How to Learn to Ski as an Adult

Starting to ski as an adult might be a little harder—but it's not impossible! Here are a few things you can do to make the journey as smooth as possible.

Photo by Ilya Shishikhin
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So you’ve finally decided to go for it, huh? After years of dreaming about cruising through alpine vistas with billows of white snow jetting from behind your skis, this year is the year you’re really going to try skiing! Well, you’ve made an excellent choice and you won’t regret it. Skiing provides lifelong opportunities to have thrilling adventures, get great exercise, be close to nature, and develop fine technical skills. Almost everyone who sticks with it loves it, but some first-time skiers get turned off before they really have a chance to get to know it. There are a few common mistakes that can prevent adult learners from really making the most of their first time on the mountain, and so today I want to share some tips to help you have an awesome experience as you begin your skiing journey!

Get in Shape

For most of us, it’s just a fact of life that as we get older, it gets harder and harder to stay in shape. If you’re already doing what you have to do to stay fit, then power to you! But for a lot of adult beginners, skiing winds up being a lot more physically taxing than they are expecting. But fear not, you don’t need to become some fitness guru to have fun out on the slopes—in the months leading up to your ski season, just make sure to get a bit of cardio most days and try to implement a moderate core and lower-body regimen. Check out this great article from fellow expert Matt Wood on 9 Exercises to Get You Ready for the Slopes.

A family of hikers walk along a tree-lined path while the sun sets
Hiking is a great pre-season exercise to get ready for skiing! Photo by photo-nic.co.uk nic

Limber Up

If you ignore that first tip, please at least heed this one. Make sure to stretch before your first run, and ideally, before you even have your boots on. I generally start with some gentle ankle rolls, then try to touch my toes. I follow that with some lunges to loosen up my thighs, and then do some twists to loosen up my core. Then I’ll do some arm circles and other arm stretches to warm up my triceps and forearms. Finally, I’ll finish off with some gentle neck rolls. There are some kids out there who seem to be made from rubber bands, but for us grown-ups, a regimen like this will save you from lots of frustrating injuries and get you warmed up before that chilly first lift ride. And it really only needs to take 10 to 15 minutes.

Trust Your Gear Advice

Shelling out hundreds of dollars on ski gear before you know what you’re doing is a bad idea. Picking the right skis and ski boots is the obvious focus for most people when they first start, and while these are extremely important components to a good gear set up, it’s important not to overlook your other pieces of equipment like poles, goggles, helmet, gloves, jacket, and pants. Poles need to be the right height, goggles should be targeted toward the type of sky conditions common in your area, helmets need to be trustworthy and warm—the list goes on and on. Consult a trusted expert to make sure you’re warm and safe out there.

For skis, boots, and bindings, whether you’re renting or buying, you’ll want an experienced fitter to get you set up. Make sure the fitter asks you what your experience level is and what your skiing goals are, otherwise they might not really find you the perfect ski. If you aren’t sure who to trust, start with a Curated expert. And if you aren’t sure whether equipment rental or equipment purchasing is the way to go, check out A Guide to Renting Skis vs. Buying Your Own by Russ Lowe!

A woman instructs another woman how to position her skis while a man looks on
Make sure you've got the right gear—and know how to use it. Photo by amriphoto

Budget for a Ski Lesson

If you have to make the choice between a more expensive piece of gear or a lesson, spend the money on the lesson. There are lots of great entry level gear options in just about every category that will get the job done as you’re starting out. Having the assistance of a certified ski instructor will get you on the right track so much faster then trying to figure it out on your own, and as a result, you’ll have a lot more fun.

If you’re going to learn from a friend make sure they are really an expert and they really know what they’re talking about. Even very good skiers don’t always know the best ways to instruct beginners and aren’t always well versed on the newest drills. Private lessons are an awesome option, but group lessons are very effective as well!

Choose the Right Mountain

There are two major things to consider when choosing ski resorts to learn on. The first thing is connected to the last point I made—travel cost. Don’t spend a fortune to travel across the country to some legendary ski mountain before you can really appreciate what makes it great. That money will be better spent in the future when you’re good enough to get around the hill.

The second thing to consider is the variety of beginner terrain. Some mountains, even some legendary ones, are steep almost all the way down, and beginner skiers are forced to ski the same three or four short runs all day. Killington and Mt. Snow are great hills on the East Coast with a variety of beginner terrain and greens accessible from the peaks. In the Rockies, Aspen Buttermilk has a great reputation as a learners’ hill, Vail and Park City offer tremendous variety and beginner hills, and Sun Valley is a wonderfully scenic mountain with great gentle terrain as well. Look for mountains that have multiple beginner lifts, beginner rental packages, and cheaper rates for lower mountain lift tickets.

A wide-open groomed run at a ski hill with numerous skiers on it
A wide open groomer like this makes for perfect beginner terrain. Photo by Urlaubstracker

Ignore the Toddlers Whizzing by You

Kids are fearless and seemingly made of rubber—and they pick stuff up really fast. Plus some kids like me start when they’re as young as two years old, so they may be toddlers with years of experience. First timers, don’t let it get you down and don’t feel discouraged. And don’t be embarrassed to fall. Usually when people see a big wipeout on the hill, they respond with cheers and encouragement!

Give It a Few Days

There’s a really good chance your first day on the hill is going to be rough. Don’t give up on it right away! Lots of people struggle for two or three days and think skiing isn’t for them. Then it suddenly clicks and they never look back. So don't wait till next winter—stick with it through the initial growing pains, and I promise you it’ll be worth it!

If you have any questions on gearing up for your first time out on the mountain, please don't hesitate to reach out to me or one of my fellow Ski experts for free advice and recommendations.

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Written By
Abe F
Ski Expert
Two years of volunteer experience as an adaptive skiing instructor, Level 1 avalanche certification, and a lifetime of experience out on the hill!
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