How to Ski? Tips for Beginner Skiers
Learning to ski can seem like an intimidating endeavor at first, but we can assure you – it isn’t as tough as you may think and it is definitely worth the effort. It is one of those sports enjoyed by people of all abilities and ages, so whenever you are ready to start, you will fit right in.
While the technology and techniques in the elite levels of skiing are constantly evolving, the basics are well established. Let us share our top tips for your first few days on the slopes!
The Right Equipment & Clothing
If you are headed out for the first few times and don’t have all the right equipment – don’t worry. You can rent skis, poles and boots at most resorts. If you are looking at buying your first setup for yourself be sure to check out some tips for the best ski poles, ski boots and all-mountain skis for beginners.
TIP: Take time to make sure your boots (rented or owned) are comfortable and be sure to let the rental shop know that you are a beginner and would prefer both boots and skis with relatively soft flex.
Wondering what to wear for skiing? You can even rent snow pants at some resorts! Once again don’t worry if you don’t have a full set of fancy ski clothes – but do dress in layers to make sure you are warm enough and don’t skip out on a ski jacket even if it is a sunny day.
Do You Need a Ski Instructor?
It is worth considering. While you may be able to learn on your own, nothing will help you pick up the skills you need faster than working with a trained professional. Whether you opt for a group lesson or two to start you off or prefer a whole week of private lessons it is often a great way to learn the ropes. That being said, many people learn to ski well without formal lessons – so although we recommend it, you definitely don’t have to!
TIP: Even if you have been skiing for a few years, one or two intermediate lessons can really help you improve your technique and become a better skier!
Getting Your Skis On
First things first! It will be easiest to get your skis on if you start on a flatter part of the slope. You will want to place your skis perpendicular to the hill so that they don’t glide off without you. At the back of the bindings, there will be a lever – this lever needs to be pushed down towards the ski in order to open the binding. You can push the lever down using the tip of your ski pole.
Once both bindings are open, check that no snow is packed onto the bottom of your boots. Use your poles to help you balance while you slide the toe of your boot into the binding then firmly press your heel down. Your heel will click down into place and the binding will automatically close around your boot.
For a simple step by step tutorial of how to put on and off your boots and bindings:
Video Source: How to Put on Skis – REI
TIP: Some ski bindings can be stiff, so you may need to press your heel down with some force to close the binding.
Bend Your Knees
Whether it is your first day on skis or you’ve already got the hang of the basics – the one piece of advice that will always help you is to bend your knees. And once you feel like they are bent, bend them a little more.
Keeping your knees bent automatically brings your body into a position where you will have more control over your skis. Bent knees are essential to help absorb any bumps you may ski over.
Gaze & Pole Position
As tempting as it is, try not to watch your ski tips. You need to look in the direction you want to go and knee your gaze 10-20m in front of you. Your arms should be in front of you with your elbows at a roughly 75° angle.
TIP: You should be able to see your hands in your peripheral vision while skiing, if you can’t see them then they are too far back or too far out to the sides.
Here are some more checkpoints about body position – it can help to check in with yourself periodically to see whether you should make any changes: The right skiing technique: the perfect body posture – CheckYeti Blog
How to Stop
Arguably the most important skill to master! Stopping or braking on skis is known as a ‘snow plough’. The skis are positioned with the tips close together and the backs of the skis pushed further apart to form a V (like a piece of pizza if you will). Your knees need to stay bent as you press both skis outwards. Constant outward pressure helps make sure that your skis’ tips don’t collide and cause you to crash.
Check out this video lesson of how to snow plough:
Video Source: Beginner Ski Lesson #1.3 – The Snow Plough
TIP: You should feel the pressure along the full length of your inner foot when snow ploughing.
The First Turns
Once you have mastered the snow plough, your first few turns will come easily. Simply apply more pressure to one ski than the other to gently turn in the opposite direction.
Let’s take a look at snow plough turns in practice:
Video Source: Beginner Ski Lesson #1.4 – Snow Plough Turns
TIP: This is great practice! Don’t hesitate to play with this skill a bit until you get a good feeling for how your skis react. How much pressure to you need to turn? Try to make some big wide turns and some narrower turns – you will get a feeling for how to steer your skis quickly.
Everyone gets tired legs, especially when you are learning. Know that it’s normal to feel your quads burning and tiring out. Skiing requires a position most of us aren’t used to: keeping those bent knees is important but it is also hard work and your ski boots probably make walking feel much more tiring than usual as well.
Take a break when you need it.
TIP: Try to stand as relaxed as possible by letting yourself lean into your ski boots. A good skier’s position is feels effortless – but this will take some practice!
Practice Makes Perfect
Try to be patient. Most people don’t learn to ski well in one weekend, so don’t put yourself under pressure or expect to be ripping down advanced runs on your second trip out.
That being said, it is very realistic to master the basics in a few weekends and as soon as you are cruising down those groomers you’ll be glad you took the time to learn.
It‘s going to happen, and the truth is, you will learn faster if you aren’t afraid of a few small tumbles and see falling as part of the learning process.
The small tumbles that you will take are nothing like the spectacular high-speed crashes you may have seen on television. For the most part, a fall here or there is something to laugh off and learn from.
TIP: If you find yourself falling backwards a lot, be aware of your wrists – they are the most fragile joint that is commonly injured when falling back. Your butt, on the other hand, is well designed to handle the impact. Bending your knees will also help bring your balance point forwards and help you avoid landing on your behind.
Getting Up Again
If you take a tumble, you will need to sort out your skis poles quickly so you can get back on your feet. If you find yourself in a tangle, try laying on your back so that you can get both of your skis free and parallel again. To stand up again you will need to make sure your skis are perpendicular to the slope so that your skis don’t slide away before you are ready.
Here is a great play by play of how to get up after a crash and how to use your poles to help:
Video Source: How To Ski Tips – Standing Up After A Crash (Beginners Lesson)
TIP: If you happen to lose one or both of your skis – stay cool. Collect your skis, open the bindings and always put your downhill ski on first.
The Ski Lift
Many beginner skiers find that one of the most intimidating ‘firsts’ is getting on and off the ski lift for the first time. Let us assure you, once you’ve done it a few times you won’t even think twice about it. It’s best to hold your ski poles in one hand so that you can have one hand free.
To get on the chair lift, stand in position as indicated by the lift assistant and simply allow the chair to scoop you up and scoot yourself back. You won’t need to do anything complicated: in fact, it is much easier if you don’t try to help yourself onto the lift in some way.
To get off the lift you will need to raise the safety bar shortly before you approach the end. Scoot slightly forwards toward the edge of the chair and allow your skis to hang parallel in front of you. The chair lift is designed to pass close enough to the exit ramp that your skis will touch the snow. As soon as your skis have touched down, gently lean forward and press up with your legs so that you are standing on your skis and allow yourself to glide away.
The exit ramp is always a small downhill slope so you won’t need to push off or get out of the way quickly.
For some professional tips on how to practice standing up from the chair lift:
Video Source: How to Get Off the Chairlift: A Beginner’s Guide | PSIA-AASI
TIP: you don’t need to stand up straight when getting off the lift, keeping your knees bent and leaning slightly forward will serve you best!
TIP: If you are really nervous, take a moment to watch some other skiers getting on the lift before you head over yourself.
Skiing is a lifelong sport so we hope you enjoy learning and are looking forward to the many good times you may have on the hill over the years to come!
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