12 Things I Learned My First Month Skiing
A Spoiled Start to Skiing the Greatest Snow on Earth®
These days it’s nearly impossible to get a group of people to agree on anything, but where I grew up, one fact of life was certain: everyone hated winter. There’s not much to look forward to in northern Pennsylvania during the cold months. We have snow, but it’s heavy, wet, and melts to slush by day, only to freeze into an icy mess at night. When winter comes, people tend to hibernate and watch football. Growing up, I didn’t know a single person that identified as a skier or snowboarder, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t make it on my first lift until I was 25.
1. Fit is everything
The first hour of my first ski day was spent running around trying to get all of my gear fitted properly. I assumed my boots would fit, but apparently shoe size and ski boot size aren’t always aligned. And top-of-the-line gear is useless if it doesn’t fit properly. After a day of cold hands, numb feet, and foggy goggles, I learned the hard way that skiing is not one of the sports that allow leeway when it comes to properly fitting gear. Don’t be like me: Check everything before you pull into the parking lot.
2. It’s important to lift your skis as you get off the lift
Getting on the lift for the first time was a little tricky. The only advice I received from my friend was to be careful getting on and off. Thanks, Andrew, super helpful. I made sure to watch closely what the people in front of me did and managed to scoot to the line before the chair came. I realized that if getting on was that hard, getting off was going to be an interesting affair. I had the rest of the ride up to worry about that. Fortunately for me, the person I rode up with warned me to lift my skis at the last second. I fell off the chair, but at least it was in the right direction and just in time.
3. Stopping isn’t so simple
Some lessons in life take only a few seconds to learn—like touching a hot stove. The instant I started heading downhill, I was struck with the sudden, terrifying realization that I had no clue how to stop. In most sports, going fast is the tough part, but gravity takes care of that for you with skiing. Luckily, I had the foresight to bail before I hit anything … or anyone. I repeated this process—going too fast, then falling—until I reached the bottom. I made sure to practice slowing down and stopping before I jumped back on the lift, but I still fall back on my “bail before max momentum” strategy.
4. Start slow, but not too slow
I may have been a bit overly ambitious at the start, but I had no intention of pizza-ing down entire runs. I found that while I wasn’t ready to go fast, going too slow was no fun at all. As I said, skiing is hard, and it took a few falls before I started to get a feel for turning. It’s never fun to faceplant in the snow, but those falls were well worth it. Before the end of the day, I was cruising down easy green runs with the confidence of some of the toddlers whizzing past me.
5. YouTube is your best friend
From learning multiple instruments to fixing the various noises my car makes, I’m a proud self-taught millennial. I’m convinced there’s a tutorial for everything on YouTube. There are a million videos that explain the basics of skiing, but if I hadn’t tried it first, all the advice would have gone over my head. With a little experience under my bib, I binged how-to videos until the basics clicked. It turns out, applying those basics aren’t so easy, but at least I had hours of video knowledge to reference when I did do something right.
6. Observe and apply
You can tell who’s a good skier and who’s not just by watching their form, pole placement, and turns. If you want to be the best, you have to watch the best. Through my Youtube training, I quickly learned how to identify a good skier and attempted (to the best of my ability) to apply their skills. Most of the time, it resulted in a comical fall, but every so often something would feel right. This is a lesson that can be applied to most sports, but it’s critically important in skiing, where simply following intuition often results in a face full of pow.
7. Lean forward
On my third trip, I was given a piece of advice that saved me a ton of future frustration. After a spectacular yard sale that resulted from a gnarly fall, a fellow skier rolled up, handed me one of my runaway skis, and said two words that, not to be overly dramatic, changed my skiing forever. He said, “lean forward.” Nearly all of my falls had one thing in common—I started to sit back when I lost balance. A lot of skiing is counter-intuitive, but leaning downhill to regain control may be the greatest example. It’s scary at first, but leaning forward really is the “big trick.”
8. Make the most out of every trip
If you’re like me and didn’t get a season pass, this lesson is doubly important. Because of the limited season of skiing, maximizing mountain time is vital to progress. I began getting up earlier in order to get to the resort as soon as it opened. I focused on past learnings and tried to immediately apply them to the new day. I have tried to take calculated risks when trying new things. Skiing can be scary, but without a little bit of bravery, you might get stuck in a comfort zone. There’s no time to continue making the same mistakes—you can only get better with a few bruises.
9. Use the restroom before you get on the lift
Nothing can ruin a great run like the runs. I don’t think I’ve ever gone down the mountain faster than when I was learning this lesson. Sh*t before you ship.
10. Different resorts offer different experiences
After playing soccer my entire life, I’ve come to accept that regardless of the pitch, it’s always the same game. This logic doesn’t translate to skiing. My first three days on the mountain were at three different resorts. Each park had a unique feel, style, and culture. Some are much better for beginners, while others cater to more experienced individuals. After feeling discouraged at one, I tried a different resort and found much more success.
11. Mind the gap
So I finally conceded that being a good skier by day three was totally unrealistic, but at least I could look the part. There are select style suggestions I’ve learned that keep me both warm and cool at the same time. After all, looking cool is half of skiing. First, the bib is back. I never thought I could like pants so much, but I have to say, I love my bright-colored, over-pocketed bib. My friends can’t lose me and there are more pockets than I know what to do with. Seriously, why do I need nine huge pockets? Am I missing something? Second, and most importantly, there should be no gap between your helmet and goggles—this is paramount.
12. Remember to have fun
Cliche? You bet. But it took me far too long to learn this simple lesson. As a naturally competitive person, I hate being bad at anything. I grew so concerned with getting good that I was neglecting all the fun. I had to constantly remind myself that everyone I was skiing with has likely had years of practice. And growing up in a lower-middle class family of seven in the middle of nowhere, skiing was never even an option. By my third day, I was already taking the sport for granted. Remembering my roots, putting my progress into perspective, and curbing my competitive side made skiing much more enjoyable. I didn’t have this realization until a guy sitting on the lift next to me said, “The best skier on the mountain is the one having the most fun.” And you know what? He’s right.