Tips for first time skiers

28/10/2019 | Chilly Powder

With winter fast appraoching, we caught up with George Treble - a certiced instructor from Avoriaz Alpine Ski School - for his top tips, insight and advice for first time skiers... 

Skiing is a truly amazing sport – not only for the joys associated with sliding around on snow but for the breath-taking environments it allows you to explore. Modern equipment and techniques allow skiers to have great control of their speed and direction and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of nailing those first few turns as you get used to having stable sliding planks attached to the end of your legs. Skiing allows you to cover so much ground and take in so much of what the mountain landscapes have to offer. Breathing in that fresh Alpine air on a blue sky day from the top of a mountain can be as refreshing as a pint of water in a desert. Furthermore, it is very rare as an activity the whole family can enjoy together and therefore provides an opportunity to make valuable holiday memories.

So here’s a few encouraging tips for beginners who have not yet sampled the joys of the sport. The good times are all still in the future!

1. You can learn to ski at any age. Yes, it is an advantage for those rubber-boned and fearless five year olds with a low centre of gravity, but that’s not to say you cannot pick up the sport when you’re the same age as their grandparents. As an instructor I have taught absolute beginners in their 70s who have learned how to parallel ski on easy blue slopes within a week of skiing. With lessons, adults generally take an average of 1-3 weeks of skiing to be able to link parallel turns on easy blue slopes, and that’s where the sport really opens up. With the possibility of completing the entire Portes du Soleil tour on blue terrain, this is a very achievable goal for adult beginners. Just think, France for breakfast Switzerland for lunch and a late afternoon beer watching the sunset over the mountains from 2000m up with your friends and family.

2. The best way to be prepared to learn to ski is to come with a positive mental attitude. You may feel nervous and find some moments intimidating or scary, but that’s a natural part of the process and they will be more than balanced out by the positives of the achievements you will make. Take a deep breath, remind yourself where you are and enjoy the challenge.

3. Be patient. Things are going to feel pretty alien when you first put rigid plastic boots on and clip a metre and a half of metal to the end of your legs. Bambi on ice may come to mind in those first few moments of trying to walk forwards only to moon walk in the other direction. Laugh it off because soon you’ll find your edges and regain control. As you improve, every hour on skis offers more fun than the last so embrace those awkward first moments – they are going to earn you a lot of happiness later on.

4. Don’t worry about the lifts! Instances of people getting hurt are extremely rare and every lift is manned with multiple lift operators, at both the bottom and the top, who can press a button and halt the whole lift in an instant. They will help you safely and comfortably get on and off the lift and after a couple of goes, you’ll realise how easy it is. Watch people getting on the lift for a couple of minutes to know what to expect before joining the back of the queue. Once you’re on, sit back, relax, enjoy the views and have a chat as you fly up the mountain ready for your next descent.

5. Have a bit of a warm up. Whilst it is accessible to almost everyone (even those in wheelchairs or with only one leg) skiing is indeed a sport. The better the shape you’re in, the easier it will be. It’s definitely worth warming up and stretching your muscles before skiing, especially if the weather is cold.

6. Be prepared for the mountain environment, which may be freezing cold or, as is quite often in your first few hours of skiing, it may be rather hot work. Bring a backpack with spare layers, sun cream and a bottle of water. Don’t forget sunglasses or goggles and a neck warmer or buff. Keep your gloves on even if you’re hot as they also offer protection.

7. Make sure your socks are pulled up tight with no folds and the tongue of your boots sits against your shin, with the sides of the boot wrapping on the outside of the tongue. Ski boots may not be the most comfortable footwear in the world, but they shouldn’t be hurting you. If they are, it’s often the socks or the tongue to blame.

8.Hire an instructor! Yes, of course I would say this, but here are a few reasons why it’s a worthwhile investment. Your instructor will keep you safe, increase your enjoyment and maximise your learning. They’ll make sure your equipment is set up correctly, take you to appropriate terrain, help you on and off lifts, clarify technique, set appropriate tasks, get you into priority lanes in lift queues, keep you calm, make you laugh and make the whole experience of learning to ski that extra bit quicker and more fun. Getting the basics right from the beginning will really steepen your learning curve. 

So there’s a handful of pointers for first time skiers but I’ll leave the specifics of technique to the slopes. Here at the Avoriaz Alpine Ski School, we absolutely love skiing, snowboarding and the mountains and we want to share it all with you! Get in touch if you have any more questions and hopefully we’ll see you on the snow soon.