With winter well underway, you are either getting out and enjoying this winter wonderland OR you are hiding inside (and on the verge of cabin fever). If you are inside, why not get outside and enjoy winter? As a veteran skier and member of the Canadian Ski Patrol, I can say unequivocally that there is no better way to enjoy winter than to get out and ski or snowboard.

Buy Lift Tickets in Advance & Save

It’s officially “Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month” across Canada and the U.S. throughout January. The very best beginner deals are available right now and a professional instructor is waiting to be your coach at a nearby ski resort.


Still need convincing? Let me give you 3 first time tips courtesy of a Ski Patroller:

Just Give It a Try

New skiers or boarders are affectionately known as “Never Evers” in the ski world. The beginner hill is affectionately known as the “bunny hill”. These are terms of endearment. Just like any business, the ski industry needs new customers to grow. “Rookies” are as much welcome as “veterans”. Young or old all are welcome. It’s never too late or early to learn to ski. Grab a beginner package – rentals, lesson and a lift ticket – and give it a go! Ski or snowboard – the choice is yours. Lessons are an absolute necessity if you are learning to ski at any age. A professional ski instructor will make learning to ski fun and help you to master the basics and stay safe. You’ll enjoy yourself and look forward to a good time on the slopes.

(As a ski patroller, my simple advice is “ski smart”. Start out right – don’t let your spouse, brother or father teach you (unless they are a professional instructor). Know your limits and pace yourself. The more you get out, the better you will get).

Keeping Warm is Easy

Winter is cold (no kidding) but temperatures do vary a lot. Staying warm/comfortable is actually quite easy. It’s all about layering. Start with a base layer- ski socks, long johns, leggings, crew shirt, etc. and make sure they are made of synthetic material (wicking nylon) and/or wool. (You will freeze with cotton as your base layer). If it’s really cold out, add a first layer (long sleeve crew neck or similar). Next is your mid layer – fleece top, ski sweater, hoodie. The mid-layer will insulate and use your body’s warmth to keep you warm. Last but not least is the outer layer (your ski or snowboard jacket). If you’ve layered properly, your jacket can be fairly lightweight (it’s hard to be active in a full parka). There are several great outdoor clothing brands that have layering down to a science. Some feature merino wool with new fabric technology to keep you warm and adjust to your body temperature. Wearing a helmet is a great idea (provides protection and is easier to wear than a hat). Face protection comes in the form of goggles and a face cover (bandana), and of course, gloves or mitts for your hands.

(I ski in temperatures ranging from -25c to +10c and everything in between as a Ski Patroller. For more information, here’s an earlier Liftopia post of mine “Tips to Stay Warm on the Slopes”).

Today’s Equipment Makes It Easier To Learn

When I’m at the hill, I see people using some very old equipment – rear-entry boots, 200 cm. skis, etc. The common thread is that old equipment makes skiing harder and more challenging than it needs to be. Don’t borrow Uncle Joe’s equipment circa 1970 – it won’t help you in anyway. As a “newbie”, renting equipment gives you a chance to “try before you buy”. After you’ve rented a few times, you’ll have an idea of what you like. Get into your local ski equipment shop and talk to an experienced professional. They’ll fit you for boots (literally) and set you up with the best pair of skis based on your ability, normal terrain, and your budget. Ski technology makes skiing easier to learn.

Winter can be very long when you hibernate. Get out and ski or snowboard! On the mountain, problems are simple – which lift or trail to take, and when to break for lunch or hot chocolate. Take care of the basics and enjoy the day on the slopes!

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3 responses to “3 First Timer Tips From Ski Patrol”

  1. jakilevy says:

    Thanks for this post! I just got on skis for the first time ever this past weekend. I watched some tutorial videos before heading out. The most important thing I learned before getting onto skis was learning how to stop (plow / wedge). I did end up taking lessons that first day, and it made my second day much more enjoyable. Here’s some photos of my first day –

    Can’t wait to get out again this winter!

    Thanks again for all the encouragement 🙂

    • Peter Gordon says:

      Looking good out there! Keep it up, and enjoy!

    • SloopJohnB says:

      Good on you! However, the more important skill is learning how to turn. NeverEvers are so scared about stopping…you’ll generally use that plow or wedge only in a lift line while a long downhill bunny hill is far more effective for learning to turn! You can always stop by turning uphill or a strong hockey stop at slow speed, especially with today’s short shaped skis.
      Don’t worry so much about stopping, turn ‘em!

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