First, let it be known that I’m no ski expert. I wasn’t clipped in to my first pair of skis by my parents at the age of 4, nor did I go on any kind of high school ski trips that might’ve helped me now that my joints aren’t nearly as forgiving when I eat it in the snow. Thankfully, I was fitted with my first pair of figure skates when I was 4 because my mom had this overwhelming need to ensure that I was good at things she never got a chance to try when she was a kid. While this did help my balance on skis (and I’d been skiing one* other time), I had a long way to go when we arrived at the Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Montana. I won’t lie, the first run was a rough one, but after some practice (and tough love from my manfriend), it was (mostly) smooth sailing! Even if you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding before, don’t let that stop you from giving a weekend on the slopes a try – it can be a super fun, active way to get outside with your friends when you might otherwise be in winter hibernation. Here are a few tips that I learned from planning our ski excursion that will help you prepare if you’re a snow sport newbie like me:
- Understand your surroundings: Research your destination to learn about what type of snow you’ll encounter and what typical conditions are. Whether you use Google or more experienced friends, getting an idea for whether it’ll be icy or more like “powder” or “packing snow” will help you when you’re getting ready to go down the mountain. Also, if you’re headed somewhere with colder temps, packing more sweat- and snow-wicking layers is key. Conditions can vary from the Appalachians to the Rockies to international mountains, so it’s important to know that one experience can be very different from the next. Also, when it comes to lodging, look for AirBnB’s nearby – ours was on the mountain and part of the resort, making it super convenient and cheaper than a hotel.
- Buy your tickets ahead of time: Look into purchasing lift tickets and gear rental passes ahead of time. Sometimes, you can score deals by purchasing ahead or in a group, plus you can skip some lines on you first day on the mountain! While you’re at it, make sure to look at the mountain’s website for any additional fees or specials you might want to be aware of.
- Invest in a few key pieces: If you’re nowhere near an expert, like me, but you enjoy snow-based outdoor activities, it might be worth investing in a solid pair of snow pants and a coat that keeps the snow melt out. The North Face has some nice options that aren’t crazy-expensive like some other more dedicated ski/snowboard brands. Here are my pants and my coat. I run cold so I got a 3-in-1 jacket with a few layers. I also sprang for my own helmet, goggles, and gloves because I know I’ll ski again. Don’t forget a face mask to guard from the wind!
- Don’t let it go to your head: I was definitely the beginner of my group of friends, but I wasn’t afraid to admit that to myself and to them. I did, however, test myself by going down some difficult runs that proved frustrating (there were definitely some strong words exchanged between me and my SO), so I learned there’s no shame starting on the bunny hills to build confidence. If you fall, you fall. It’s just snow! If you feel like you’re out of control, fall on your butt, it’s okay! Also, make sure you know the categories and names of the runs on the mountain. Green runs are easiest, then Blue, then Black and Black Diamond are hardest. You can bet I stayed away from those black runs because I just wasn’t quite ready for those.
- Stop and look around: Of course, concentrate on the run while you’re in motion down the mountain, but make sure to take time to stop and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. One of the best parts of a ski trip is getting outdoors in the snow with friends and family. If you don’t take time to stop and take a look around, you might miss the beauty that mountains have to offer. Stopping also allows you to catch your breath if you’re sick of falling your butt like me 🙂
So the next time someone asks you to join their ski weekend getaway, don’t turn it down simply because you’re a newbie. If your friends are as a great as mine, they’ll have patience on the slopes and be happy you joined in on the fun. You never know, you might actually really enjoy it!