No matter how old you are, your first day on skis is going to be challenging. For some, the first day is such a struggle that they never try skiing again. This is unfortunate, because it’s one of the most exhilarating sports on the planet. There’re very few things better than a long ski day and a tall beer to finish it off.
But you’ll never experience this if your first experience on skis turns you away at the door. To help ease the pain of day one, here are a few tips from a guy who learned how to ski in his late twenties.
First thing: if you are renting gear, rent it the night before. Last year I saw a video of a ski patroller friend of mine using a chainsaw while on skis (!). He skied down to a fallen tree with the saw on his shoulder, hefted the saw, started it, cut the tree, then turned the saw off and skied away with the saw on his shoulder again.
This got me thinking about one of the most important ski skills that is often overlooked: being comfortable doing stuff with skis on your feet. So, the night before you head out for your first day on the hill, get your gear and a glass of wine and become a master of being on skis.
1. Get used to being in ski boots. Put your boots on and walk around in them. Sit down and stand up in them. Walk up and down stairs in them. Get used to how the boots respond when you move around in them. They’re awkward footwear, but the most incredible skiers I know can run around in their ski boots as naturally as they can in sneakers.
Being a competent ski boot walker will save you a ton of headache when you’re scrambling around the parking lot or trying to get hot chocolate for the kids at lunch. It might also save you from an embarrassing spill or two.
2. Practice clicking into and out of your ski bindings. No matter how good you get at skiing, you’ll be snapping your skis on and taking them off every time you go skiing, and you may have to do this on uneven terrain, so it’s important that this skill is second nature.
Also, if you’re taking ski lessons, you’re paying for that time. The less time it takes you to get your skis back on and recover from a fall, the more value you’re getting out of your ski lesson money. Don’t pay your ski instructor to teach you something you can learn in the comfort of your living room.
3. Get comfortable having skis on your feet. It’s not natural to have big sticks attached to your feet, so the more time you have on skis, the better. Practice sitting down or laying down on one hip and getting up with your skis on. Cross and uncross your skis. Stand on one foot with your skis on. When you start skiing, and even once you’re an expert, you’re going to fall. Being able to get back on your feet quickly is essential to maximizing the value of your time on the snow.
Obviously, you can’t perfect everything this way, but you can get a sense of how it feels to have a proper skiing stance. While standing on your skis, place your feet about hip width apart with your skis pointed straight ahead. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward until your chin is out past your toes, and your shins press against the front of your ski boots.
Make a mental note of how this feels, especially how your feet and calves feel in your ski boots when you’re in this stance. This will help you recognize by sensation when you’re in a good skiing stance once you’re on the snow.
Learning to ski—especially as an adult—can be challenging. The struggle is well worth it, but there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be. So boot up and click in before game time to give yourself an edge!
Comment below with your questions for me, or your best advice for novice skiers!