How to Get Into Skiing

Published on 10/19/2023 · 13 min readAre the mountains calling? In this guide, Skiing Expert Alex K. gives you the rundown on how to get fully prepared to take them on if you're new to skiing!
Alex K., Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Alex K.

Photo by Gorilla Images

Maybe you’ve been noodling the idea for some time, or maybe it just popped into your head. “Why can’t I, a grown and capable adult, get into skiing?”

While you’ll recall your go-getter grade school teacher telling you there’s no such thing as “can’t,” we’re here to back that up and welcome you with open arms to the “dark side.”

But before you shoot the wad on a complete downhill/alpine ski setup (which can run well over $1,000 for skis, bindings, boots, poles, a helmet, and other essential apparel), you need to be honest with yourself: why do you want to start skiing, how often do you envision yourself doing it, and what are your skiing goals?

Whether you’re all in or mildly interested, read on to see what you should know and will need as a first-time skier.

5 Questions to Consider Before Skiing

1. Where and How Often You’re Going to Ski?

Photo by Maarten Duineveld

Let’s say you live in Florida. It’s a nice place, but there aren’t many mountains, and it definitely lacks snow. You may plan to ski north once or twice a year. Depending on how often you want to ski downhill, and if it’s as infrequently as once or twice a winter, renting could be the way to go. In this case, you wouldn’t have to haul all your ski gear as checked luggage (which can add up airline fees, and checked bags aren’t delicately handled). Instead, you could just rent at the mountain or a local ski shop in the town you’re visiting. A full rental setup (including a helmet) can cost anywhere from $40 to $70 per day for a basic package—more for performance or demo skis but less if you rent for multiple days.

If you live somewhat close to a mountain, do a little research. How long does it take to drive there? How many times do you realistically envision yourself skiing there each winter? Every weekend? A few weekends per month?

If skiing is your new winter sport (and we wholeheartedly encourage that!), it’s worth weighing the investment. Look up the cost of a season pass at your local ski area, and if that’s too much or you’re not sure you’ll ski enough, consider a multi-day pass or lesson package that includes lift tickets.

If you’re worried about how challenging a mountain will be, have no fear. Most ski areas (except Silverton, CO) have beginner-friendly learning areas with gentle “bunny” slopes and “magic carpets” to transport you as a total newbie. Doesn't that sound inviting?

Also, if you live near a big, intimidating mountain, chances are there’s a smaller, more beginner-friendly ski area nearby that doesn't boast a lot of vertical drop. These areas are usually less expensive than the big resorts and can be less crowded on weekends.

2. Why Do You Want to Ski?

Photo by Maridav

What's your skiing background like? Did you do it as a kid? Have you ever tried it? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do, or is this a new interest because your friends, children, or significant other do it?

Maybe you’re truthfully doing it for the après (after-skiing scene), and that’s okay, too! Just be honest with yourself and the real reason you’re doing this. If it’s for socializing, green-circle (beginner) and blue-square (intermediate) ski trails will be your jam. There is no need to prove yourself on black diamonds (expert) or glades (ungroomed, off-trail, through trees), and we strongly advise against those for anyone starting.

Are you ready for a few (or a lot of) falls?

We’re not saying you’ll break anything (and we certainly wouldn’t wish that on anyone!), but you can get a few bumps and bruises along the way. The good news is that skiing is typically easier for adults to learn than snowboarding. Take it from someone who’s been skiing since toddlerhood and started snowboarding in my 20s: beginner snowboarding comes with a fair share of knee and tailbone bruises (fall forward on your knees or back on your bottom). With skiing, you typically fall backward, but usually not as “sack-of-potatoes-like” as snowboarding since your feet are fastened to two planks, not one. Multiple points of contact make it easier to break your fall.

Like snowboarding, skiing is a gravity sport. You’ll need to learn to slow down before you can speed up, which can be hard for some people. Maybe you’re extra tentative, or you’ve never tried anything like skiing before. That’s okay, but know that skiing involves risks, and you’ll want to take a lesson (or two or three!) and learn to snowplow/stop before you get going.

Let’s say you’re super athletic; skiing is another sport to add to your repertoire. That’s great, too, but don’t go in thinking you’re going to ski 100mph straight down the mountain. That’s unsafe for you or anyone else, and you will likely end up in the hospital (or put someone else in it). Turns are your friend and how you control your ski speed and direction. The better you get at them, the more fun you’ll have skiing. Learn to master turns through a series of lessons, and you’ll have a blast on the mountain.

3. What Gear Do You Need?

Photo by Bear Fotos

The following is a list of items you’ll need to ski:

  • Alpine skis
  • Bindings
  • Ski boots
  • Ski poles
  • Ski helmet (non-negotiable)
  • Ski goggles (that fit your helmet)
  • Insulated, waterproof, windproof clothing (i.e., ski jacket, ski pants, gloves/mittens, etc.)
  • Base layers (comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing under the jacket and snow pants) and ski socks (as with base layers, Merino wool material is key!)
  • An instructor or someone to teach you
  • A place to ski (with a dedicated beginner or “learning” area with a bunny lift or magic carpet/conveyor belt)
  • Snow!

We can’t stress enough how important it is to (properly) outfit yourself with equipment that’s right for you. That means finding skis and boots that match your ability and goals and are sized appropriately for you. While shorter skis are typically easier for beginners to learn on, ultra-short ski blades are not the way to go, as these can be difficult for beginners to control and downright dangerous.

Consider renting if you want to test the waters before diving into skiing. Find a reputable ski shop by researching, reading reviews, and asking your skier friends who they’d trust to rent from, then get outfitted for a day, multi-day, or season-long skis, boots, and poles.

If you're hesitant about buying ski boots online, we encourage you to try a few at a ski shop first. Measuring your feet in a store and trying on several brands will help you determine your boot size and the most comfortable boot type. A professional boot fitter can also help you choose your ski boots' correct flex (or stiffness). The lower the flex, the easier it is to bend your ankles forward. Higher-flex boots are usually tailored to high-performance, more advanced skiers and racers.

Aside from boots and poles, you must find bindings that fit the width of your skis and have an appropriate DIN setting to match your weight, height, and ability. This setting determines how much force it will take to release the bindings (if you take a hard fall, you’ll want the skis to pop off)—an essential safety feature with skiing. Bindings should be mounted and set by a certified ski technician.

Regarding ski width, wider isn’t exactly better. Beginners should opt for a softer-flex, narrower ski, which will help them apply pressure correctly on the skis and help with turning in firmer conditions. If you live in a place blessed with lots of powder, you can opt for a wider, “all-mountain” ski. Leave the twin tips and true powder skis to the experts; specific skis are made for freestyle park skiing (and beginners shouldn’t be hucking themselves off any jumps or attempting rails or boxes), and powder/big mountain skis are for advanced, “off-piste” skiers seeking deep snow.

Ask a Curated Expert about the type of ski and binding that’s best for you based on where you live (East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Rockies, etc.) and where you plan to ski.

4. Who’s Going to Teach You?

Photo by Micro Jen

Your first day on the hill (and we say “hill” because you should start on an easy slope near the bottom, not the top, of a mountain) can make or break you in this sport. A successful first outing as a beginner skier will keep you returning for more; a bad one could have you returning those rentals so quickly that it’ll make your head spin.

If you can, take a ski lesson (or a series of lessons) with a certified ski instructor (Professional Ski Instructors of America certification is the standard in the U.S.). These knowledgeable and trained teachers will help you ease into the sport, master the basics, and grow your confidence as a skier. On average, a private lesson costs around $100 an hour—with discounts for groups or adding additional people to the lesson and options for longer lessons. Lessons typically include a lift ticket to the beginner or learning area of the ski resort. Lessons, rentals, and lift tickets are often offered as packages to save money.

If you have a willing friend who’s offered to teach you, be sure they know your skill level and any past injuries going in. It’s best to leave instructing to professionals, but an advanced skier can certainly give you some tips. Ask them to help you start at the learning area so you can get comfortable on skis before you head up the lift. It can be tough for a skilled skier to take it slow, so make sure they know what they’re in for before they take you, and don’t try to keep up with them.

Ask them to teach you one thing at a time. Try not to focus on too much at once. Learning to snowplow/stop and turn is essential. If you ride a lift, ensure your friend will help you get on and off.

5. How Should You Get Started?

It's good to practice form and falling before you even hit the slopes! Photo by Ljupco Smokovski

Before you even get outside, practice putting on your ski equipment inside (on an area rug or carpet to avoid dinging up floors or damaging the skis).

New boots will be very stiff and difficult to put on at first. Unbuckle the buckles and push the tongue out to get your foot in. This will get easier over time, but remember, ski boots are not the easiest to put on. Then practice buckling them (not too loose, not too tight) and stepping into your bindings (align the toe first, then push your heel down so it locks into place, one ski at a time). Also, practice releasing them by pushing your palm or ski pole tip into the back of your binding (the heel piece that pops up when they lock into place). Push hard and lift your foot out to release.

With your skis on, sit on the floor to one side of your skis to mimic falling. Practice standing back up (skis need to be parallel), twisting your upper body away from your skis, and pushing your hands into the floor to help you stand up. Put your body weight into the leg farthest from your hands, use the strength in your arms and legs, and voila!

From a standing position, practice your ski stance. With skis parallel to each other and ski tips pointing in the same direction (often called “French fries” when teaching kids), bend your knees, flex your ankles, and lean forward. Most beginners fall backward, so focus on placing your weight in the middle of your skis by pressing your shins against the front of your ski boots. With your knees bent and body relaxed, shift your hips from side to side to feel the shift in weight to the outside of each leg.

You do not need ski poles as a beginner. Poles get in the way until you’ve mastered the basics, making it difficult to get on and off the chairlift. Unless your instructor advises you to, we suggest starting without them. But if you use them, ensure they’re strapped to your wrists. Keep your arms should be bent at 90° while in this stance.

The skier in front has her skis in a french fry position with the tips closer together and the tails further apart, while the skier in the back has their skis in a french fry position with both skis parallel to each other. Photo by Gorilla Images

From the “French fry” stance with your weight evenly distributed on both skis, push into the outside of your ankles, with weight more in your heels, and form a wedge/pizza-slice shape (also known as the “pizza” or more universally, the snowplow) with your skis, without crossing your tips or skis over one another. This will help you slow down, stop, and turn. Move in and out of the “French fry” and “pizza” with your knees bent and your body relaxed. This will take some effort with heavy ski equipment, but it’s great to practice indoors before doing it on slippery snow outside.

On the Hill

Once you’re outfitted and ready to hit the slopes, try to get out on a weekday to avoid crowds and children in the learning area. Start on a gentle bunny hill (it should look relatively flat) and practice everything you did at home on flat ground: sitting down and pushing yourself back to standing, “French fry,” and “pizza.” If you fall, position your skis parallel to each other with their tips pointing in the same direction across the hill (not pointing down, or you’ll start skiing straight down before you can stand up). Turn your upper body toward the uphill slope and push your hands into the ground to help you stand up.

Start with “snowplow” turns across the trail. Point your ski tips in the direction you want to go and look that way. Engage your core and lean your body to move your skis rather than trying to force them into a turn. See how many sweeping turns you can make across the hill, as controlled as possible, while putting weight into your outside ski as you complete each turn. It should be very slow. As you progress, try to position your skis parallel to each other as you glide across the hill, then form a wedge to initiate and complete a turn, and straighten again as you point your skis across toward the other side.

Find the Right Ski Gear to Get You Started

Photo by Climb When Ready

In conclusion, before unthinkingly hopping on the lift and riding it to the tip of a ski mountain, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions and ensure you have the right gear. Where and how often are you going to ski? Why do you want to ski? Which gear do you need? Who’s going to teach you? And how should you get started?

Skiing is a sport we experts love dearly, and we want you to love it, too! It’s a fantastic hobby to keep you moving throughout the winter, and we would be thrilled to help you get on the slopes. Feel free to contact any of Curated’s seasoned Skiing Experts for free, personalized advice on gear to get you started! There’s no pressure to buy, but we consciously try to find you the best deals. We’re also available to answer any questions about sizing, fit, and how height, weight, and ability factor into outfitting skiers.

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