When people ask me how long I’ve been skiing, I actually have to give it some thought. Because it’s really not that simple: I skied for a number of years, then stopped for awhile, and then took it up again.
This isn’t uncommon. A lot of people take breaks for one reason or another. Then one day a friend asks you to go on a ski trip. Or it snows and you find yourself remembering a special day on the slopes. Or you watch some ski racing on TV and get caught up in the excitement.
If you feel nervous about getting back into skiing, especially when you haven’t skied in awhile, rest assured: This is completely normal. But with a little bit of preparation, you can make your ski comeback safe, happy, and fun:
1. Check your skis and boots.
If you already own gear, don’t expect to just dust it off and be ready to ride the lift. After a long hiatus, you’ll need to get your skis tuned and waxed to ensure optimal performance. Even more important is to have your bindings checked by a professional ski technician. They’ll be able to determine whether or not they’ve deteriorated to the point that they’re no longer safe. They’ll also make sure they’re set to release properly at your current weight (let’s be honest: it may have changed).
Also, be sure not to neglect your boots. Ill-fitting boots can turn a day of fun into an absolute misery. Since feet can change over time, you’ll want to try on your boots to make sure they still fit. I recommend wearing them around the house for a while to gauge how they feel. If they’re not right, find a skilled bootfitter in your area. They may be able to make adjustments that can make them comfortable and responsive. (Check out our blog post for more info on assessing your gear.)
2. If your gear isn’t up to snuff, demo or rent new equipment.
Ski shops are often quite happy to let you demo equipment, usually for a nominal fee. In some cases they’ll even deduct the cost of the demo from the purchase price if you decide to buy. If new equipment isn’t in the cards, you might want to consider a season rental. It’s a great way to have the latest and greatest without spending a lot of money right away. Check Liftopia for lift ticket + rental packages.
3. Protect your dome.
Years ago no one wore helmets, but all it takes is a quick look around the mountain to see how much this has changed. In fact, over 80 percent of skiers and snowboarders now wear helmets. If you’re worried that they’re big, bulky, or cold, you’re in for a surprise: They’re actually quite comfortable and warm. Helmets come in a variety of styles and colors in a wide range of price points.
It may take some looking around to find one that has all the features you want. Some have brims, some don’t. Some have vents, some don’t. Some can even be wired for sound, if that’s your jam. But if you’re going to invest in just one piece of ski equipment this year, this would be my top recommendation.
4. Got goggles?
If you do, great: you’re protecting your eyes from glare, snow, debris, and UV & UVB rays. But make sure they work with your helmet. If there’s space on your forehead between the top of the goggle and the bottom of your helmet, you may want to look into getting a new pair.
5. It’s all about the base… layer.
Layers, that is. Base layers come in a wide range of high tech fabrics that can keep you both warm and dry. Whatever you do, don’t wear cotton. Cotton gets wet and stays wet, and that can make you get cold a lot more easily. High-tech or moisture-wicking fabrics, on the other hand, draw perspiration away from the body so you stay warmer longer. And that means you can ski longer, too.
6. Thinner is better.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but thinner socks are actually warmer – and more comfortable – than thicker socks. Thick socks can hold moisture closer to your foot, which will actually make it feel colder. They can also bunch up to reduce circulation and make your feet cold.
Thin socks, on the other hand, move sweat away from your foot to the liner, which is designed to wick moisture away from your body. The bottom line: You stay warmer! Consider getting merino wool socks because they come in thin fabrics, are breathable but warm, and pulls moisture away from your foot.
7. Take a lesson. Really.
Not from a spouse or significant other, either. There’s too much emotional baggage that comes along with that. Whether you take a group or a private lesson is up to you, but put yourself in the hands of a certified ski instruction professional who can help you brush up on your skills when you haven’t skied in awhile.
They’re an expert who knows what proper technique looks like so they can either best help you make small changes to improve your form, or they’ll at least be the best source to verify that your form is great. Plus, if it’s a busy day on the slopes, you might even be able to get priority in the lift line. (Check out our post on getting the most out of your ski lesson – at every age.)
8. Look for lift ticket opportunities.
Years ago just about everyone paid the walk-up window rate. But why spend more than you have to? Discount ticket sites like Liftopia can substantially reduce the cost you’ll spend for a day on the slopes. Sure, you have to pre-pay. But the savings are definitely worthwhile.
9. Take it slow.
If you haven’t skied in awhile, it might not be the best idea to take the chair to the expert terrain at the top right away. No matter what your friends say, stay safe and give yourself a gradual start. Warm up on some green runs and see how that goes, then take it from there. Be honest with yourself: know your limits and work with them.
10. Don’t forget to have fun!
Too often we get caught up in being perfect or worrying about little things that aren’t that important. Skiing is a fun, joyful experience. Take in the scenery. Enjoy being outdoors. Have fun meeting people on the chairlift. Share your table at après ski. There’s so much about skiing that isn’t actually skiing. So take it all in and have a great time. I’m sure you’ll be back.