Learning or re-learning how to do anything as an adult, especially a sport, can be difficult, intimidating and a little hard on the ego. Skiing is no exception to this rule. What I hope to do with this blog post and attached video is to show you that if I can do it, you can most certainly do it!
My Journey (Back) to Skiing
Trying to downhill ski has always been a bit of a challenge for me. I skied as a kid, switching to snowboarding late in high school (when it was trendy) and then eventually quitting downhill activities altogether.
The thing is, I love being at the ski hill. I love the energy there and just the vibe in general. I’ve been more than happy to sit in the chalet with a cup of tea or glass of wine and a great book by the fire while my friends go up and down the hill, but in recent years have wanted to attempt getting back into the sport.
My biggest fears skiing as an adult are as follows:
- Going too fast and losing control, resulting in injury or something else. Crashes are scary.
- Injuries in general. I’m not 15 anymore and my body certainly doesn’t heal like it is!
- The chairlift is terrifying; it’s not so much the height of the ride, but more so the getting on and off of it. I’ve had so many bad experiences and top of the mountain crashes when I was attempting to snowboard.
- Looking like an idiot. I’m not the most coordinated person and honestly, watching little kids zip down the hill made me feel a little silly and embarrassed. Keep in mind that those kids have nothing to fear of injury and no responsibilities!
- Being too old to learn something new. I’m not 15 anymore and I thought I’d look stupid. Turns out, there were people on the Bunny Hill who were in their 70s trying to ski for the first time! You’re never too old to try.
What I finally decided was that if I was going to try and have fun, I needed to overcome all of these silly fears and just go for it!
When I have children, I want them to love skiing and I don’t want them to be afraid of it because I’m afraid of it and I want it to be something we can do together as a family. Plus, so many of my friends ski and when we go on group ski trips, I end up feeling a bit of FOMO when listening to their tales of the hill.
Watch Me Try To Ski Again Here:
Tips For Getting On The Hill
#1: Get the Right Gear
For me, I knew I would be at least attempting to ski a number of times over the coming years, so purchasing my own gear made sense. Of course I don’t need anything incredibly fancy or expensive, so I opted for discounted items at the end of a ski season in preparation for the next year. I knew that a few rentals would cost me the same amount as purchasing the gear myself, so I decided to take the leap and just buy my own gear so I could go whenever I wanted with a bit less hassle.
You can definitely rent things like skis, boots and poles at any ski hill or sports rental spot. When it comes to the rest, you’ll definitely need to purchase your own. More on gear a little further down this article.
#2: Consider Taking Lessons or Watching Videos
Before I went skiing for the first time again, I watched a few YouTube videos for some info on the basics for getting up and down the hill. I found them to be quite helpful. You might also want to consider lessons – either group or private. Keep in mind that lessons are available for all ages and you won’t be put in a group with 6 year olds, either. Sometimes a lesson is a good way to go so that you don’t pick up any bad habits that might be hard to break down the line.
#3: Start on the Bunny Hill or “Beginner Area”
I decided to start at a hill that has a large Bunny Hill with 2 Magic Carpets (i.e. conveyer belt that hauls you up the hill), a beginner area and a number of gentle green runs (note: green is the easiest level of run). Check your local hills for details, but at Nakiska Ski Area in Kananaskis (where I went) you can get a complimentary Magic Carpet lift ticket. Basically this means that you can ride the Bunny Hill all day long.
TIP: This is where you’ll see a lot of beginner skiers (of all ages), many of them in lessons. Take a look at what the instructors are showing the kids when it comes to basic skills. You might find their advice helpful.
I found the beginner area helpful because of all the little ones. They block the top of the magic carpet, they stop halfway down the hill, etc. so it gives you the opportunity to master avoiding obstacles before doing it at the top of the chairlift or with more speed on a more advanced run.
#4: Advance to the Chairlift When Ready
There is no shame in riding the Bunny Hill all day long or until you are comfortable with advancing. You are the only one who knows if you are ready! Be sure to start with “green” runs as they are the easiest. Not sure which way to go down? Ask your fellow skiers for advice on which runs they think are best for beginners.
What’s fun about skiing is that even when you’re at a different skill level than whoever you’re with, you can still have fun. Skiing is also one of those things that gets less tiring and much more fun (and so much less work!) once you get a little better at it.
A Few Skiing Skills & Tips For Beginners
Mastering the Chairlift
I will admit, my fear of the chairlift was one of my biggest reservations about getting back in to skiing and once I conquered it, I had the biggest adrenaline rush. I felt like I had won an Olympic medal (no joke). Here’s what helped me:
To Board the Chairlift: Get in the chairlift line. Once the people ahead of you have boarded, slide forward into the boarding area (where you will sit on the chair). Put both poles in one hand and reach back with the other hand. The chair will come around and you can grab the back and sit down on the seat. Once seated, lift your ski tips up a bit (so they don’t catch). Pull the bar down over your lap (this is your seatbelt). Ride comfortably and enjoy the view. You might even make a new friend!
To Exit the Chairlift: When you are approaching the top of the hill, lift your ski tips up a bit (bend your knees) to avoid catching them. Put both poles in one hand and slide forward a bit (not too far, but don’t be sitting too far back in the chair either). Once you reach the precipice of the top and your skis touch the ground, stand up and ski forward. The lift may give you a little push, so be ready for a little burst of speed. Don’t worry, it’s always super flat at the top, so you’ll slow down quickly.
Tip: If you are extra scared, wave to the lift attendant who will slow the lift down a little for you.
Carving Down the Hill
I will not claim to be a ski instructor here, so maybe do some further research into these concepts or just take a lesson at the hill. To get down the hill most effectively and in a controlled manner, you’re going to want to “carve” back and forth in a slalom pattern using the edges of your skis. On each turn, you will want to lightly lift your inside foot and do a little ‘tap’. You will hear instructors telling their students to “tap tap” on each turn. Trust me, this makes this easier.
I found that keeping my upper body facing down the hill and rotating my hips and lower body for turns was quite effective. It’s also helpful to look up and in the direction that you’re going rather than at your feet (the same rule applies to skating!).
The best way to get back down the hill is to take nice large, gentle turns back and forth so you can get down safely. Unsure of when to make the turns? My husband/ski partner went ahead of me and forged a path that I could follow so I’d have a general idea of when to start turning.
Steep Parts & Flat Parts
The top of the hill is usually the steepest part and it can seem quite intimidating your first few times up. Keep in mind that if you’re making your nice wide, controlled turns, you should be fine. If a section feels too steep for you, just pop off your skis and walk down until you get to where you’re comfortable starting.
The bottom 2/3 of a green run are always much gentler than the top and also feature a number of flat plateaus that you will need some speed to get through (otherwise you’re going to get super tired from snow-skating and using your poles to get across them). This is why it’s important to get a bit of speed from the top of the hill.
What to Wear Skiing
This is the fun part, right? I don’t know what it is, but I love having gear for things! Here are all of the important things you’ll need to start skiing:
Base Layers | Sweater | Jacket | Pants
Helmet | Goggles | Mitts | Neck Gaiter | Socks
You’ll want to dress in layers to keep yourself warm. I suggest a merino wool base layer (top and bottom) and then another light sweater over top. TIP: I prefer cropped pants or 3/4 length base layer because it’s one less layer under my ski boots (less pinching). Opt for merino wool socks as well as they breath nicely and are nice and thin inside your ski boots.
I suggest a jacket and snow pants with venting (in case you start getting warm) that is water and wind resistant. It can get breezy on the ski hill and you want to stay warm. You’ll want ski pants that aren’t too baggy, but not too tight either (when trying them on, make sure you can sit comfortably in them). For more info on what to wear, check out my post A Canadian Girl’s Guide to Winter Outerwear.
Helmets are mandatory at most ski hills now, so be sure to pick one up! Most ski helmets feature venting and insulation to keep you warm and cool. They’ve also got clips to hold your goggles on – and you will want goggles for brightness protection!
You’ll want water and wind resistant mitts or gloves (depending on preference) and a buff or ski tube/neck gaiter (I prefer these to a scarf…plus they’re safer for the chairlift). You won’t need a toque until après ski because your helmet will be warm enough. For more info on what to wear for accessories, check out my posts: Winter Accessories: Mitts, Toques and Scarves
I hope that this post gave you some inspiration and helpful tips to get back on the hill! Learning to ski as an adult can be intimidating, but don’t be scared! If I can do it, you can definitely do it!