How to get started skiing
Skiing is a fun way to get outside in winter and is great exercise, with benefits ranging from stronger muscles and boosted mood to better balance and coordination. New Hampshire is home to some of the best skiing in the Northeast, with ski areas and ski resorts dotting hills and mountains in almost every pocket of the state. So why not make this the year your family finally hit the slopes? Here’s how to downhill ski for absolute beginners.
Step 1: Head to a ski resort or ski area
Sure, the sledding hill in your neighborhood park has the necessary slope, but there’s one key reason why heading to a downhill ski area is a must: safety. Besides offering groomed conditions and gear rentals, ski areas also have staff that is trained in first aid in case of emergency. Plus, if your DIY ski lessons don’t work out, you are in the right place to sign up for a group class or lessons.
Step 2: Get the right gear
When you arrive at the resort, head to the rental shop to get outfitted for the day. The gear you will need? Skis with bindings, ski boots, poles, ski goggles and a helmet. Let the staff member helping you know that you are a first-timer and will need instruction on how the equipment you are renting should fit and work. A nice bonus for admitting you’re a newbie: some resorts offer first-time skiers free rental gear. Something you will need to buy? Ski socks, which are usually made of synthetic wool blend to keep your feet dry and stretch to cover your calf.
Step 3: Buy your lift ticket
OK, so you won’t actually use the ski lift on your very first day, but you will still need to stop by the ticket window to get a pass for access to the slopes. Some resorts offer free or discounted tickets for new skiers, so again it’s to your advantage to identify yourself as a beginner.
Step 4: Get your footing
Practice walking in your ski boots, both uphill and down. A good slip-proof technique is to kick your boot into the snow as you take a step. Hold your skis together in one hand and your poles in the other for extra balance.
Step 5: Snap in your bindings
Once you have located the beginner’s area, set your skis in a spot at the flat bottom of a very low incline. Don’t worry if this is the very bottom of the beginner’s hill — this is where even the most skilled of skiers have started. Step to the side of your skis and pick up your right foot. Knock any snow from the sole of your boot with your ski pole before sliding the boot into the toe binding of the ski. Once you feel the binding has caught the toe of the boot, look behind you at the heel binding and line your boot up with it. Bring your heel down into the binding, pushing down until you hear a click. The clicking sound means the binding is secure. Repeat these steps with your left boot.
Step 6: Find your balance
Get used to the feel of your skis by making some small sliding movements back and forth across the flat surface. If you fall, be sure to practice getting back up. To remove your skis when you’ve fallen, push your pole tip in the hole in the heel binding and press until the binding releases. You can also release the binding by hand if more convenient.
Step 7: Start sliding
Once you are comfortable on your skis, turn them perpendicular to the slope and begin taking small side steps to reach the top of the low incline. Once at the top, turn yourself around, again using small steps, until you are facing downhill. Check to make sure your feet are hip-width apart and your skis parallel. Hold your poles. Now you’re ready. Keep your head up and looking in front of you as you give a very gentle nudge with your poles. Stand as normally as you can and let gravity pull you down the hill. As you reach the flat bottom again, you will naturally stop. Repeat as needed until you get the hang of it.
Step 8: Snowplough stops
For more control over your forward motion, learn how to snowplough stop. As you slide down the hill, push the backs of your skis out to create a “pizza” wedge or V-shape with the fronts of your skis. Making this shape builds resistance and will eventually bring you to a stop. Many beginners practice snowplough stops without their poles as they just seem to get in the way at this level. Do what feels comfortable for you.
Step 9: Snowplough turns
When you see skiers shushing down the slopes, the basic move that takes them back and forth down the hill is called a snowplough turn. As you slide down the hill, start pushing the backs of your skis out as though you were starting a snowplough stop, but push the back of your right ski out further than your left ski. Shift your weight more onto your right leg. This motion will start to move you to the left. Come to a gradual stop and repeat the snowplough turn to the right by pushing your left ski out and shifting your weight to left leg.
Once you have the hang of the basic snowploughs, link them up. Start off on the slope and snowplough turn, pushing out the back of the right ski and shifting weight to start turning left. Once you’ve traveled to the left, start pushing out the back of the left ski and shift weight to the left leg to bring yourself right. Repeat shifting and pushing until you reach the bottom of the slope. When you look back at your path, you should see an S shape.
S for ski, because that’s what you just did. Welcome to the club!
Jacqueline Tourville is PNH’s travel and tourism expert.