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Tips for the beginner skier, snowboarder

POSTED: January 4, 2017 11:30 p.m.
Lindy Phippen Smith/

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS — January marks the beginning of a new year. For many of us, this means new goals are set with the hopes of a better version of ourselves surfacing this time next year.

But did you know January also marks national Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. So, if you’ve been toying around with the idea of hitting the slopes or you’ve resolved to learn something new this coming year, then there is no time like the present.

Skiing and snowboarding can be an intimidating sport to embark on. You may be put off by the expense or perhaps the idea of trying something new has you less than excited. Maybe the idea of spending large amounts of time in the cold has you shivering before you even head up the mountain.

However, expert instructors have solutions to all these hesitations and offer some great tips for the beginner skier and snowboarder.

Equipment

First, let’s start with gear. There is a lot of it so let's begin with the basics: boots, skis or board and poles. A good option for a beginner is to rent equipment. You can rent right from the resort of your choice or a local ski shop. Most will offer day rentals or even season rentals.

“Renting equipment at the resort is a good idea for your first time,” Brighton Snow Sports School Program Director Kathy Miner said. “If you have any problems with the equipment, you can just take it back into the rental shop and they can quickly make adjustments or changes.”

Many resorts offer a package deal including lessons and rental equipment for first timers.

“Snowbasin has a great package for beginners called the first-timer package," Snowbasin Snow Sports Director Andrew Barfield said. "It is a lesson, rentals and lift ticket for $169. During the off-peak times of the year, we drop this package to $99. This special pricing will begin Jan. 9 this year and availability depends on the day, so book your first-timer lesson early for the best deal.”

It is important for boots to fit properly and feel comfortable. Ski shop professionals are available to make sure you get the right size. Ask them a lot of questions and bring up any issues as you try on your boot or measure up to your board or skis. Proper fitting will ensure a smoother start for your new adventure.

Clothing

Next on the gear list is clothing. Many people let the cold keep them off the slopes. However, with the right clothing, your cold and miserable days will be few and far between.

“Modern ski clothing is amazing in warmth, breathability and functionality,” Alta Alf Engen Ski School Director Scott Methers said.

Think of clothing in terms of layers: base layer, mid layer and outer layer. An appropriate base layer would include thermals, sometimes called long underwear. Any type of tighter fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirt will do. For a mid layer, you may add a fleece or other warm layer over your long-sleeved shirt and a great pair of wool socks. Outer layers should all be waterproof.

“(You will need) waterproof pants and coats, waterproof gloves, warm hats, goggles and neck gaiters," Miner said. "Neck gaiters will keep the snow and cold out of the collar of your coat and they also keep your face and ears warmer. Boarders may want to get gloves that come up higher on their wrists to keep snow out of their gloves. Snowboarders start out sitting on the snow more than skiers.”

On cold days, add to your mid layer with something like a vest or warmer sweater, and think about wearing a gaiter. On warmer days, slim the layers down. This allows adjustment without having to buy a new ski suit for varying weather conditions. At this point in the game, most skiers and boarders are wearing helmets. A helmet is much warmer than a beanie and when falls happen — and they will if you are a beginner — goggles stay in place and the added measure of safety will increase your confidence.

Learning the techniques

Now that you’re all suited up, next comes the fun part— getting that board on the snow! While an experienced friend or family member may offer to teach you, taking a lesson from a professional may save you a lot of frustration.

“People usually take a beginner friend to terrain that is too difficult, without teaching appropriate skills," Mathers said. "Everyone ends up frustrated. Ski instructors will teach you in a progressive manner, building from success to success, making skiing fun and building a good foundation for continued skill improvement.”

Be realistic with yourself. Set goals and expectations low for your first time. Like anything else, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become and then skill building can begin. Having fun and skiing or boarding with control should be your goals for your first day.

“Most people are afraid of falling down," Deer Valley’s Ski School Training Manager Derek Altof said. "Falling down is OK— it means you made a mistake and can learn from it. I try hard to build a trusting relationship with my students and keep them on terrain that isn’t too intimidating. From there, we can build on skills which inspires the confidence needed to have a successful day on the slopes.”

There are a variety of lessons out there: lessons for children, lessons for adults, specific lessons for those who have never been on skis or boards before and even lessons for more seasoned skiers wanting to hone their skills. Lessons can be taught in a group format or in a one-on-one private setting.

Even just one lesson can create a solid framework for proper form and technique.

“Remember you are never too old to learn something new," Miner said. "Skiing is a lifetime skill, like swimming or riding a bike. We have people at Brighton who are skiing into their 90s.”

With varying levels of terrain from easy breezy to the most difficult, snowboarding or skiing can be a fun sport for anyone.

“We have guests every year from ages 2 to 82,” Barfield said. “At Snowbasin Resort, our experienced staff are trained in guiding a wide variety of ages and goals.”

What advice do you offer to beginning skiiers and snowboarders?
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