For anyone who’s skied or boarded before, a winter sports holiday seems like second nature. Wind in your hair, speeding effortlessly down the slopes, twisting through the trees… but what if you’ve never been before? Is it really that simple?
Here, to dispel the myths and inform expectations, is our guide to ski and snowboard holidays for beginners.
Is it your first ski holiday? Here’s what’s involved?
Winter sports holidays are all about having a fantastic time, surrounded by incredible scenery. A lot of it is about the skiing and the boarding, being out on the slopes all day and making the most of amazing snow conditions. As a beginner, you’ll want to take lessons and as you progress, you’ll become as keen as everyone else to get on the slopes.
You can expect to be cold too. But not that wet, dreary cold we get here in the UK – be prepared for a nice, dry cold that might even fool you into thinking it’s warm. Don’t be tricked by the temperature when it comes to the sun; even in cold weather you’ll need your sun-cream (or risk the never-popular goggle tan). When the snow falls, be prepared for a ‘white out’; this is where the snow is so heavy that you can’t see past it, meaning an early end to your day – and an early opportunity for a hot chocolate or vin chaud (hot wine).
But ski holidays aren’t just about the sport. Whether you’re part of a group, a couple, a family or travelling alone, you’ll experience what it’s like to be a part of the resort and all that comes with it. Activities off the slope include ice skating, spas, swimming pools, cinemas, shopping, ice climbing, walking – all within beautiful mountainside surroundings.
Then there’s après ski (French for ‘after ski’). Après ski is the term used for the socialising that happens when the skiing is done and usually takes place in bars, restaurants and social areas in your hotel/chalet.
What can I expect my first experience to be like? Will I enjoy it?
Learning to ski or snowboard, like any sport, can be frustrating at first. Don’t give up though – the first couple of days may be tough but most people find their feet very quickly. If you’re keen to avoid this feeling then it’s worth taking a few lessons before you leave the UK in one of the many indoor ski slopes around the country. Do make sure you get yourself lessons in-resort too and you’ll be off to an excellent start.
The first few days will be physically challenging too, so expect to be tired. Day 3 is typically the hardest; you’ve been challenged by the new experience and your body will probably ache. Plus ski boots can get really uncomfortable. Remember this and make the effort to push through though – it’s all worth it in the end. Beginners who go away for a week can typically expect to be fairly competent on the slopes by the end of it – have lessons every day and you’ll see huge improvements.
When it comes to equipment, trust the person doing the fitting for you. Ski boots are uncomfortable and they’re meant to be tight so expect that – that’s how they support your ankles. Make sure you wear your ski socks for your fitting to get the best possible fit.
Everyone starts as a beginner at some point and everyone gets scared. Keep smiling!
TOP TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BORROW GEAR.
If it’s your first time skiing, you can’t guarantee you’ll like. And ski gear can be a bit of an investment. So our top tip is to borrow it off someone if you can. Don’t over invest. Keep it casual until you know you’ve got a passion for it.
BE PREPARED TO GET PHYSICAL.
Skiing and boarding are sports, so making sure you’re in good physical shape will help you out on the slopes. Keep this up in-resort too; a heavy night of après might seem tempting when there are so many bars to choose from, but no one skis well with a hangover…
Getting some practice in on an indoor slope will help your confidence on the mountain. Take lessons in-resort too, for at least the first week, and you’ll soon be skiing and boarding with the best of ‘em.
WEAR THIN LAYERS – IT GETS WARM WHEN YOU’RE SKIING/BOARDING
And don’t choose cotton. Proper thermals, like those sold in Sports Direct, will keep you warm and dry. Try hiking socks or proper ski socks – not only do they keep the heat in, they’ll give you extra padding to make you more comfortable.
FIND A HOTEL NEAR TO THE SKI LIFTS AND/OR MAKE USE OF LOCKERS.
Getting a hotel/chalet near the lifts will make your life a bit easier when it comes to carrying your equipment up the mountain. Try to find somewhere within easy walking distance or with a good shuttle bus service and you’ll find it much easier to get around.
Most resorts will provide lockers for you to keep your stuff in during the day too. Make use of them. Carrying too much stuff up the mountain can be cumbersome and uncomfortable, so leave that packed lunch/change of clothes/good luck teddy bear behind!
REMEMBER YOU’RE A BEGINNER
You will fall. It might hurt. And your ski boots will be uncomfortable. We all started there at some point and you will get past it; don’t expect to be James Woods (UK Slopestyle competitor) within your first week and you’ll do just fine.
WHAT TO PACK FOR MY FIRST SKI HOLIDAY?
Take a look at our ‘what to pack for a ski/snowboard holiday’ blog for a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need.
The world of winter sports has a fashion sense all of its own. Nowhere else will you find such brightly coloured jackets and trousers and nowhere else is it acceptable to wear that bobble hat! It can be tempting to get carried away with all the things you could buy, but that gets pricey… here are the essentials you’ll need:
This can be a bit of minefield with a whole load of terminology that can be overwhelming even for an expert. But to keep it simple you want to make sure it is 5k waterproof, breathable and has more than 60gm of wadding. Everything is just fancy terminology that you don’t really need to know.
Also the more pockets the better.
SALOPETTES/SKI PANTS OR SNOWBOARD PANTS
Like picking a jacket this can feel a little overwhelming at first but what you’re essentially looking at is the same. You want Salopettes that have reasonable wadding (50gms or more) and are waterproof (again looking for 5k waterproof). You also want them to have vents, snow gaiters and plenty of pockets.
Whatever keeps your hands warm and dry. Avoid anything that’s woolen.
You can buy ski specific socks and they are reasonably cheap as well. If you don’t want to buy then any long thick socks will work well. As long as the seam doesn’t sit beneath the boot then you’re good to go.
This will completely depend on when you go and conditions.
If it’s spring skiing then you can get away with sunglasses. If there’s any snow about then you’re more than likely going to need goggles.
What’s for sure is that you’ll need something over your eyes as it is very bright.
THERMAL LAYERS (NOT COTTON – PROPER THERMALS)
Layers are king on the mountain.
It’s a piece cloth you can wear around your neck that can cover your lower face. When your skiing into the wind it can basically feel like a warm blanket for your face.
Borrowing from friends can be useful if you’re not sure about buying your own kit, or check out Sports Direct for good value ski and snowboard clothing that’s perfect for beginners.
It’s also useful to think about changes of clothes for the evening. Snow boots or moon boots are worth taking a look at as they tend to have better grip than a lot of shoes and are easy to slip on and off – which is great when you want to change out of your ski boots. Leave them in your locker and pop them on before heading to the bar for added après ski comfort…
DO I NEED TO TAKE LESSONS?
Yes. Definitely. If you can, take them before you go as well as while you’re there.
Indoor and dry slopes
There are loads of indoor slopes in the UK where you can learn the basics with qualified instructors on real snow. There are also lots of dry ski slopes where you’ll learn on a special material which behaves like snow. Take a look at the Ski Club of Great Britain’s map of indoor and dry slopes. It’s also worth checking out Snowsports England’s Go Ski Go Board initiative for some great deals for beginners.
Ski and snowboard lessons in-resort
Attending ski school may feel a bit daunting. Perhaps you’ve even got mates that could teach you for free. But there really is no substitute for the professional tuition you’ll get with proper ski school lessons.
Crystal Ski offers various first-timer bundles which include ski and snowboard lessons; make sure you book in advance to secure your place. You’ll learn to ski as part of a group, or privately if you prefer, and follow a series of lessons that help you progress from beginner to confident skier/boarder. If you can, take lessons for at least your first week on the slopes to get the most out of them.
An absolute beginner and not sure whether to learn to ski or snowboard. Then check out this post.
Or if you’re ready to take the plunge then check out some of the top places to learn to ski in Europe.
To find out more about beginner ski holidays and to find yours now, take a look at Crystal Ski’s beginner ski/snowboard holidays page and look out for the ‘good for beginners’ logo throughout the website.