Again and again, you’ve heard your girlfriends talking about skiing and snowboarding — the adrenaline rush, how gorgeous the mountains are in the winter, how it makes the cold months so much more enjoyable. And either you’ve finally decided to see what the fuss is all about, or you’ve gotten your first chance to check it out for yourself, so you book your first trip to the slopes. You imagine yourself gracefully gliding down the hills, but suddenly this image gets hazier in your mind as you realize that a first-time ski trip is a lot more involved than you had first anticipated — you’ll need gear, some lessons, a travel buddy. And the question many new skiers begin to ask themselves is, “where do I start?”
Have no fear, Go Girl is here! Before you begin to feel pangs of first-timer anxiety, check out these 5 tips to help you have the best first experience on the slopes possible:
1) Sign up for lessons.
While some people argue you don’t need lessons to learn to ski or snowboard, most people will say they’re essential. Either way, they’re an affordable, safe way to get you ready to hit the slopes in style. A skiing class can have you prepped in the basics in just over an hour, while a day-long snowboarding class will have you feeling queen of the bunny hill by day’s end. In other words, the return on investment in terms of how much faster you’ll learn is totally worth it, and you can often get discounted (or free) access to the rest of the ski hill included with your lesson, which makes it more affordable.
Many ski and snowboard schools also have woman-friendly (or women-only) classes that adjust their training to better benefit women. These classes take into account differences in the location of centre of gravity and upper body strength between men and women, both which play a major role in skiing and snowboarding.
2) Rent equipment.
No matter what anyone says, you don’t need your own equipment when you’re first learning to ski or snowboard – especially if you’re not sure how much you’ll like it yet! Skiing and snowboarding aren’t cheap activities, but many resorts and ski hills offer discounted rentals along with your hill pass or lesson, so there’s no reason to invest major cash into equipment your first time on the slopes. Try to find somewhere that rents parkas and snow pants if you don’t already have your own, and remember to rent wrist guards if you’re trying out snowboarding – you’re going to need them! Most towns and cities near ski hills have stores (or post-secondary institutions) that will rent equipment to you, if you can’t get it at the slopes.
Make sure you know what your ‘guy size’ is for clothes and boots just in case the Pro Shop you’re dealing with only carries ‘unisex’ items, but most places will carry women’s items as well as men’s, which means you’ll get a better and therefore more wind and waterproof fit. You also want to get women’s skis and snowboards vs. ‘unisex’ – recent major advances in equipment design means lighter boards and skis with easier turning profiles, which also means more (and easier) success in getting into the correct body positioning for skiing and snowboarding safely.
3) Look for hills with heavy snowfalls.
Fluffy, soft ‘powder’ can be every skier and snowboarder’s friend. Powder refers to recent snow falls/ snow coverage that hasn’t had a chance to get icy yet due to multiple runs by other skiers or boarders. Research your hills and resorts (or ask for recommendations) before picking where to ski or snowboard, and try to visit somewhere that gets a lot of snow frequently. Natural, fresh snow is easier to travel over, provides a slower run, and is much softer to land on. Also, it’s perfect for snow angels, snowballs and snowmen building when you need a break. But be careful – too much powder can be difficult for new skiers & riders to maneuver turns in!
4) Take a friend.
While snowboarding or skiing can be a great solo activity, they’re even more fun with a friend – especially when you’re just starting out. Not only does it make it safer once you’re on the hill if you have someone to keep an eye on you, it also makes every spill and silly mistake more fun when you’ve got someone to laugh with you over them. Round up your girlfriends for a unique bonding experience spread out over several weeks of lessons or a weekend ski trip, and make sure some of you are at similar skills levels so you can take the lessons together. You’ll have so much fun you won’t even notice the bruises, especially if you pick a resort where you can enjoy a spiked hot chocolate or a hot tub after you’ve finished the day’s runs.
5) Don’t give up.
Everyone’s got different learning speeds when it comes to the hills. While I’ve seen some friends pick up snowboarding in minutes, it took my best friend three days of lessons to master getting up on her board, while I managed to plow into (and knock over) my entire beginner’s class my second ski lesson. This can be especially frustrating if you’re taking a unisex class or using unisex equipment, as male-friendly instructions and equipment can make it more difficult for women to pick up skiing and snowboarding.
It can feel really tempting to give up when this happens, but don’t! Ask your instructor for tips on how to overcome the difficulty, cheer yourself up with a hot chocolate at the lodge (or a massage in the resort spa), give yourself a pep talk, but make sure you give it another try. Eventually you’ll figure out what works best for you and be gliding downhill like a pro and loving every minute of it!