced skier.
15. Practice makes perfect (so just keep doing it!)
You’re going to fall, you’re going to get tired, and you’re going to get snow down your pants. We’ve all been there. But one of the best things about skiing is that there’s always something new to learn, practice, and perfect.
No matter what level of skier you are, we challenge you to get out there and learn new skills. Take the time to practice, practice, practice. And continue to enjoy the journey and thrill of our favorite winter sport. There are tons of resources on skiing for beginners (including on this site!), but the only way to truly learn is by getting out there, strapping in your skis, and hitting the trails.
We’ll see you out there on the slopes this winter!
Additional Skiing Resources
What to Pack for a Ski Trip
- Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
- Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
- Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.
Resources for Skiing Beginners
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