First-Time Skier or Rider?

Learn to Ski & Ride

Skiing and snowboarding are active winter sports that can be enjoyed for decades. Many people enjoy snow sports well into their 80s. These are sports that anyone, with a little determination, can learn rather quickly.

The benefits of skiing and snowboarding are numerous. These are healthy, outdoor winter activities that lift the spirit and exercise the body, plus they offer camaraderie, and many friendships are made on chairlift rides up the mountain. They offer you goals to work towards, challenging you to push yourself a little further each day, improving your skills and heightening your awareness of the environment. And they are carried out in a beautiful mountain atmosphere that, combined with the experience of controlled sliding down a snow-covered slope, is second to no other sport. Below is a First Timer’s Guide, great for beginners or a refresher for those familiar with the sport.

Pre-Arrival Tips

What kind of shape do I have to be in?

While skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed without regularly exercising the body, we recommend preparing your muscles for the slopes. This includes, but is not limited to, toning exercises (knee bends, sit-ups) and stretching. These exercises will help to prevent torn muscles, muscle aches, etc.

Should I borrow my friend’s equipment or should I rent?

It’s tempting to borrow equipment, especially when the boots actually seem to fit your feet. But you’re better off renting. Here’s why. Ski shops have equipment that is designed for beginners. They’re specifically engineered to turn more easily and are more forgiving than either upper level or budget equipment. Your boots will really match your feet; if you need a half size up or down, we can accommodate you. Your first time out should be enjoyable and productive.

Skiing or boarding? Which is easier?

Generally speaking, skiing is easier to learn but more difficult to master, and the opposite is true for snowboarding. However, everyone is different. Some people pick up snowboarding more easily than skiing, and some pick up skiing more quickly than snowboarding. The only way to know is to try it yourself!

I don’t have special clothes. What should I wear?

You don’t need to buy expensive ski or snowboard clothes to try the sport… you probably have everything you need in your closet.

Surprisingly enough, even though you’re outside in the winter, you will perspire! Layering is the key. You don’t need to invest in specific clothing, but dressing appropriately is important and may be done by selecting items from your existing wardrobe and wearing them in suitable combinations.

Pants: Un-insulated wind or rain pants and sweatpants under them can substitute insulated ski pants. Nylon running pants can break the wind, but sweat pants and/or long underwear under them are essential. By the way, don’t tuck your pants into your boots. Ski pants are designed to fit over the tops of your boots. A note for boarders: snowboard-specific pants that have extra padding and waterproofing in all the right places are a good idea. Boarders spend more time sitting on the snow than do skiers. It’s the nature of the sport, even for advanced riders. Good pants are invaluable!

Tops: A long-sleeved shirt (a turtle neck is a great idea) with a sweater and medium weight jacket offers a variety of options should the temperature change. On very cold days, a layer of long underwear worn on the upper body is a great insulator and may always be removed if conditions warrant. A ski jacket with underarm vents can be very effective at regulating body temperature.

Headgear: Cover your head! Your body loses 80% of its heat through your head. A hat is essential! A warm wool or fleece hat is ideal. Don’t sweat “hat hair”…. you can fix it after the last run and before you head out for drinks and dinner.

Socks: Wear one pair of light to medium weight socks! Your boots are designed to keep you warm.

Gloves/Mittens: Personal preference rules here. Generally, mittens are warmer but restrict dexterity. Glove liners are a viable option for some. Boarders tend to prefer long, waterproof mittens. Hand warmers are single-use pouches that produce heat for several hours and are used inside gloves or mittens.

Neck wear: Leave the long woolen scarf your grandmother knit for you at home. It’s a potential hazard. You’re much better off with a neck warmer, a non-allergenic fleece tube that slips over the head and keeps your neck toasty warm. This wonderful, inexpensive piece of apparel is actually long enough to be pulled up to cover your chin, mouth, and nose.

Accessories: Goggles protect your eyes from the sun and from the wind. Sunglasses are helpful, but don’t block the wind. Tearing eyes and cold temperatures are not a fun mix. On nice days, headbands are less fuss than a hat. Sunscreen and lip balm are recommended.

*If you forget any of these items, most are available for purchase the mountains retail shop*

What to expect when you arrive

Carrying your equipment:

If you are arriving with equipment, the trek from your car to the mountain will be much easier if you know the proper way to carry your gear.

Skis: Place the skis base-to-base, with the brakes locked together. If you’re outdoors and have plenty of space, carry the skis on a shoulder, with the ski tips in your hand. Your other hand is free to carry your poles (and boots unless you’ve changed footwear at your car). When indoors or near other people, carry the skis upright, with the tips pointing up and your hand below the binding toe piece.

Snowboard: Tuck your board under one arm like a stack of books and you’re on your way.

Equipment Rental Suggestions

Give yourself plenty of time to get the right fit the first time!

Boot fitting: Both ski and snowboard boots are designed to hold your foot snugly to the surface of your skis or board. Any movement of the foot within the boot translates into loss of edge control and lessens performance. Boots are engineered to fit snugly.

Ski/Snowboard Length: Correct length is a correlation of your height, weight, and ability level. Modern shaped skis and snowboards turn much more easily than those of just a few years ago.

Snowboard Stance: Your instructor will help you determine whether you ride with your left foot first (regular stance) or right foot first (goofy).

Helmets: Helmets are strongly recommended for any age and any ski/board level. Even with caution, accidents happen on the slopes, and a helmet can save your life and prevent injury.

Your Responsibility Code

The National Ski Areas Association has developed rules that you need to be aware of and need to follow. Most skiing and snowboarding accidents can be directly attributed to someone not following one of these basic rules:

Winter sports can be enjoyed in many ways. At ski areas you may see people using alpine, snowboard, telemark, cross country and other specialized ski equipment, such as that used by disabled or other skiers. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy the slopes, always show courtesy to others and be aware that there are elements of risk in winter sports that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. Observe the code listed below and share with other skiers and snowboarders the responsibility for a great skiing experience.

  1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
  7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

KNOW THE CODE. IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

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Take it from a Pro

Contact Us

Professional Ski Instructors of America
American Association of Snowboard Instructors - Eastern Division

Leader Center for Snowsports Education

1-A Lincoln Avenue
Albany, New York 12205

Phone (518) 452-6095
Fax (518) 452-6099

Questions? Ideas? Email us: psia-e(at)psia-e.org

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