Living in Northern California, Lake Tahoe is where everyone migrates to in the winter to ski. It’s only about a four hour drive from San Francisco and the views and laid-back atmosphere can’t be beat. Pretty much everyone I know learned to ski as a kid – my younger brother included. My family had a house in Tahoe back when I was in high school and every weekend they would head up there to ski and my brother took tons of lessons. Since I was a teenager back then, I thought I was too cool to learn and stayed home with my friends. I definitely regret this now! California has been in a drought for what seems like the past decade and no one has been able to ski much. The resorts weren’t opening until after Thanksgiving and then would close by Easter. Everything finally changed this year – it literally has barely stopped raining in San Francisco which means Tahoe got dumped on. All of a sudden everyone was back on the slopes! I decided this was my year to finally learn.
I’ve attempted snowboarding a few times with terrible results and have skied a couple times in the past few years but am definitely pretty beginner. Luckily for me, my brother is now an expert skier and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. I took advantage of his knowledge and extra ski passes and headed there for the weekend to learn. Skiing can be pretty intimidating if you don’t know what you are doing. Below are my ten best tips for beginner/novice skiers.
1.) Go at your own pace:
It can be totally tempting to try and keep up with your friends especially after you’ve gotten down a few green or blue runs successfully. Don’t feel pressured to try runs above your ability and don’t put yourself in a situation where your lack of skills could put you in danger. It’s worth it to work your way down the run slowly even if your friends lap you a couple times 😉 Your confidence and technique will improve better when you slow down and do it right.
2.) Cut across the mountain rather than straight down:
I literally did this the entire way down a few tricky blue runs. It’s scary to look down at a huge steep slope and not know where to even start. Divide and conquer the mountain by angling your skis parallel instead of straight downhill. This will slow you and make your trip down much more manageable!
3.) Start with a shorter ski:
The skis my brother rented for me were so short they were practically child sized 🙂 It’s much easier to get the hang of turns and lifting your inside edge while heading downhill when you have less length to worry about. Also less chance of getting your skis crossed!
4.) Don’t plant your poles getting off the lifts:
After having some horrible lift experiences while snowboarding (#neveragain), I was initially terrified of the lifts. I was mostly afraid of getting in the way of other people and turning into a human mogul. Getting off the lift on skis is actually pretty easy – you literally just stand up and coast. My instinct was to plant my poles on either side of me for balance but do not do this! It can actually tangle you up and is rude to the person beside you to shove your ski poles into their space (Sorry Mom!).
5.) Bend your knees and lean on your boots:
This was sooooo counterintuitive to me as someone who grew up riding horses. My natural position is always sitting slightly back. Skiing is a totally different ball game, in order to really balance, you need to rely on leaning forward into your boots. This will actually help straighten your skis out and help you turn.
6.) Take a private (or semi private) lesson:
Not everyone can have a family member or friend teach them to ski- it’s kind of like teaching someone to drive, some things are best left to the professionals. I was able to be coached by my brother but if you can take a lesson I would highly recommend it. The smaller the better so you can get more personalized attention- you will pick up real technique so much faster and will learn to do things the right way before learning bad habits.
7.) Look where you want to go:
Sounds obvious but still a good reminder- Don’t look down at your skis or you will end up on the ground. Instead look ahead and your body will naturally guide the skis where they should go.
8.) Press Record:
Once you get down a few different runs, have someone stand at the bottom and record you coming down. Take a video each day you ski to see the improvements. A friend or instructor can also point out things you can do to improve. Sometimes it’s easier to see yourself making the mistakes so you can mentally correct when you are back on the slopes.
9.) Bring snacks and stay hydrated:
Also kind of obvious, but skiing is hard work! Make sure you have plenty of water and energy bars to refuel. Food on the mountain tends to be expensive also so it’s nice to bring a few snacks of your own.
It’s just skiing! It doesn’t matter if it takes you an hour to get down the bunny slope your first time out. Just commit to trying your best and keeping a good attitude and you will be just fine. When your mind is relaxed, your body will follow and the skiing will happen much more naturally.