Today I want to share with you my personal absolute beginner’s guide to skiing, written as I would have wanted to read it a few weeks ago before I embarked on my first ever winter holiday and ski experience as I learned to ski in the French Alps.
This post is for you if:
You’ve never considered skiing before. You choose hot destinations every time you dream about holidays. You’re not keen on the cold. You don’t understand how going up and down a mountain could be fun. Where’s the relaxation and holiday fun in being strapped up in a gazillion layers whilst plummeting at speed down a big hill?
These were exactly my thoughts (amongst many more manic questions) about a ski holiday before January this year.
If there were any pennies in my bank account I’d be anywhere but in a snowy destination; preferably sunning on a beach or exploring the cultural delights of a city.
All that has changed, I am now a fully paid-up member of the ski appreciation society. I like snow. I enjoy wrapping up in layers and thermals. I enjoy the sensation of swooshing along the snow with skis strapped to my feet. I enjoy the challenge. I love the mountains. The fresh air is exhilarating.
But before I even set foot on a plane I besieged my mind with questions and worry.
I quite literally had NO IDEA what to expect. At all. Nothing. I was asking probably the most basic of questions, but if you have never been on a holiday like this before nor had the experience of skiing how can your brain possibly fathom what it will be like.
Skiing first timer questions
What shoes do I need to wear? Do I wear snow boots everywhere outside? Do I need indoor shoes for the hotel? Is there a dress code for footwear? Do we wear ‘fashion’ shoes at any point? Perhaps in evening outs?
How many layers do I wear? Does it get warm skiing? But then if it’s snowing and high in the mountains maybe I’ll freeze?
How do I take a camera? Do I take a rucksack? Where do I put the rucksack? Is it safe to ski with rucksack? Or is there a place to put the rucksack? How can I take photos/video when skiing without a GoPro? Will be cameras get wrecked?
Where do I go to the toilet? Do I hold on? Do I go back to the hotel? Will I be near any toilets on the mountain? How does that work?
How far is the baby slope from the hotel? Is it near? Do I carry equipment? Do I wear equipment? How do we get around?
How do I get into ski lifts? What if I try to get off and it keeps moving? What if I am unable to get on the ski lift?
How do I stop when skiing? What if I can’t stop? Do I crash into something? What’s at the bottom? What does it look like? Are there crash barriers? What if there are too many people?
Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Skiing
Snow boots are rad
We arrived pretty much in the middle of a blizzard. My new snow boots (which I found for a steal in the Mountain Warehouse sale) kept my feet warm and dry, plus they stopped me from skidding all over the place.
Be prepared for the mountain roads
The journey to your resort is likely to be up some rather twisty-turny mountain roads. If you have a sensitive disposition (like myself) pop some happy tunes onto your iphone and try to focus your gaze towards the actual mountain rather than the sheer drop to the other side of the vehicle.
It is worth having some ‘indoor’ shoes
I had a plain pair of brown boots which I wore around the hotel such as going to meal times or sitting in the bar in the evening. If there’s a spa or pool at your hotel you might want to take flipflops for that.
Just thermals and a layer
It does get warm when skiing. I wore a set of thermals or a base layer, with a simple jumper, followed by ski jacket and trousers. (I was in the Alps though, you might need more if you’re in an even colder resort).
I became dehydrated rather quickly so do take a small bottle of water with you when you go up the mountain.
Sunglasses AND goggles
Depending on the weather you might need either or both. It is bright and potentially windy and wet. I preferred goggles.
Use at least a factor 30 on your face. Nobody wants sunburn or enough wrinkles to make you look like a leather sofa at the age of 50.
There are no toilet facilities up the actual mountains unless you’re heading to a slope that has a mountain bar. But you’ll be getting rather sweaty from the skiing anyway that you probably won’t need to go.
GoPro’s or hardy adventure cameras are probably your safest bet. But I did take my Canon S120 snappy snap camera out and kept it in the pocket of my ski jacket. It was fine. That said I wasn’t exactly adventure skiing.
Ski Equipment is HEAVY!
Be prepared to carry heavy and cumbersome ski equipment. Your ski boots feel like you have ton-weights strapped to the bottom of your feet. You will then be carrying your two skis plus the poles. They’re kind of awkward. And especially hard to manage when getting on and off a bus and theres’s a blizzard outside and the ground is slippery and there are silly people stood in front of the exit refusing to move out of the way. So yeah…
Choosing ski boots wisely
We hired our ski boots from the local Intersport. They had an expert fitter there but ski boots do vary in fit so don’t settle on the first pair they give you to try. I think by the 4th pair I finally had some that didn’t bend my toes or cut off the circulation in my calves.
Always wear a helmet
That should be self-explanatory. Don’t risk your head!
Borrow borrow borrow!
Ski-wear can get expensive. Where possible try to borrow your ski clothes from a friend for your first go at skiing.
Pistes, slopes, runs and ski lifts
There are a number of different pistes and ski lifts around the resort. Depending on the level you ski at and weather conditions you might have to get a short bus journey to the bottom of the slope you need. Otherwise you will walk.
The ski lifts vary but there are plenty of people around to help. Most ski resorts are pretty safety conscious.
I highly recommend getting ski lessons. I had two sessions with Evolution 2 in Tignes. Their instructors are professional, knowledgeable and will help you get confident on skis.
Alternatively, I would recommend doing a set of 5 lessons at a local ski slope in your home country before going out there. My Dad lives near the Milton Keynes SnoZone which is recommended and I’ve been recently looking into trying out the Tamworth SnowDome. I think those initial lessons would help get you used to the sensation of wearing skis and all the gear, plus getting to grips with the basic moves – snow plough, stopping and turns.
I imagine each resort is unique so I can only comment on Tignes so far. But they tend to be villages built into the mountains, usually in a bit of a valley or plateau with mountains all around. We were able to use a lift to get up to the main bit of our village of Val Claret (Tignes is made up of several villages) where there were several shops, a small supermarket, some bars and restaurants plus more accommodation.
It’s worth researching where your accommodation is in proximity to slopes and lifts along with local amenities.
Stretching is your friend!
You will undoubtedly ache after a session of skiing so I’d recommend having a good long stretch to stop the muscles tightening too dramatically. I was lucky that our hotel had a special pool with jacuzzi’s and jets designed to ease the body and relax. It was bliss!
I stocked up on mini KitKats, cereal bars and Ritz biscuits so that if I had a lull in energy I had a quick pick me up. Chocolate is also good if you suffer with altitude sickness. Just pop a couple of bars in your ski jacket or rucksack and you’re sorted.
An average day
To start with an average day could be breakfast, a few hours of skiing, lunch, relaxation at the hotel pool and spa, dinner.
When feeling more confident you might want to ski in the afternoon as well followed by an apres ski (after skiing drinks) session.
If you have the time and opportunity before your trip it is worth strengthening up your thigh and your core muscles. Just a decent level of fitness will hold you in good stead.
Don’t give up!
It can be a tad scary at first but persevere. Because once you get the hang of it you’ll have the greatest thrill!
I spent a few days learning to ski with Mark Warner Holidays, they offer beginner’s ski holidays and it’s always worth keeping an eye on their late deals page if you’ve yet to book your ski trip this season.
7 nights departing on 17 April at Chalet Hotel Ecrin de Val Claret in Tignes costs from £549 per adult and £314 per child and includes flights, resort transfers, accommodation, breakfast, afternoon tea and three course dinner with wine, lift passes collection service and free evening childcare.
You can read the diary account of my experience on Rosalilium. Hope you found my beginner’s guide to skiing helpful!
I was a guest of Mark Warner Holidays. As always, thoughts, words and opinions are my own.
Image credit: featured image by Emily Luxton