FAQ's for Skiers
How do I pick the right size skis?
Standing up, the skis should reach between your chin and your nose. When in doubt, go shorter. If you are a beginner, neck-height is a good start. With rentals, if you want to go shorter or longer, you can easily do that. As a beginner, you’ll often find yourself wanting to go shorter, not longer.
What is meant by layering?
Layering of clothing. Many beginners make a mistake in wearing the biggest, puffiest, warmest jacket they can find. They often end up too hot. Putting on a number of layers enables you to fine-tune your clothing. Essential are thermal underwear, no matter how hot it is. Thermals (thermal underwear) wick moisture (sweat!) away from the skin (avoid cotton). Then people might have another thermal layer, like wool or fleece shirts/leggings, and then maybe a waterproof layer (shell pants and jacket). Someone who feels the cold more might add an extra layer. People who get hot when they exercise might ensure they have vents in their clothing to let the heat out.
What should I wear on my hands--mittens or gloves?
Gloves give more dexterity, but mittens are warmer. If you suffer from cold hands (women often find this more of a problem), wear mittens. When starting out, you probably don’t want to buy the most expensive gloves or mittens. You may find you build different preferences in hand wear
Should I ski with or without poles to start?
Experiment. Poles don’t serve much purpose when you start – you shouldn’t use them for balance or stopping (why? They don’t work!). Some people find they divert their attention from using their feet and legs, and gladly abandon them while learning the basics. Others aren’t bothered by them. They are useful when standing in lift lines, to lean against. But when moving, you should not be using them for anything. (later on at advanced level, they have a purpose).
What should I expect when I go to rent equipment for the first time?
Info overload, primarily. As a beginner, go for the basic stuff. Advanced skis won’t make you ski better (the opposite, generally). Get skis that are a bit shorter than you’d expect (neck level, even shorter if you’re nervous or unfit). Boots should be comfy BUT beware of getting them too big. Wear one pair of socks (preferably NOT thick ones). If you wear shoe orthotics, put them in the boots when you try them on, and wear them for skiing. Allow plenty of time to get through the rental shop. If possible, get your rentals the night/day before you hit the slopes for the first time.
When I go to a ski resort, after I park, what do I do?
Get your stuff, and make your way to the main area of the resort. Some resorts have people standing out greeting people: they are a great source of info. Most resorts have great deals for first-timers, with lift tickets, lessons and rentals bundled together. You save a lot of money with these. So check these out. People generally go to the ticket office first, and buy lift passes, and/or lessons. Some then head to the rental shop, although if you can get these before that busy morning, you’ll do much better. Put on your gear, make sure you’ve got your tickets, and head for your lesson, or if there’s a wait, have a bit of a play on a flat area of snow. Do not head to the top of the mountain! If you are splitting your group up, arrange a rendezvous. Either lunch, or, if it’s a big mountain, an end of day meeting point. Mobile phones are great but they don’t always work. So rendezvous times and places are always a good idea.
How do I find a helmet that is the right one for me?
Ask the assistant for help, as helmets are a bit like footwear, they are all different shapes for different heads and are designed to fit in various ways. Heads are all different and the helmet must match the head. Go where you can find a good selection and try them on.
Is it really a bad idea to wear jeans when I ski?
Yes. Jeans are the worst possible trousers in the snow. They are made of cotton, cotton soaks up water and holds it. So you get stiff, wet, and chilled as that wet cloth draws heat away from your skin. Jeans don’t give much when you move, and in skiing you need to be able to bend over, or climb to your feet. Also, jeans and ski boots don’t get on well together. You mustn’t put your trousers into your boots, and most jeans won’t go over them, either. So you end up with them ruched up, not a good look. And even in jeans aren’t wet, they conduct the cold *really* well! No insulation at all.
If it’s not too cold or wet, jeans and long johns will work. Been there done that. Just remember, Levi’s are not warm, will not break the wind and will get wet and cold very quickly. If you are going to wear Levi’s spray the legs and seat with a good waterproof spray. Always wear long johns and stay away from really cold days.
If you love this sport buy some shell pants that will be water repellant and also act as a windbreaker. On a not too cold day you can wear long johns under the pants or Levi’s and long johns on a colder day. Shell pants can be purchased for a reasonable price, check the ski swaps.
How do I size my ski poles?
Standing on a firm, level surface (the floor is good) turn the pole upside down and grasp the pole in your hand just under the basket, placing the grip on the floor. If the angle of your elbow is approximately 90 degrees, the pole is the right length. If the angle is acute (less than 90 degrees) the pole is too long; if the angle is obtuse (greater than 90 degrees) the pole is too short.
I don't really burn, do I really need sunscreen?
If its sunny, the suns ray are amplified tremendously by their reflection off of the
white snow. If you know it’s going to be a sunny day put your sunscreen on at home or in the parking lot and take a small container with you. On warm sunny days you may want to reapply the sunscreen at lunch. On warm sunny spring days you can receive a really bad burn – use sunscreen.
Don’t forget your ears and the back of your neck. Put extra on your nose. Also be forewarned some sunscreens will make your eyes burn if it gets into your eyes. If you put sunscreen on your forehead and you perspire it will get into your eyes. To solve this problem I use Neutrogena Oil Free sunscreen, no eye irritations.
Remember if you are a new skier, you will get burned on a sunny day, especially a warm sunny day; so always wear sunscreen in Sunny conditions. Also don’t use SPF 10, 15 or 20. Use at least 30 and preferably 45 or 50. I use 45 and it works for me.
Do I need to wear goggles or will sunglasses also work?
Yes on the need to wear protective eye gear while out in the alpine environment. Your eyes are not designed to deal with direct sun and reflective glare, flat light, wind, little needles of snow, and other assaults to your delicate eye tissues.
This includes little kids and tough guys!
Wear goggles for skiing and carry sunglasses for the chair rides. There are goggles available to fit over glasses, goggles with little fans to keep the lens clear, goggles that come with a range of interchangeable lenses for different weather conditions, etc. As you'd imagine, goggles come in a range of prices. You do not need to buy the most expensive pair, but you will save money by buying good enough quality to last you a few years. As always with eye gear, look for fit and comfort because you'll be wearing them a lot!
How long should I rent equipment before buying?
Don’t be in a rush to buy stuff. It’s expensive, and dates quickly. If you ski more than 2 weeks a winter, it might become economic to buy skis, but less than that, probably not. Boots are another matter. If you are having trouble with painful rental boots, then buying some that are fitted to your foot by the shop is a good idea. If you find a rental setup that really works for you, and you feel that the skis make you ski better than ever before, buy some!
What equipment is most important to own?
Your boots are the most important piece of equipment that you will own. They connect you to the skis and transmit the forces from your body to your skis to make them work. Improperly fitted boots will not be as efficient in helping you control your skis.
If you watch dedicated skier travel you will note that they almost always carry their boots with them in carry on luggage. Lost skis and poles are easy to replace. Lost boots are a major hassle to replace especially if they have been properly fitted.
How do I know if my boots fit?
They should not hurt. Your foot should not move inside them. When you first put them on, they should feel too small because a ski boot fits tighter than you’d ever wear a pair of street shoes. Your toes should just touch the end end when you first put your feet in, and then when you clip them up, the toes should come away from the fronts slightly, as you are now flexed slightly forward. If your heels are lifting a lot, this will be a problem. If they bite into your calf muscles and it hurts, this will get worse. If you can feel your ankle bones getting hot and irritated, this will also get worse. If the toes and ball are cramping, the boot might be too narrow, or you might need something to support your foot arch. Boots are not meant to hurt.
What about socks--what kind, what thickness, how many, etc.?
Wear one pair of socks only. They should be thin or medium thickness. General rule is thin, but medium thickness is OK too. Big heavy bed socks are terrible! There are quite a few “ski” socks available in the $8-$10 USD range that are good. You do not want wrinkles forming; the sock should fit like skin. When putting on your sock pull them up over your long johns not under your long johns. The sock and long john material will adhere to each other and your socks will stay up better.
Don’t wear your ski socks on your drive to the ski resort. Your feet will warm up in the car and perspire a little. This will form a little moisture on you shoe/sock/feet and you don’t want to put your slightly damp foot into a ski boot and then go out and ski in cold conditions. When you arrive and before you put on your ski boots put on fresh ski socks, nice dry ones. On the drive put your boots in the passenger compartment and not in the cold trunk or wherever. Try to put on room temperature and dry boots and socks.
How can I limit my initial investment in case I decide I don't like it?
You can rent most of the equipment you need to ski/snowboard on the mountains. Some places can even rent the outer clothing you need to stay warm More often you will be able to rent, skis poles and boots or the snowboard and the boots
If you can borrow some items that would be one way to save on your initial investment. If not buy wisely using the forum to find the best options that fit your budget. Often basic, value priced gear by the name brands will serve you well with out spending a lot of money.
Is it a good idea to save money by buying a boot online?
A boot that doesn't fit and or is uncomfortable will make you miserable and you will curse the day you bought them. You should only buy online if you know exactly what you want, or have the most normal bomb-proof foot ever. Generally, for most people, this will be risky. However, if there is a good shop near you with a good boot fitter, you could buy the boots online and then negotiate to pay the boot fitter to tailor them to your foot. Beware though, if the boot is just the wrong shape for your foot, all the work in the world won’t make them fit well. Before going for the online bargains, check out what the shop can do for you. They often have last year’s models marked down, and you can still try them on and be fitted by the fitter for less than you’d expect.
Should I take lessons?
Yes, a good instructor can help you find the things that will help you ski easier and better. Lessons from a qualified professional ski instructor are the fastest way to get to real enjoyment of the sport. Lessons from your friends or family members who are not qualified is a recipe for frustration and confusion. EpicSki is an excellent source of information on technique and instruction as you improve in your skills. Even so, instruction and coaching from fine teachers will help you improve to the highest levels you can as quickly as you can.
What's the ideal instructional program for a beginner?
A series of lessons to start is a good idea. Taking three, one each day you go to get a good base of knowledge to work from.
Private lessons are the most expensive but offer the best attention an instructor can provide you. Most people start with group lessons and do quite well by them.
Group or private lessons, how do I decide?
If someone has recommended an instructor to you (a friend or some other independent person), try to book them for > >private lessons. Privates do cost a lot more, but you get a very intensive learning experience tailored to you. However, if budget is limited, or you don’t know who to ask for, take a group lesson. These are much cheaper, you get to meet others who are starting out too, and there’s a bit of mutual support there and you often learn things by watching what they do and what the instructor says to them. Also it’s a great way to “audition” instructors for privates!
How much time and money should I invest in lessons before going it alone?
You have to set your money limits as only you know what you can or want to spend. Time should be based on how much you want to learn and advance in your skiing skills. Take a lesson, then go off and play with what you’ve learned. Then take another lesson, and so on. Good skiers never stop taking lessons. Bad skiers never took enough.
Remember, just taking a lot of lessons does not make you a skilled skier. You have to put your time on the snow. Skiing is like most other athletic endeavors, to get good you need practice and experience. The really GREAT thing about skiing is the practice is really FUN.
What should I expect to get out of a lesson?
After one lesson, you should feel comfortable independently navigating the beginner area on skis or board. You will learn basic information about your equipment, putting it on and taking it off, how to carry it, and how to walk in it. You will learn how to climb short hills and how to slide down in a straight path to a stop. You will learn how to ride a lift up the hill, how to turn left and right, and how to stop on the side of the hill to rest. You will learn how to fall safely and how to get up. You will learn the Skiers Responsibility Code (safe conduct and slope etiquette, i.e., the rules of the road).
What do I do if I'm not satisfied with the lesson or instructor?
This depends on what is or is not happening. Consider the following options:
1) You are in a lesson and things aren’t going right. Address the problem with the instructor.
2) His or her reply is not right to you. Leave the class, go to the ski school and tell them you are either; in the wrong level of class, the instructor is doing a really poor job and you are not getting the service you paid for (be prepared to say why).
3) Ask to join the right level class for you or just change to another instructor.
NOTE: Most ski areas and ski schools will bend over backwards to accommodate you. Don’t make the mistake of just putting up with a bad instructor or the wrong lesson, change either of the two. The ski school wants you to have the best lesson possible and to enjoy your skiing experience and if they have a level assignment or instructor problem they also want to know.
How do I select the right instructor?
As a beginning skier taking a group lesson, you will be assigned an instructor, so it will be a matter of luck if you and your instructor hit it off well, though instructors are selected for the qualities of friendliness and caring.
There is one sure way to control who teaches your lesson, which is to book a "request private" lesson. It could be you want an instructor who is male or female; older or younger; or highly trained. With a regular private lesson you can request specific characteristics, but not the specific person. If you know of a particular instructor you would like to teach you, book a "request private" lesson that allows you to choose the exact instructor.
However, private lessons are considerably more costly than the beginner group lesson, which ordinarily is value priced and will do the job.