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Beginner Tips

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hi All,

Me and my wife will be going out to Utah in Dec, we plan on SKiing at Alta. My wife grew up skiing and she can ski Greens and Blues, I have never been in more than 4 inches of snow, much less skiing. I realize my wife misses it and I want to try it. I am somewhat athletic and I am looking for any tips, obviously I already know some things like.

Water/wind proof clothing & layering.
Socks (what type socks are good for skiing)
Take a few lessons
Buy lift tickets in town. (They offer beginner lift tickets at Alta for like half price, I doubt they have these in town)
Are goggles neccessary?

Any cheap restaurant recommendations, we are staying in Sandy..

Are there any exercises I could be doing so I don't blow out a hamstring ACL, etc etc.?


post #2 of 20
Welcome to skiing, Greg!

You'll love Alta. It's wonderful.

Rent skis at the local shop in Alta. This way they can adjust quickly to problems. If they have them, rent skis no shorter than 110cm (unless you weigh less than 90 pounds) and no longer than 130cm (unless you weigh more than 250 pounds). Usually 120cm are fine. These skis will give you a distinct advantage in your learning curve. You'll move up in length after a few days.

Make sure the boots are really snug (but not too tight). Rental shops are notorious for getting people into boots that are too large. Also don't get thick or ribbed socks.

You'll need goggles if it snows. I wear goggles all the time. But for the beginner's lessons, if it's sunny and hot, you should have dark glasses--and SUN BLOCK.

Drink lots of water. Wear a helmet.

Stretch a lot. Work on core strength, but mainly do training that is fun--whatever you like.

Buy the beginner lift/lesson/rental package at the area. It's usually the best deal.

Take your lessons on at least the first three days. It takes that long to get into the saddle.

Communicate with your instructor. If you don't get it, ask for clarification. Tell her what you want and need. Listen also to her wisdom even if it seems counterintuitive.

And, oh yeah. Have some fun. It's only skiing. And Alta is a stunningly beautiful place. In fact, you'll like it so much that you'll have to come back and join us at the Epicski Academy in Snowbird in January!

Post pictures on the website!
post #3 of 20
"Somewhat athletic" ......... Please relax. Don't try to think this through too much. Skiing in your first days will not be a feat of athletic prowess: it's a game of subtle finess and balance.

The only thing that belongs in a boot is a sock and your foot. Weems point on the boots is right on the money. Show up on the early side and make sure the fit is snug ...... and that you understand the adjustments on the boots. Spend a few minutes feeling that boot out, spend a little time in it after you are fitted. It may become a bit looser and need a few cracks on the adjusters after you have been in it for awhile. Nothin' worse than loose boots or boots that are jamming your toe nails back to your heels.

Put your lift ticket on a zipper pocket, not on the main (front) zipper of your jacket. When you zip up, a ticket flapping in your face is a bit of a distraction.

Leave the camera in the locker and any other "major" items. Travel light in lessons, the lip balm and a few dry napkins to dry goggles or glasses and a few mini candy bars ........ BE SURE to offer your instructor one!

Did I mention ... be sure to offer your instructor a candy bar?
post #4 of 20
Hi Greg--good question! Weems and Yuki beat me to the punch with a couple great answers, so I'll just reiterate and add a little.

In case it wasn't clear from Weems' and Yuki's posts, you'll want to wear ONE reasonably thin and smooth sock on each foot. If you aren't used to snow and cold weather, you may be thinking that you should wear two or more pairs of socks, but don't. It's a very common mistake. Just make sure your boots fit snugly and comfortably, and that you're dressed for the weather. My mother always told me, "if your feet get cold, put a hat on." That's good old northern Maine wisdom--and it's true!

Learning to ski--learning anything, for that matter--can be fascinating or frustrating, your choice. Your body has probably not experienced anything like the long, slippery boards you'll clamp to your feet. You've spent a lifetime learning to operate feet that stick to the planet--and if you're "somewhat athletic," you've probably gotten pretty good at it. Skis aren't like that! Expect them to slip out from under you, get crossed up, and generally misbehave at first. But the body is an amazing thing, and if you give it a chance, it will adapt very quickly. Don't try to force your skis to do what you think they ought to do. Let them do what they do! Play on them. Like a child, savor the newness, and relish the unfamiliarity.

While it's common and natural to think that your first need on skis is to learn how to stop, I suggest that your real first need is to learn how to GO! If all you do on your first day on skis is learn to love gliding, you'll have overcome an obstacle that holds back even many advanced skiers. Skis are meant to glide. They're tools that let us play with gravity, rather than fighting it. It may seem counterintuitive, and when you first get on them, it may seem just plain WRONG! But let them go. Let them glide.

Because our natural instincts tend to favor defensive braking rather than gliding, those first few lessons are critical. Defensive skiing is a dead end street. A good instructor will help you avoid natural bad habits, and make sure you start with a foundation of great fundamentals that will stay with you throughout your skiing career. It's easy.

But so is learning bad habits. Don't let that happen!

Have fun at Alta! As Weems suggests, we'll see you at Snowbird in January!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #5 of 20
Welcome to skiing Greg,
You just might decide winters aren't cold or snowy enough in Atlanta.

One very important thing that Yuki said. RELAX. Skiing is a LAZY man's sport. Slump into your boots and go for a ride down the hill. Heck look at how hard most of us work to get up the hill, two to six passenger sofas, the only things missing are the potato chips and the TV. The hardest guys to teach are the Hockey players that think they need to muscle their turns. Think of skiing as simply sliding down hill with a couple of tobaggans on your feet. Stand up straight, turn the feet, slump down and go for a ride. If your are gonna hit something turn! Obviously very oversimplified here but take the message that it is a finesse sport not a muscle sport. As you get better you will learn how and when to use more muscles.
One last bit of advice, take lessons from a Professional Instructor NOT your Wife or friends. "Demand a Certified Pro or Demand your Money back."
To Yuki's other best advice "Offer your instructor a cany bad." I will add "Buy him/her a beer!"
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 



Thanks for all the advice. We are wondering how many lessons we should take, I am a complete beginner and my wife is a beginner/intermediate. We will be arriving on a Thurs and coming home on a Wed. How many lessons would be good enough yet not breaking the budget. Since my wife knows how to ski somewhat should I just take lessons to get up to her speed and have her forego lessons or take only one, etc etc.. Call me crazy but i'm
almost more excited about seeing a bunch of snow than the skiing itself.


post #7 of 20

I started skiing 3 years ago at 49 years of age. I absolutely would've been content to quit after the first day and never give it another try, but my wife really wanted to get us into skiing, we bought a 3-day beginner package and I had comitted to give it a 3-day try. Something kind of clicked the second day and I started having fun. After 3-days we were both hooked. Now most of our vacations are planned around skiing. FWIW, we went to Alta last year and loved it, some very nice beginner terrain. Lessons have really, really helped me. For the most part, we enjoy lessons. I'd say, plan on at least 3-days for you and then evaluate how you're doing. Everything is pretty awkward at first. Just the stuff like getting boots on, going up and down stairs carrying skis in them, it's all a learning experience. If you find it awkward at first, I think it's normal. Just have fun and it'll click for you, probably a lot sooner than it did for me.
post #8 of 20
Don't let your wife take you to the top of a lift before you've had your first lesson or two.
post #9 of 20
I may suggest an early lesson on the first day and then have some fun within your "comfort envelope", at your pace. If at the end of the day, you feel you have .......... "mastered" (Oh, God how I hate that term!) and are ready for the next round ..... kick it up a notch and take a second lesson.

Perhaps on something like your fourth day and you are becoming addicted (and be wary, because that IS OUR intent!), treat yourself to a private or semi private.

There is a term "build miles on the snow", lessons as you progress so you don't develop bad habits or body mechanics, tempered with massive doses of simply sliding and having fun. Two last points.

1. You are not being graded by your instructor. Be there for one person ... YOU.

2. Most importantly, when you get off the lift for the first time. Relax, take a look around. Look at the beauty of the mountains and all you can see. That's probably the most important tip I can think of.
post #10 of 20
I agree with everyone's comments. There is one exception to what Yuki said: We have found that if people do a solid three day lesson package under the guidance of a pro, the benefits are huge when compared to just one day. You really have time to get a lot of guided practice and practical experience which includes etiquete, safety, terrain exploration, technique, tactics, and huge fun.

I usually say to people that if they are only going to take three days of lessons in their entire life, take them the first three days.

Also, to elaborate on Kneale's comment, your desire to ski up to your wife's level is a two edged sword. Because you're a guy, you will very quickly be able to get to her terrain acquisition level but, because you're a guy, you're very liable to substitute muscle and courage for finesse and technique. Take your time! Don't rush to steeper terrain. The payoff of patience will be just huge.
post #11 of 20

Lots of great advice you got there!

In addition to all the great comfort advice you've already received, I'll add:
Dry your boots each night! The inside that is. If you don't, the moisture will build up as you ski day after day and you'll get cold feet ...even if you wear the hat! Gloves too!

Have a great trip!
post #12 of 20
Good point cgeib! A number of ways to do it. Easiest: pull out the liners, pull the insole out of the liners, and leave them open. Alternatively, use a commercial boot warmer.

While you can use a blow-drier, I don't recommend it. Too much heat can damage the liner material and/or cause it to flow.
post #13 of 20



How can I add to such a wealth of totally fantastic advice! In my opinion, Alta IS the most beautiful place in the world, bar none. It's a special mountain, one of those places that, if you have to ask why, you just don't get it. It's a place that harks back to the very origins of skiing in this country; a place where Alf Engen's ghost still floats through the powder on High Rustler, and smiles. You will either get it, or you won't. I suspect that you will.

Don't skimp on lessons. Alta has some of the best ski instructors in the country. A three-day sounds about right. Don't get tired, and don't get frustrated - you will fall, and you will think each task is the hardest thing you've ever done -until you discover how easy it is. Don't be tempted to go try Snowbird until you feel very solid on Alta's greens and can do a few of their blues. Relax, enjoy, and I predict that you will be back next year, if not sooner.

post #14 of 20
You are so lucky to get advice from the people in this thread. They are some of the industrys top spoke-persons in instruction. During the wrap-up of each lesson. ask your instructor specifically which trails you should be on and have your wife ski those trails with you. Going to terrain too hard for your ability and experience will also cause defensive habbits to form that will impede your development. I'm shure you and your wife want a positive experience, so take it slow and one step at a time.

OOh, one more thing, enjoy!

post #15 of 20


Here's my advice:

* Clip your toenails short the night before.
* Take breaks and go easy.
* Have realistic expectations. Remember how long it took to learn to ride a bike?
* Focus on enjoying yourself first, learning second. Do not set "skiing with my wife" as the goal of your first year of lessons!
* Do not use jeans. If you don't have winter gear, you can purchase or rent it.
* Sunblock.
* Confirm with the rental shop, and reconfirm with the instructor, that your boots are adjusted properly.
* Have fun!
post #16 of 20
The only thoughts I have which are at all different from anyone else's:

- If I were you, I'd sign up for lessons every day. Group lessons are, of course, cheaper and, depending on your personality, can be more fun. Especially if you have at least some of the same people in your class from day to day. I don't know how Alta's ski school is set up, but you should have some time for skiing after the class ends each day.

- Exercise-wise, I'd probably focus on general cardio stuff. But it's not a huge issue. Your biggest problem is going to be clumsiness, not weakness.

- This has already been said, but: don't set your expectations too high ... or at least, focus on fun and having new experiences in a weird environment, rather than accomplishment of a pre-determined goal. "Excited about seeing a bunch of snow" is the right idea. From your description, it's hard to say how good your wife is, but you may be a long way from catching up to her.
post #17 of 20
If you know how to ice skate or rollerblade, that's a great way to get the exercise you asked about, to build endurance, and to develop some of the balance and edging skills you'll use in skiing. Nothing fancy, you'll see a few threads on here about "carving" or doing slalom drills on rollerblades, but that's for later - for now, if you just get out and skate as much as you can, you'll appreciate it when the ski trip comes.

I'm not an instructor but took up skiing as an adult and realized the connection with skating right away. Saw it too in my kids -- best skater was the quickest learner.
post #18 of 20

Water/wind proof clothing & layering.
Socks (what type socks are good for skiing)
For cold weather, 0 deg f. to 25 deg. f.
Base layer of thermos, top and bottoms, medium weight and non-cotton.
turtle neck, 1/4 zip microfleese best, or standard turtle neck shirt.
lined ski pants, waterproof and breathable.
mid layer -fleese vest or R-2 fleese
waterproof and breathable jacket w/ hood, both lined, the lining maybe removeable.
itch-free wool hat, or head protection.
neck gator if it is on the colder side of temp range.
thinsolate gloves or mittens if it is colder. ---bring an extra pair, leather is better, but fabric dries faster and is cheaper.
medium weight ski specific sock (only wear one pair of socks), bring extra socks.

if the day starts off cold and warms up, you can take the mid layer off. Change your socks and gloves if they are really wet and be carefull walking in the lodge with ski boots on, very slippery soles with snow caked to the bottoms.

Very cold - 0 deg F. to minus 0

Same layering as before, but you may want to add microfleese pants under your ski pants.
A R-3 midlayer instead of R-2
mittens with handwarmers
belatrafa instead of neck gator which can be worn under a hat or helmet.

Warmer than 25 deg. F.
same as 0 - 25, but loose the mid-layer. A favorite sweater can also be used as a mid-layer.

The base temperature is often warmer than the summet temp.

People are usually dressed too warm for the very first lesson, the walking and climbing involved plus exerting more than necessary and the trip through the rental shop dressed for outside- well, you know. Get there early so you don't have to rush and reserving your equipment helps a lot.

Hope this helps.

post #19 of 20
Re goggles. I'm always shocked when in the US to see people not wearing UV protection for their eyes. Here in Australia, because of the widespread skin cancer problem, we are very sun aware, and proper eye protection is a given. You should always wear some kind of broad spectrum protection for your eyes. The old condition "snow blindness" actually means you have damaged your retina. You should never venture onto the snow, no matter what the weather, without UV eye protection. Glasses, goggles, whatever. And make sure it's labelled as having UV protective properties as some fashion sunglasses don't have this. Be careful of how much light is getting through around the edges, too.
post #20 of 20
ALL good advice, you can tell these epic folks are people who love their skiing. Stay warm, good gloves, good hat, if its really cold a neck gaiter you can pull up to your face or down. Buy some ski socks don't wear just regular socks. Lessons are great and mandatory the lst day, 2nd and 3rd 1/2 days if you can afford. Don't have a friend or relative (includes wife) teach you to ski. If you like your instructor and he/she has related to you well - give them a tip and try to get them the next day, they'l remember you. Advice from N Idaho: stay warmk, smile and take a lesson.
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