December 13, 2011

Skiing for Beginners: 5 Tips for a Good Day on the Snow ~ Meredith J. Potter

I recently interviewed for a job as a tutor.  My interviewer was from Arkansas, and recently relocated with his family to beautiful Boulder, Colorado.

He showed interest in my experience as a ski instructor, and half the interview was a relaxed conversation about skiing.

He told me about his first experience skiing at Eldora last winter.  He and his wife took their two kids, all beginners.

His experience was part success, part failure. His kids loved it and wanted to keep going after the lesson. He liked it enough, though was tired and not ready for the strain to his leg muscles. As for his wife, the results were less desirable. She had worn tube socks, rolled them down inside her ski boots, and when she took the boots off at the end of the day had huge blisters. She pretty much wasn’t interested in skiing again.

I knew from his story that beginners need some basic advice for a successful ski experience.

Tip 1: Warm Gear

Make sure you have good warm gear. If it’s spring time your gear may not be as crucial for staying warm. But if it’s mid-winter, windy, or changing weather, you’ll want layers. Wool is great. Go to a ski shop, meet someone who cares about customer service, and get the skinny on layering well for the cold. This will really make a difference. If you have a good friend who knows about layers, ask that friend.

Wear ski socks or an equivalent. Tube socks like what the woman in the story above wore are a given downer to a good ski experience. They aren’t warm and don’t support the foot in terms of warmth or structurally inside a boot. Ski boots can be hard and awkward. When starting out as a beginner, most likely you will rent gear. Most ski shops have good gear for beginners, and if you decide to continue skiing, getting your own gear is a wonderful investment because you’ll get gear that fits you specifically.  But for now, while renting, good ski socks will help you out in creating a warm fit. If your hands and feet tend to get cold, investing in some hot packs is a great idea. I tend to get cold hands and feet and on really cold days need to break often or use hot packs to avoid frostbite.

Tip 2: Nourishing Breakfast

Eat a good breakfast. You’ll want to be warm and have some physical energy while outside in the elements. A simple thing like eating a nourishing breakfast that leaves you feeling satisfied will add to a successful day. My friend Anna, a strong skier, says that if she doesn’t get breakfast it can ruin her day. “I don’t feel I have energy to even make my legs work and I’m in a horrible mood. I look sloppy.” Get your breakfast.

Tip 3: Right Gear

When renting equipment, make sure it feels okay.  If it feels really uncomfortable, chances are there’s something that could fit a little better.  No fit will be perfect, especially with rentals, because so many feet have gone in those things. But renting gear is a great option for beginners, and speaking up if your boots feel less than okay will make a difference in your experience. Have a little faith that the people fitting your gear know what they are doing, while speaking up if something doesn’t feel like it works for you.

Tip 4: Take a Lesson

Take a lesson or learn from a friend who instructs. Ski instructors are trained to lead beginners into good habits from the get go, and away from habits that will not be useful in the long run. With a few lessons from trained instructors, you will get some good tips on how to balance, and how to use your body to get the most from skiing. While you may be able to learn on your own or with a good friend, you may find that a lesson or two can really jumpstart your experience on the slopes. If you really don’t want to jump in on a lesson because it’s embarrassing or because you’d rather strike out on your own, I suggest taking a lesson or two after you get a feel for how to move around on your skis. It’ll help with alignment, balance, and forming habits to help your skiing in the long run.

Tip 5: Keep Your Expectations in Check.

Keep your expectations low. There’s nothing worse than anticipating the best date with a new romance and being let down. There’s nothing more disappointing than planning to soar down the slopes and finding yourself face-planted on the bunny slopes. If you plan on taking some time to build up your skill set, there will be a greater likelihood that you will gradually improve and see the small accomplishments as great steps forward. They are in skiing.

It’s like relationships with family. When my younger brother started returning my calls and text messages it was hugely rewarding. With skiing, it’s similar. Small improvements are huge steps forward, as they are building blocks for something greater, an enjoyment of snowsports that will continue building and evolving if you decide to stick with it.

Break often on those tired days and challenge yourself when feeling inspired and energized. This can be one of the toughest things to learn. I pushed myself a little too much last winter and felt burnout halfway through the season. Burnout isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a reminder to come back to a more balanced place. Listen to cues to take it easy and have fun going beyond perceived limits when it feels right.




Meredith J. Potter lives in Boulder, Colorado. She enjoys biking, yoga, art, the outdoors, and exploring her environment. She works on supporting local agriculture, movement toward a healthier life for the planet, and joyful celebration of life! A background in education and yoga inform her perspectives and lifestyle. She is an alpine ski instructor, committed to spreading the enjoyment of winter time snow sports.





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