- Try it before you go
- Check your travel insurance
- Book ski school early
‘I always advise people to try it first,’ says Jim Walker, publisher of ski and snowboarding bible Snow Magazine. ‘If you’ve got the basics of even how to get up, it makes a big difference for when you’re on your holiday.’
A course of lessons in the UK will do more than just help you master some of these basics, from working the bindings on skis or snowboard to making your first turns. The lessons will also help you develop your ski muscles, muscles you may not have used much before.
Jim recommends squats as a good way to boost your leg strength. Cycling is also good. Stronger legs will help improve your stamina when you’re on the slopes and increase safety because accidents are more likely to happen when you’re tired at the end of the day.
Book into ski school
Another important thing to consider is expert tuition. The experts at Snow Magazine warn beginners firmly against ‘going it alone’.
'Make sure you’ve got good instruction booked from the very start,’ says Jim. ‘Never get your partner to teach you: number one tip. I made that mistake myself!'
Book lessons in advance because if you are travelling in school holidays, the ski schools can get filled up very quickly. You also should contact your travel insurer about their winter sports cover, as you may need to add it as an optional extra to your usual insurance.
‘For the most part beginners won’t be going off-piste so they won’t need specialist skiing insurance but at the same time you do need to look into your policy,’ says Jim.
Get yourself a lid
‘We advise people to wear helmets whenever they’re skiing or boarding, particularly when they’re starting out,’ says Jim.
He quotes a study from safety research firm Transport Research Lab, showing that a head-on ski or snow-board crash subjects the skier to almost two tonnes of force – wearing a helmet can absorb up to two thirds of that force.
Snow Magazine advises consumers to buy from reputable brands, and to look for at least one of the two main safety standard certification marks (CE EN1077 in Europe and ASTM F-2040 in the USA).
What about the ‘hire versus buy’ debate with the ski equipment?
‘You should buy essential gear like the jacket, trousers and gloves, but rent everything else,’ says Jim. ‘The hire gear in resorts is much better than it used to be and there’s just no point in buying when you don’t even know if you’re going to go every year.’
Renting also gives you flexibility: if your skis are too long or your boots are uncomfortable you can get them changed for different ones. You can also hire helmets in resorts. And obvious as it might seem, you can also wear ski clothing in the UK – the right ski jacket makes a great winter coat.
Understand the jargon
Finally, Snow Magazine recommends you browse the piste map before you set off on your holiday and get up to speed with the lingo. Find out what ‘moguls’ are for instance, and know what the colour coding on the piste maps means.
Green slopes are usually the easiest slopes on the mountain and normally wide and smooth, while blues are intermediate pistes. Red and black slopes are often for advanced skiers.
Lastly, Jim recommends you choose the right resort in the first place – not least one with lots of beginners slopes – those greens and blues. You should also think about when you’re not skiing; whether it’s indulging in local cuisine, going tobogganing or for a dog-sled ride there are lots of other activities to enjoy.
‘It’s unlikely that you’re going to want to ski for a full week when it’s your first week,’ notes Jim. Quite right: sounds like it’s time for some après-ski…
Now you’re ready to hit the slopes, read our three minute guide to winter sports cover, detailing the travel insurance you might need for your first skiing trip.