Going skiing or snowboarding for the first time can be intimidating, especially as an adult. There’s so much lingo, gear and technique to learn and the learning curve can be overwhelming. But if you do some basic research before your trip, you’ll find it isn’t as scary as you think to try out these winter sports.
While you might feel more comfortable learning on your own or learning from a friend or family member, it’s worth it to take lessons with the pros if you’re a brand-new skier or snowboarder. Professional instructors might be more patient and give clearer instructions than a loved one who already knows how to ski and would rather be on the slopes. Your instructor will teach you proper technique and catch any bad habits before you form them so you have a solid foundation to later practice on your own.
Skiing or snowboarding?
Conventional wisdom is that skiing is easier to learn but harder to master, while snowboarding is harder to learn and easier to advance in. Because of body position and having separate control of your legs, it’s more intuitive and comfortable for many people to pick up the techniques of skiing. Learning to snowboard requires a bigger time commitment, mental toughness and taking more falls. Another deciding factor could be potential for injury. Skiing has a higher risk of knee injury, while snowboarders experience more upper body injuries like sprained shoulders and wrists.
Choose the right mountain
Choose a ski resort with a nice, designated beginners area, perhaps even a beginners-only gondola, and plenty of gentle green slopes. Consider choosing convenient ski in ski out accommodations so you don’t have to lug around your equipment after a tiring day on the slopes.
Learn on powder
Fresh, fluffy snow is the best terrain to learn on for both skiers and snowboarders. It’s softer to fall on, smoother to ride on and makes maneuvers like sharp turns and controlling speed easier. Icy or hard-packed snow can be slippery, uneven and harder to turn on, while slushy, melting snow is “sticky,” creating a vacuum between the snow and your skis or board. Don’t push yourself to ski in rough conditions.
Know mountain etiquette
Just like at weddings, family gatherings and the office, there are unspoken etiquette rules on the ski slopes. Even etiquette authority The Emily Post Institute has weighed in on the topic, outlining the dos and don’ts of skiing etiquette. The most important ones are that the skier in front has the right of way and that it’s polite to stop and help after a fellow skier has fallen.
Study up on symbols
U.S. ski resorts classify slopes by difficulty using a system of colors and shapes. Green circles are easier or beginner, blue squares are intermediate and black diamonds are experts. Double black and triple black diamonds are the most difficult and should be tackled by experts only.
Rent your gear
For your first time skiing or snowboarding, it’s wise to rent your gear. Besides avoiding the high upfront cost, you can also test out different gear to find what suits you instead of being dazzled to drop major dollars on the inappropriate high-performance equipment in the window. If you’re ready to commit to skiing or snowboarding, buy an inexpensive kit that you can use every time so that you don’t have to adjust to new gear each trip.