Skiing is all about ‘looking good’, and persuading ourselves and others that we are better at it than we actually are. But before you become a fully fledged bluffer, you’ll have to get past that critical first day on the slopes. Here’s how to make sure you don’t slip up at the very outset.
10 tips for a first time skier
- Ignore anything your friends tell you about how to ski
- Join a ski school, or book a lesson with an instructor
- Make sure you rent the right equipment
- Always wear a helmet
- Don’t wear white
- Don’t go anywhere near a mountain lift or slope without an instructor
- Don’t ski down any slope marked blue, red, or black
- Never ski ahead of your instructor, unless invited to
- Don’t get too confident too soon
- Don’t worry about how to look cool (that starts tomorrow)
WHAT’S THE BEST LOOK FOR A FIRST TIME SKIER?
In a word: ‘understated’. You don’t want to do anything that might draw unnecessary attention to yourself. So, no fur, no braid, no epaulettes, no superfluous zips, no clashing Day-Glo colours, no t-shirts reading ‘Mountain Legend’, no pirate headbands, and definitely no hats with ‘Adolf’ or ‘Helmut’ on the front (even if one of these is your name). And never wear all white, because it will very quickly become non-white.
ANY OTHER ADVICE ABOUT THE RIGHT KIT?
You will learn very quickly what’s right and what’s wrong – so don’t buy – always borrow to begin with. The only things you might consider buying are a good pair of insulated gloves and a ski helmet, although you can hire or borrow the latter if you don’t mind sharing previous wearers’ sweat and dandruff. Ignore people who say helmets aren’t cool. Nobody looks too cool on a stretcher.
WHAT’S THE FIRST THING TO DO WHEN I ACTUALLY SET FOOT ON A SKI MOUNTAIN?
You’re going to need to hire boots and skis. Find your way to a ski rental shop and confess to the ‘techie’ (this is the person who sizes you up for the right footwear and skis) that you’re a total beginner. He or she might take pity on you and actually match you to the right equipment. Soon you’ll be staggering about in a pair of plastic boots with all the characteristics of heavy duty industrial clamps. Pray that they’re the right fit, otherwise you’ll enter a whole new realm of pain.
As a rule of thumb, the skis should be about 10cm or more shorter than you are. Just ensure they aren’t taller than you. Next you’ll need a pair of ski-poles. These are the sticks which you will sometimes be required to ‘plant’ in the snow; they’re also useful as a means of maintaining your balance when you’re sliding around the resort in your ski boots. Finally, you’ll need a lift ‘pass’ or ‘ticket’ – the excessively expensive electronic cards which get you transported up the mountain in a cable car, a railway, an enclosed ‘gondola’ or ‘bubble’, a chair lift, or a ‘drag lift’. At this stage make sure you avoid the last two.
SO, DO I JUST SET OFF WITH MY MATES AND LET THEM SHOW ME THE ROPES?
Not unless you want to spend the rest of your trip in traction. It is essential that you get ski lessons from someone who knows what they’re doing. A qualified instructor will teach you the four most important lessons in skiing: how to turn, how to slow down, how to stop, and how to stand up when you’ve fallen over – which will happen a lot to begin with. Your options are either to join a ski school, where you’ll spend a lot of time watching a dozen or so other beginners fall over while following them in a crocodile (just like infant school).
Alternatively, if you can afford it, hire a private instructor for the day and let him/her teach you the basics out of sight of your sniggering friends as they watch your calamitous efforts to remain vertical. You’ll learn more in one day on a one-to-one basis than you will in a week at ski school. And he/she will also willingly help you with renting the right equipment (they’ll probably get a kickback from the rental shop – strictly off the record of course).
HOW DO I CHOSE AN INSTRUCTOR?
Unless you’ve been recommended someone, this is really pot-luck. There’s an old joke about instructors: Q/ What’s the difference between God and a ski instructor? A/ God doesn’t think he’s a ski instructor. So they all have one thing in common – an abundance of self-love. Most instructors are usually local farmhands who, for four months of the year, get to show off in very cool uniforms and become unaccountably attractive to the opposite sex (and often even their own – especially during Gay Ski Week). Irritatingly they’re always very good skiers.
WHEN WILL I ACTUALLY BE SKIING DOWN A SLOPE?
On your first day. But don’t feel too cocky too soon. By lunchtime you might feel you’ve cracked it, and will be tempted to ski down to a mountain restaurant at high speed to impress onlookers. Don’t. Watching some poor sap losing control and hitting a restaurant wall at about 40mph is what onlookers are hoping for.
MAXIUM BLUFFING VALUE
In terms of sustaining an injury requiring medical attention, skiing is statistically safer than cycling, fishing, golf, tennis and, by a huge margin, DIY home improvement. Everybody knows that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics – but state with confidence that these are actually true.
DO SAY that your skis have ‘blunt edges’. This is a valid excuse for most forms of skiing ineptitude.
DON’T SAY ‘I’ve never had a lesson in my life.’ This is ill-advised, not least because it will lay you open to the entirely legitimate retort: ‘Yes, it shows.’
And here are a few cautionary skiing tales…