With a little forward thinking you can make your next ski and snowboard vacation your best one yet.
1. Pick the right mountain
British Columbia’s interior resorts in Canada, are perfect. Not too big, not too busy, brilliant snow and groomed conditions and no crowds.
Most ski resorts have a beginner or “bunny” slope at the bottom of the mountain, which you’ll need to stay on for quite a while at first. Sun Peaks, SilverStar and Big White are all excellent “beginners mountains” thanks to gentle terrain that includes long, wide slopes that stretch from the top of the mountain down; as well as dedicated ‘never ever’ learning areas.
Once you graduate from the bunny slope and onto the resort’s main trails, this is when you will start to feel exhilarated (and may be a little scared to start with), and begin to feel real movement and take in the views. Take your time to gain confidence.
These resorts have lots of long trails marked “green,” for beginner. As I mentioned, it is better to go to a mountain that isn’t crazy crowded at first. “You don’t want to have that feeling of someone buzzing by you, which can be really disconcerting.”
2. Get guidance on gear
As I discovered, and continue to learn, technology is your friend.
Skiing requires a lot of stuff, and it can get pricey, so your best bet is to borrow from friends and rent what you don’t have the first time, lest you decided it’s not for you. Head to the shop at the resort or a specialty store if there’s one near you to talk to an expert about what you really need, based on where you’re going.
You will definitely need to get some base layers. One big tip: “You shouldn’t wear cotton next to your skin when you’re up in the mountains because it can make you very cold,” instead opt for something way more sweat-wicking and quick-drying.
Renting (rather than buying) your boots and skis (or snowboard) will come with a bonus: they’ll be able to give you equipment specifically for a beginner, which will make it easier to learn. Plus, the technology is evolving year on year, so by renting you are generally guaranteed to be skiing on the latest equipment.
3. Take a lesson
And not just from your ski-obsessed friend or partner!
“If the challenge is too great too early, that’s when you can really get put off the sport.” Like, when your lifelong skier friend or partner says, “You’ll be fine!” and proceeds to take you on a slope that looks terrifying. Sadly, I have both experienced and witnessed this on a few occasions. Learn from the experts who can gauge your confidence meter, ability and skills. Plenty of time to ski with your buddies once you master the basic techniques.
When I first came back to skiing after such a long hiatus, I was struggling with the simplest things ever and I never would have gotten comfortable without a patient, encouraging instructor showing me the slopes. Lessons aren’t cheap, of course, but group lessons are more affordable, and there’s a nice camaraderie in having others around you at your same level.
4. If you can’t take a lesson, learn these things first
If you’re skipping a lesson for whatever reason, I highly recommend having a friend show you how to do these specific things on flat ground and/or the bunny slope before attempting any real runs: proper stance (on skis, for instance, you lean your weight slightly forward, which can feel counter-intuitive), how to get on and off the lift, how to turn (or you’ll be barrelling down the mountain at top speed), and, of course, how to stop (the most important!).
There are loads of YouTube ‘learn to ski’ videos. Be cautious who you follow if you take this online learning route. Here’s one Canadian Snow Pro I’m 100% happy to recommend – Josh Foster, a Level 4 CISA Instructor and Course Conductor. One of the best in the business.
5. Give it three days
Whether you are a ‘never-ever first timer’ or returning to skis for the first time in a while, the first day can be pretty frustrating and tiring. Maybe consider it “hard fun,” and remember a single attempt is not enough time to make a decision on whether you’re a winter sports person or not. “Everyone needs to commit to it for three days,”. “After those three days, you’ll be able to judge whether you like it or not.” If all else fails, head to the après.
Just remember: While the 5-year-olds flying past you may make you feel like you an idiot with legs and arms flailing, they don’t get to take part in après ski fun, AKA hot toddies by the fire or a schnapps in the hot tub —which is still one of my favourite pastimes.