Learning to ski as an adult isn’t easy. It’s even harder if you’re on the wrong side of 35 and come with a reputation of being a disaster on a sports field for almost just as long. I’m still not sure why I let myself get caught up in the spirit of a white Christmas in 2010, and found myself trying on skis and boots at a local ski school the next day.
One would think a week’s ski course should be enough to achieve a natural, confident posture on the slopes. Not true. In the years following, Coenie and I (and later M) brought many a ski lift to a standstill. And left a few swearing victims in the wake of a disastrous turn. We could have done with some skiing tips for beginners.
After 7 years, I still feel like a beginner skier. Even though I sort of found a natural rhythm on an easy blue slope, I remain notoriously slow. So slow that M (who has turned into a “fast tiger” thanks to kindergarten and school ski weeks) understandably gets impatient if he must wait 5 minutes for me to catch up. The result is that I’ve been cast out to ski on my own. Surprisingly, it is quite a relief to be rid of the pressure to keep up.
My 10 skiing tips for beginners
1. There is a reason why ski resorts have easy practice slopes. That’s why the first of my skiing tips for beginners is to head straight to these before attempting any other slopes. Chances are that you won’t be laughed at too openly when surrounded by other beginners. Only leave to try more advanced slopes once you manage to flawlessly use the lift and get down the practice slope without falling once.
2. Familiarize yourself with the colour coding of the slopes BEFORE you choose a resort. In Austria, BLUE is EASY, red is intermediate and black is DIFFICULT. There is no use in finding yourself on a mountain with only one blue slope if you haven’t skied before. Here are some great options for beginner ski holidays.
3. Take a lesson instead of relying on more experienced relatives or friends to teach you the basics. The latter may lead to snow fights, and not the fun kind. Qualified instructors are much more capable of dealing with your inadequacies.
4. Don’t sleep on a chair lift, literally and figuratively. Be prepared to get off — put your gloves back on, make sure your poles or skis won’t prevent the bar from opening, fasten your helmet. In other words, be ready to continue skiing as soon as you hit the snow.
Read more: Why the Schlick 2000 ski resort in Tyrol is perfect for beginners and families
5. Move out of the way after getting off any lift — for your own sake, as well as that of the beginner coming after you. The last thing you want is both of you lying in a heap directly in the way of oncoming traffic.
6. T-bar lifts are no friends of beginner skiers. Don’t be afraid to ask the operator to place the bar under your bum. Warn anyone who wants to join you on the other side that they do so at their own risk. T-bars are meant to pull you while in a standing position. Never sit on them unless you want to be thrown off after hitting the first ditch or bump.
Keep your smartphone in your pocket
7. Beginner skiers do not have the skills to take selfies while on the move. It might be the last photograph ever taken of you. And it won’t be a pretty one.
8. Try not to come to a standstill in the middle of the slope. NEVER in the bend of a narrow slope. You WILL get your knees knocked from beneath you by another beginner who has no idea how to navigate around you.
Read more: Consider the Glungezer ski resort for uncrowded slopes and old-culture skiing
9. Don’t look down at your tips. It has a hypnotizing effect. They will cross right before your eyes and make you fall head over skis. This isn’t the only danger of not looking up and around you. If you don’t notice a slope forking, you could end up on a black slope. Nightmare. On the other hand, if you stay on the blue, you’ll be amazed at the beautiful winter landscape passing you by.
The early bird catches the best snow
10. Hit the slopes early. I know it’s tempting to lie in when it’s minus degrees outside. However, you will be thankful when all the best powder has been scraped off or the snow turns into slush around lunchtime. By then you can retire with a glühwein knowing you took full advantage of the best conditions first thing in the morning.
Bonus skiing tips for beginners
#1: Don’t learn to ski if you have an overwhelming fear of making an idiot of yourself. Chances are that you will. Deal with it.
#2: If you are visiting Tyrol before Christmas and manage to get number 10 right, you can enjoy your glühwein in the wonderful atmosphere of a Christmas market in Hall in Tirol.
- I apologise for the bad quality of some of these pictures. They were taken at a time when blogging was the last thing on my mind 😳 .
Have you made a fool of yourself on the ski slopes? Tell us all about it in the comments below. Please add your own ski tips for beginners.
If these tips aren’t convincing enough, don’t fear – there are many other things to do in Austria in winter if you don’t ski. Why don’t you check them out?
Well done! It is embarrassing for adult learners, you’re right. We live almost ON the ski slopes and have an adult friend who refuses to join us because he never learned as a kid. My boys, on the other hand, were fully proficient within a few tries. It’s easier for kids. It really is, no fear.
“It might be the last photograph ever taken”! 😀 You’ve made me laugh, even though it’s all true and your tips are more than useful. Congrats on conquering those slopes! I guess that you feel proud, regardless to the fact that it took three years. It really sounds like one nice, personal achievement! 🙂
I hate anything moving at speed or downhill, so skiing never really interested me. My youngest is a natural and has been skiing ever since she was six. She tried to teach me once, but it didn’t go down well.
Congrats! Sounds like you’re well on your way to becoming a pro skier! I stick to snowboarding myself but one day I hope to learn how to ski too. Your advice to hire a professional to teach you rather than relying on friends and family is spot on. Every time I have tried to tech a friend (or my wife) to snowboard it has ended in a quarrel!
These are really comprehensive tips. I know that I’ll never be able to ski because I’ve had knee surgery and I just don’t want to risk it. I think that your tips can be applied to trying any new sport though, in terms of not trying to push yourself too hard at first, getting proper instruction, and learning to let go of embarrassment.
Congrats on the perseverance and great tips! I remember snowboarding for the first time, and hitting the bunny slope as my more experience friends hit the steep runs. I remember the frustration of falling over again and again, as 8 year olds whizzed by me like it was nothing. Few things are more humbling than that! But I got better (still not very good) and was able to make it down the beginner runs. Felt like an accomplishment!
I should say you did it girl and your post has motivated me to learn skiing. Even I am 33, and really feel sacred on the thought of trying it. But now I must learn, too see those white landscapes, remembering these points. Thanks for sharing.
Now I am worried. I will try in January helped by my boyfriend, a German guy who has skied all his life. So bad for point #3. I should consider to go straight to bonus point #2, not the markets but the wine . . .
Haha I relate to this post because I’m so petrified of learning how to ski as an adult lol!! I know I would be a world class klutz! I would definitely start at the beginners slopes for less judgement though I at least have one thing going for me in that I can laugh at myself! So there’s that! Seriously thankyou for these tips – though I can’t bevelie anybody trying a new adventure sport for the first time, where balance is key, would pull out their smartphone for a selfie! Suicide much!!
Holy bajinkas, skiing sounds sooooo scary. I tried skiing a few years back, spent the whole time face first in the snow, it was a rather humbling experience to see the little kids zooming past me, beginners my ‘bleep’. Haha! I freakin LOVE that you put ‘dont take selfies’ on this list, wonder how many deaths or serious accidents have happened because of that?!
My favorite suggestion you gave was to make sure I pick slopes and runs that match my experience level. My wife and I would love to go skiing abroad this winter, but neither of us are all that experienced. We’d definitely benefit from paying close attention to where we plan to ski in order to ensure we have fun while staying safe.
I appreciate the tips on skiing for beginners, it was simple to understand. I agree it’s important to move out of the way after getting off a lift, I’ve been hit a couple times. My wife and I are both new to skiing and we want to get better, I will be sure to share these tips with her.
Absolutely useful tips! When you are a beginner it seems scary at first, but skiing is great fun!