Skiing and snowboarding for beginners
Carving down fast groomers or shredding through deep powder with your friends and family is a thrill that’s hard to beat. It can take a lot of practice to get to that level, but by following these tips you’ll be riding with confidence in no time.
Get ski/snowboard lessons
New to skiing or snowboarding? Jump straight into it with a couple of lessons from the pros.
The techniques and tricks involved can help you progress quickly if learnt from the beginning. The most useful tips you'll get from lessons cover:
- correctly shifting your body weight to turn
- stopping quickly.
They’re all skills that you’ll eventually learn on your own, but being taught them from day one means you’ll be carving down runs a lot quicker and a lot safer. For beginners, lessons will also have you graduating from 'pizza slices' and 'french fries' much faster than you would if you hit the slopes without them. Nobody wants to spend their entire ski trip on one green run with their skis constantly getting tangled up. Grab some lessons and you will find yourself on much more fun runs within a day or two. For more advanced skiers and snowboarders, lessons can help you hone a few of those areas that are keeping you back from advancing to the next level.
Tip: there is a thing called Youtube. Research and visualise proper skiing/snowboarding techniques, such as what it feels like to link turns, how to sit forward rather than leaning back and also how to stop. Knowing exactly what you should be doing will have a dramatic impact on your ability to pick up skills quickly during lessons.
Always wear the right gear
It's quite common to get burnt while out on the slopes, with snow reflecting the sun's UV rays right back up at you. The physical effort of navigating a run can also having you sweating in no time, so that once you get to the bottom you are dying to take that jacket off. Within minutes, however, you are sitting still on a chairlift with snow hitting you at a 90-degree angle and visibility at zero. For beginners to skiing and snowboarding, temperature control can be a major hurdle to their enjoyment of their time at the snow.
The trick to maintaining comfortable body heat and staying safe is to dress properly wearing specialised snow clothing.
Learn to dress in layers, with moisture wicking thermals as a base and a breathable fleece on top, depending on the outside temperature. This way if you start to overheat, you can simply take one layer off.
For your outer layer, always wear a waterproof shell or an insulated jacket with waterproof snow pants. Bright colours are great as you’ll stand out against the snow. This isn't for getting spotted by rescuers (the chances of you getting lost on a busy run are next to nil) but so that in the rush of skiers and snowboarders, you are easily visible in peoples' peripheral vision, reducing the risk of any collision.s
You really want to avoid getting wet as well, as this will sap body heat away, which is where weatherproof clothing comes into play.
Other essentials include:
- snow socks
- glove liners and waterproof outers
- a scarf
- snow goggles with UV protection
- a snow helmet
- a pack to put your layers in during the day
Keep dry and keep warm and you’ll be able to stay out all day.
Learn mountain etiquette
Just like driving on the road, there’s a list of rules that you need to follow while out skiing and snowboarding. Learning these is easy, and it’s important to always follow them for everyone's safety. Evidence from Victorian Ski Patrol reports shows that skiers with lower skill levels and less experience are more at risk of injury, which is why it is important to know snow etiquette.
You can see them but they probably can’t see you, so if you’re approaching someone from behind, watch their movements and make sure you give them enough space.
Avoid skiing past someone close by at high speed. This may scare them and cause them to catch an edge and fall.
Don’t take off your skis or snowboard to walk on the mountain. If you drop them, they’ll be flying down the slope in a split second.
Everybody’s there to enjoy themselves whether they’ve never skied before or are sponsored professionals.
Try not to stop in dangerous spots
It’s very important to only stop in places that are safe to do so. This is critical to know, and the one thing that is easiest to forget when starting out. So don't be that group who have set up what looks like a picnic in the middle of a busy run. These tend to be new people new to snowsports and as such they tend to stop and sit in the busiest and most dangerous runs on a resort because there are so many other beginners. Don't be afraid to let ski patrol know if there is a large group of people blocking a run.
This rule also means that you shouldn't stop on the other side of a hill or roller where you’ll be out of sight of anybody above you. If you do, you run the risk of someone coming down at speed and not having time to brake before colliding with you. When you stop, always look left, right and uphill to make sure you’re in a place that is clearly visible.
If you happen to fall over in a place that may be less than ideal, there’s no need to panic. Simply pick yourself up steadily, regain your balance and slide to a better position.
Ride within your limits
Once you get a bit of confidence it’s very tempting to head straight to the top of the mountain and try a difficult run, or chase powder through the narrow gaps between trees.
Always remember to ski within your abilities. Progression is great – and we all need to challenge ourselves to improve – but only by developing in stages, rather than jumping straight down a black run. If you don't have the requisite skills, you will find yourself hating every minute of a black run and this will tarnish your experience of snowsports and keep you from ever trying a black run in the future. So don't feel pressured by others in your group if you don't feel comfortable.
If you’re feeling great on green runs, try an easy blue run next rather than a double black. Ride through trees after you’ve learned how to link your turns perfectly. And hit the park once you’ve tried the small jumps first.
Ride or ski in control and you’ll be progressing to the top of the mountain in no time.
Alesha and Jarryd are professional photographers, writers and the founders of Australia’s biggest adventure travel blog, NOMADasaurus. They’ve been exploring the world together since 2008, searching for culture and adventure in off the beaten path destinations.