Are you looking to learn to ski? I personally learned to ski as an adult in my mid-twenties and found the entire sport and details a bit overwhelming at first. After a failed attempt in learning to snowboard at Park City in 2019, I fell in love with the vibe on the mountain and knew I wanted to learn to ski! I quickly discovered it would be a decent learning curve and while skiing brings me so much joy, it also frequently humbles me…
So I’ve gathered the top tips that I’ve learned over the past two years that I’ve been learning to ski to help inspire you to pick up this amazing sport and hopefully make you feel more confident in approaching this activity.
Youtube Videos: I recommend watching a few Youtube videos on how to put on ski boots and get into your skis. Wait to learn the rest during your lesson!
Lessons: Take group lessons! They are much more affordable than a private lesson, but if you can afford private lessons you can make amazing progress in 1-2 lessons! Make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes prior so you can get situated on the mountain, find your way around, and avoid feeling rushed so you can be in a good mental state for your lesson.
Beginner Lift Ticket: Many mountains have a discounted beginner lift ticket that provides access to 1-2 lifts to the bunny and or green slopes. I highly recommend using this discounted price to save some money before committing to a full-priced lift ticket! Depending on the resort, the lift ticket may or may not be included in the class cost – typically it is a separate fee.
Rentals: You can typically rent skis, boots, poles, and a helmet. In some stores, you can rent ski goggles and clothes, but it varies. Typically renting at the resort will be more expensive, so if you are trying to save some money I recommend picking up your rentals farther away from the resort (often in the city such as Salt Lake City, Denver, San Francisco, etc).
Gear: I recommend borrowing gear from a friend, renting, or thrifting ski clothes your first time! Skiing and snowboarding gear can quickly add up on the price, so I recommend getting gear at a more adorable price before you know if you like the sport! When I attempted to learn how to snowboard, I had some friends who kindly let me borrow their gear before making the larger financial commitment.
Best Deals on Gear?: The springtime at the end of the ski season is when I see an abundant amount of deals on ski gear and clothing! Plus, many resorts often have great deals to save on lodging or other ski packages available.
Ski Socks: You’ll want THIN ski socks and not thick socks to stay warm. I personally love my Smartwool ski socks! More of my favorite ski gear is listed towards the bottom of this post!
MIPS Helmets: You’ll want to get a MIPS helmet:
- The MIPS feature is the technology added to helmets to help reduce and prevent brain damage in case of a fall.
- Common ski helmet brands include: Smith, POC, and Bolle
- I personally thrifted my MIPS Smith helmet (here’s a similar one) via Facebook Marketplace, which is a great way to save money on your gear! I went to an outdoor store like REI or Backcountry to try on helmets to see what my helmet size should be, then searched for that item online!
- Notice the holes on some helmets? This is a great feature to allow your head to breathe when skiing on those warmer days! You can toggle this open or closed depending on the temperature.
Get Goggles with Sunny/Cloudy Lenses: The first year I went skiing, I got a pair of ski goggles with one non-adjustable lens best used for sunny or bluebird conditions. I quickly learned on cloudy days, that I needed different lenses. I personally love my Blenders Ski Goggles, since they offer many pairs that come with a Bright and Low Light lens. The low-light lenses are also great for night skiing!
Easiest Way Down: Start with the “easiest way down” on greens or blues and repeat that run until you feel comfortable and slowly work your way up to other runs. I also recommend finding runs that combine a mix of green/blue runs so you only have to commit to a smaller section that is more advanced.
Blue Runs: Every resort is different and the advancement from greens to blues can vary greatly. I recommend asking someone who works at the resort or a mountain host (listed below) which are the easier runs to start with and gain more insight into a mountain that you may not be familiar with.
Mountain Hosts: I highly recommend finding a mountain host (if the resort has them) or ask an instructor for the runs they recommend depending on your ski level! They know the mountain very well and can provide insight into the runs before you go down them.
Stay Hydrated: it’s very easy to forget to drink water on the mountain, so I like to carry my collapsible water bottle in my ski jacket and fill it up at any water fountain.
Ski Pass: Keep your ski pass by itself in a separate pocket. Newer/modern jackets often have a “pass pocket” built-in.
Choosing your ski pass: I recommend trying out skiing before committing to a full pass. Once you’ve decided you want to commit to a full pass and/or plan to ski enough days to pay for it, make sure to purchase your pass by the deadline (typically early December). Essentially there are 2 main passes – the Ikon Pass and the Epic Pass, where your location has a strong impact on which one you purchase! If you plan to visit Utah, I recommend the Ikon Pass and if you plan to visit more of Colorado it’s a decent split of both Epic and Ikon!
Ski Only Resorts: Note that Utah is home to 2/3 ski only resorts remaining in the USA (both on the Ikon Pass): Deer Valley, Alta, and Mad River Glen is the third ski only resort located in Vermont.
Skiing vs Snowboarding: The phrase you’ll often hear is “Skiing is easy to learn, harder to master. Snowboarding is harder to learn, and easier to master’. I can confirm this as someone who definitely struggled the first two days of snowboarding and then went down a green without falling when I learned to ski.
Looking to try snowboarding? I highly recommend butt pads and/wrist guards, as those two injuries are the most common! I personally tried snowboarding in 2019 and seriously injured my tailbone, so I always recommend taking the necessary precautions!
The Number of Days Skiing: I recommend 3 days in a row max for your first time skiing/snowboarding, because it can be tiring and you’ll be working totally different muscles than what you are used to. It’s important to relax and recover in between longer ski trips! I highly recommend choosing lodging with a hot tub to relax and recover after a fun day on the mountain!
Phone Charger: I recommend packing a portable phone charger because your phone will often die at a faster rate in the cold and you’ll want to stay safe and stay in touch with your friends/family.
Take Progress Videos: I highly recommend taking progress videos to see how you can improve your form and to document the amazing progress you’re about to make!
Ikon Pass Benefits & Discounts: If you are going with a friend that has a ski pass, check to see if they have a friends and family discount that you can leverage or vice versa. The Ikon Pass offers 25% lift tickets for friends and family members by going up to the lift ticket window. This is a great way to save money if someone in your group does not have an annual ski pass.
A few of my favorite tips that helped me improve my skiing:
- “Make change”: this is referring to keeping your shin forward in your ski boot while pretending you have a $100 bill in between your shin and your boot. You’ll want to keep that bill there instead of leaning back.
- Keep your upper body facing downhill and focus on turning your lower body
- Don’t stop at the top of a hill, keep your momentum going
A few of my favorite and frequently used ski products and gear include:
- MIPS Smith Helmet
- Blenders Ski Goggles – This link gives you $20 off!
- Ski Outfit from Nils and Dope Snow
- Kari Traa Base Layers: Use code Halesyah25 for 25% off a full-priced item!
- Smartwool Ski Socks
- Collapsible Water Bottle
- Portable Phone Charger
- Mittens / Gloves
- Hand Warmers
- Toe Warmers
I hope these tips inspire you to get out on the mountain, help you feel more confident on your first few days, and get you stoked for learning a new sport!