Learn to Ski

Learning to Ski – Everything you need to know

Are you thinking about learning how to ski? If you’re debating giving it a go, you might have some questions. Skiing is a really fun activity that you can share with family and friends of all ages, that is definitely worth trying at least once. Here’s all the information you need for your first time skiing. From what to prepare beforehand to what to expect once you’re on the slopes. We’re also here to assure you that it’s possible to learn to ski as an adult, in a safe and encouraging environment of a ski lesson.

Or get stuck into a video instead. Here are 9 skills for your first time skiing. An instructor will teach you each of these in your first week of lessons, however this is what you can expect.

Why should you learn how to ski?

Why should you learn how to ski?

Because it’s FUN. Plain and simple. Skiing is an enjoyable activity that you can share with friends and family of all ages, whilst getting some fresh air and doing an activity.

Skiing is an experience you can share with others. It’s something that you’re all in together. You’ll be sharing adventures, tackling challenges together and achieving goals. And these kind of experiences bring you closer together. They’re the type of experiences that you don’t regularly have in your day-to-day life.

You also get to experience an amazing part of nature. There are few activities you can do in the winter that get you outside, and often in the sunshine. Enjoy the fresh mountain air and take in some of the most stunning scenery in the world.

And what makes a ski holiday as a beginner? Great ski lessons. When an energetic and smily instructor greets you on the first morning, you’ll feel instantly excited and at ease. They’ll inspire you, cheer you on throughout the week and encourage your development. They’ll also share their love for the sport and the mountains, so that you learn to love it as well. The instructor is there to support you and make you feel calm and confident, which will help you enjoy your time on the slopes.

Is learning to ski difficult?

With proper instruction, learning to ski is not difficult. You can start enjoying the mountain atmosphere, and the whole experience of skiing, just after your first day on the slopes.

Do I need to be fit to ski?

Learning to ski is well within the grasp of most reasonably active adults. You do not need to be extra fit to give it a go. A moderate level of fitness will indeed help you. Skiing utilises many muscles of your body, so a good level of all around fitness is best. Skiing taps into your strength, flexibility and endurance.

If you want to get a build some strength and fitness before your ski trip, we have a handful of tips from professional fitness trainer at Peak Condition based out of London. All these exercises can be from your home. Check out his tips on our ski fitness blog.

What age should I start skiing?

You can learn to ski at any age. For children, we recommend starting from age three. However, any age adult can learn to ski as long as you come with a willingness to learn.

Can you learn to ski without ski lessons?

The short answer is, not very well. It is highly recommended to learn to ski with a qualified, professional instructor.

Although some people do succeed and get themselves going without instruction, that short term savings in cash will often leave you with loads of bad habits that you will have to pay an instructor to help you get rid of. It is really a short term benefit.

Some of the benefits of learning to ski with ski lessons are that you’ll build good technique from the start with no bad habits. You’ll also be in a safe, comfortable environment that the instructor will create for you. Your progression will not be limited further down the road due to a poor start. You’ll be taken down pistes that are appropriate for your ability. And you’ll have a personal cheerleader who coaches you through the process, giving encouragement along the way.

How many lessons does a beginner need?

A beginner should take a full week’s worth of ski lessons to get to grips with the basics.

How do I get over the fear of falling over?

It’s actually relatively uncommon to fall in your first lesson or even your first week of lessons.

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Ski lessons for beginners

What type of ski lessons are best for beginners?

For your first time skiing, we recommend you take a beginner adult group lesson. Group lessons are perfect to learn how to ski because they offer a little bit of tuition each day over the week.

Our group lessons run from either Monday – Friday or Sunday – Friday, depending on what day you arrive in resort. They run for 2hrs per day (in Austria they run for 3hrs per day), usually in the morning. This gives you plenty of time during the rest of your day to ski with family and friends and grab some lunch. But you’ll be able to get feedback each day as you progress throughout the week, really maximising that first week on skis and getting the most out of it.

Our groups are also small, with 8 pupils maximum, but we will run them with just 2. This gives the instructor plenty of time to spend with each pupil so that you are getting individual attention and feedback, even in the group setting.

What can you expect from your first ski lessons?

  • Learn how to use your ski equipment and get comfortable with it.
  • Learn proper technique from day one so that you don’t build any bad habits and so that you can stay safe on the mountain.
  • Instruction from a highly qualified instructor, who is a fluent English speaker.
  • An environment where you will feel safe and build your confidence on skis.
  • Insider knowledge from the instructor who knows the local mountain well. They can share things such as the best pistes for your ability.
  • A friendly, social atmosphere of other first-timers in your group.
  • And a few laughs (we hope!).

Ready to give skiing a go? Get 10% off your Level 1 Group Lessons with New Generation.

GET MY 10% DISCOUNT

What are some ski terms?

For the first timer, ski lingo can sound like a foreign language. Here are a few key terms to familiarise yourself with the world of skiing.

What are pistes?

Pistes, also known as runs or slopes, are marked ski runs or paths with compacted snow. The word piste is French for ‘trail’, however it’s used across many European countries. These will be the runs that you will ski on, each having a different name and difficulty grading, which you can see on a piste map of the resort.

What are the colours of ski runs?

Ski slopes are graded by colour which is associated with a different level of difficulty. The easiest ski run colour is green, with black being the most difficult (in Europe). These are determined by the gradient or degree of the slope.

  • Green runs – easy
  • Blue runs – intermediate
  • Red runs – advanced
  • Black runs – expert

What are lift tickets?

Also know as a lift passes or ski passes, lift tickets are your ticket to ride the lifts in a ski resort. In Europe, these are small plastic cards (same size as a credit card) which allow you to pass through the gates at each lift station.

The scanners for lift passes are on the lefthand side, so ensure that your pass is in a lefthand pocket. Either your jacket pocket, trouser pocket, or if you have a special pocket on your left sleeve, that is made specifically for lift passes and is the best spot. Keep your lift pass away from other credit cards, or mobile phones as these might deactivate it.

What are the different type of ski lifts?

There are a few different types of ski lifts that you will encounter in resort. They each have different purposes and all require a slightly different use, with the main goal being the same: get up the mountain!

  • Magic Carpet – We’re not talking about the one Aladdin rides on! Magic carpets are conveyer belts installed at the level of the snow. These are usually only found in the beginner areas and make it really easy for you to get up the slope. Essentially you just slide onto it, stand up whilst it moves you up the slope, and then you slide off at the end. Sometimes you’ll see them in covered tunnels.
  • Button lift / drag lift / Poma lift / T-bar – These types of lifts have a few different names but most commonly you’ll hear it referred to as a drag lift of button lift. This is a lift where you stay standing the entire time as it drags you along up the slope. You hold the drag and slide it between your legs and stay standing as it pulls you up the hill.
  • Chair lift – These are the most common types of lifts that you will use once you get to grips with the basics. Chair lifts are a series of chairs hung from a moving cable, that moves you up the mountain. These have a handful of seats in a row (normally 4-6).
  • Gondola / Telecabine / Bubble / Cable Car – These terms are all used interchangeably, however the main difference from a chairlift is that you take your skis off and walk into these. Some are seated and others are standing, but essentially these are enclosed cabins that you either stand or ski in. Some have racks on the outside to slot your skis in, whereas others you bring your skis with you inside. Technically a gondola and cable car are different because the mechanics of how they function are different, but you can expect people to use them interchangeably in conversation.

How many people can fit on a ski lift?

It varies with each lift. Chairlifts can range from 2 – 8 people, although it’s most common that you’ll see 4 – 6 seats. Whereas gondolas are normally larger and can usually hold from 10 people upwards. Some can fit many more than that depending on their size.

Those key terms should get you started and more familiar with the vocabulary of the ski industry. If you want to sound even more like you know exactly what you’re talking about, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Ski Lingo.

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Planning your first ski trip

How do I prepare for a ski holiday? As with any holiday, you need to do a little planning, however we’ve compiled the key things to consider when planning your first ski trip. If you want even more detail check out our in-depth guide on ski holiday planning.

What time of year to go skiing

Choosing the time of year to go skiing makes a big impact on what type of holiday you will have. The ski season in Europe generally runs from early Dec through to late April. Here are the pros and cons of skiing in each month.

  • Early December is a cost-effective option. Many resorts offer discounted lift passes and the slopes are generally pretty quiet. However, you do run the risk of having little snowfall this time of year. It’s the time of year to head to a higher, more snow-sure resort.
  • Christmas & New Year getaways are sometimes exactly what you need. And if you book into a catered chalet you can have someone else basting the turkey & making you mince pies (more on that below). Christmas is usually quieter than New Years week, but both weeks are filled with loads of families taking advantage of school holidays. It can be a magical time in the mountains though with the snow and Christmas decorations, you truly feel like you’re in a winter wonderland.
  • January is the time to year to ski if you’re looking for both a bargain and loads of snow. You’re more likely to have chilly days and less sunshine, but the snow is near guaranteed to be good this time of year. It’s a great time to learn to ski as the snowpack is likely to be good, and the slopes are bound to be quiet. Plus you can often find New Year’s discounts on accommodation.
  • February is peak season and probably the busiest month. With half-term holidaymakers hitting the slopes, prices shoot up as well. If you don’t have children, avoid these peak weeks with their high prices and busy pistes. However if you sneak a week in early Feb or late Feb, you can miss the school holidays and still take advantage of great snow, whilst the days are starting to get longer.
  • March brings warmer weather and longer days. This is a great time of year for leisurely lunches and afternoon drinks on sun terraces. However, normally the snow is still quite good, especially in the morning. The higher temperatures do mean that the afternoon snow can become slushy on lower pistes.
  • Once April hits, it’s well and truly spring skiing. Expect long sunny days, slushy slopes and BBQs aplenty. There is usually a fun vibe in resort with many end of season parties and events happening. If the quality of the snow you ski isn’t so much a bother to you but sunshine is, April might be just the time for you. The last few weeks of the season also often have discounts on.

For beginners without school age children, we recommend learning to ski in January or March. This way you can take advantage of better deals, quieter pistes and still be quite certain the snow will be good.

If your children are in school, don’t be put off by the busyness of those peak weeks. Skiing with your children is an amazing family experience and an activity that you all can enjoy together. If you want to bring your little ones out, some of these blogs might be useful to you.

What resort to go to?

Choosing the right resort for you can feel like a big task. Here are four aspects of resorts to research into, so that you can find the best one for you.

Price – Ski resorts vary in cost. Some are more budget and others are more exclusive. Depending on your budget, do a Google search on how expensive that resort it. The cost of lift passes, food and accommodation will all be impacted.

Atmosphere – Are you looking to have a bit of a party and spend your afternoons après-skiing in the sunshine? Or are you looking for a quaint, traditional French village? Or perhaps you just want somewhere that has some great kids activities and family-friendly restaurants.

The Skiing – What is the skiing like? Some cater to more advanced skiers whereas others have more gentle terrain. You don’t want to show up for your first time skiing in a resort that has very few beginner-friendly slopes. Here’s a guide of some of the best ski resorts for beginners to help you.

Choose the right type of accommodation

There are a few different types of accommodation in most ski resorts, depending on what you’re looking for. One of the key things to look for – no matter what type of accommodation you have – is where is it located within the village. For example can you ski out from the front door? Or will you need to get a bus to the pistes? Some chalet companies will offer lifts around resort if your chalet isn’t within walking distance to the slopes, but this is something to enquire about at time of booking.

Catered chalet – These are all inclusive packages where you usually have a chef and host working in the chalet most days of the week. They cook breakfast and dinner and provide afternoon tea each day. This is a great option for those who want everything taken care of for them.

Shared chalets – Unless you book the whole chalet for your party, then you will probably share with others. Most chalet guests are like-minded folk and this makes for a fun and sociable setting. Just be prepared to mix and dine with other parties.

Self-catered apartment or chalet – Alternatively if you prefer the flexibility of choosing your own meal times and opting for more meals out, self-catered options are becoming more and more popular in resort. Cook for yourself, eat when you want and have more of your own space in your accommodation than a catered chalet.

Hotel – Hotels in ski resorts frequently are bed-and-breakfast with the option to eat in the hotel restaurant in the evening.

Airbnb – It’s becoming easier to find Airbnbs in ski resorts. However in general there are fewer here than you’ll find in a city.

Ski Lessons, Ski Hire and Lift Passes

Here are another three key aspects of your ski holiday that you will need to sort.

Ski Lessons – A quality ski lesson is crucial to a great first experience on skis. We recommend you book adult group ski lessons for your first time on skis.

Ski Hire – You will want to hire your ski equipment for your first time skiing. This includes ski boots, skis, and poles. You can also hire a helmet as well if you do not have your own. We recommend you book this is advance as usually you can get a better rate if you do so.

We’ve partnered with 3 different ski hire companies across France, Switzerland and Austria. You can book your ski hire through us for an exclusive discount.

Lift Passes – You can organise your lift pass purchase before you come out on holiday or get it once your in resort. Most chalet companies or hotels offer a small discount if you purchase your lift pass ahead of time, through them.

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What to wear skiing & what to pack

What to wear when you are skiing?

When you go skiing, you should wear warm moisture-wicking layers and waterproof outer layers. You can think of your clothing in three layers: base layers, mid layers and outer layers.

Base Layers – These should include: warm ski socks, a form fitting thermal top and leggings. These should fit close to the skin and wick away moisture. We recommend any made out of merino wool. As for socks, be sure to get a pair of quality ski socks. Don’t layer your regular socks as these can cause lumps that eventually lead to blisters.

Long-sleeve Mid Layer – This layer should keep your heat trapped close to your body. The most common material for mid layers is fleece. Other options could be a thin down jacket or a thin merino wool sweater. We like one that zips, so when we’re having a coffee inside, we can un-zip and easily cool down.

Outer Layers – Your outer layers are the most important and should be fully waterproof. Gore-tex is now widely used and is part of most ski gear, if not other waterproof technology. This should include a ski jacket, ski trousers, gloves or mittens, a hat to wear under your helmet, a neck warmer and goggles (or potentially sunglasses if it’s sunny and warm).

What equipment do you need?

The equipment you’ll need for skiing includes ski, ski poles, ski boots and a helmet. You can rent all of the equipment from a ski hire shop. However, many people opt to bring their own helmet. And note that when you hire skis, a helmet is not included unless you specify.

Check out our ultimate ski trip packing list for everything you’ll need to bring with you.

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What to expect on the slopes

What to bring with you on the slopes for the day

Aside from your clothing and equipment, there are a few extra items you might like to have with you on the slopes. One option is to stuff your pockets full with everything else you might want, however usually it’s easier to bring a rucksack. Here are a few bits that might come in handy:

  • A piste map (learn the different grades of slopes)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Sunscreen
  • Chocolates or small snacks
  • Tissues
  • An extra layer
  • Water bottle
  • Hat – for when you sit down for a drink and would prefer to take your helmet off
  • Sunglasses

How to keep warm whilst skiing

The weather can vary in the mountains. A sunny, warm day can be followed by a huge snow storm. And it can change quickly. So the best piece of advice we can offer is to wear multiple layers, and bring a rucksack along with you, so that they you have the option to add or remove layers as you need.

We have an ultimate guide on how to layer for skiing, which goes into detail on each layer you’ll need. The best way to layer for skiing is to do it in three key sections:

  1. Base Layers – should wick away moisture
  2. Mid Layers – should trap body heat
  3. Outer Layers – should keep away the wind, rain &  snow

This is the recipe for optimal warmth, paired with the flexibility to shed or add layers easily if the weather changes (which it often does in the mountains).

There are now technological updates that can help you keep warm on the slopes as well. You can purchase heated gloves and heated ski socks. Or you can get old school hand and foot warmers to put in your gloves or boots respectively.

You will start off in beginner areas

Each ski resort has a specified beginner area, sometimes called a ‘Zen Zone’, which is sectioned off from the other pistes. These are great areas to learn to ski. They are indeed ‘zen’ and offer a calm, learning environment with other beginners on a gentle slope where you can access a magic carpet.

Expect to start in one of these beginner areas, and then once you’ve grasped the basics you’ll move onto green runs.

Learning to ski from a client’s perspective

Don’t take our word for it – hear it straight from one of our clients. We followed Jaye during her first week skiing. She vlogged throughout the week and shared her experience of learning to ski as an adult.

Top tips for your first day skiing

We’ve been teaching for 22 years now, so we know a thing or two about making those first days on the slopes as smooth as possible. Here are a few top tips from our Technical Ski Director, Dave Morris.

Take your time on the first day

Don’t be impatient to get going and most of all, don’t skip steps. A good instructor will make sure that you have learned what is necessary before moving you on. 

Skiing can be a big confidence game. If you learn meticulously and thoroughly at the start, then you will make each advance with confidence and ease. If you rush onwards and skip bits that you don’t like, then when the difficulty ramps up, you may well find yourself struggling on day three and have to go back to the drawing board. You can’t build a strong house with bad foundations.

Practice, practice, practice

If you are in group lessons, scout out your competition. After your first lesson finishes you are perfectly justified in patting yourself on the back and going for a drink. However, don’t hang your skis up for the day and wait for tomorrow. You can be sure that some of your crafty co-learners will be so enamoured with their new sport that they will push on until lifts are shut without even a crumb of food or a drop of gluhwein touching their lips! Then the next day, they will show you up and make you feel like you are holding everyone up! This is perhaps exaggerated but consolidating on what you have learned is really important.

If you can go back out on the nursery slope for an hour in the afternoon after your first two lessons and practice what you have learned then you will be cruising down those slopes in no time. Push hard at the start of the week. Don’t go more difficult, but do what you have learned again and again. Then once you have got to grips with it all, rest in the middle of the week if needed.

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Ready to give skiing a go? Get 10% off your Level 1 Group Lessons with New Generation.

GET MY 10% DISCOUNT

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