Maybe you have booked your first skiing holiday, or maybe the group WhatsApp is buzzing with talk over summer sun versus skiing fun …
Either way, hitting the slopes for the first time can be daunting. This quick overview is on hand to help you get ready for the mountains, and introduce much more of the information contained in our Discover Snowsports section!
There are several steps you can take to ensure your first snowsports experience is as smooth as it can be.
First of all, get fit! Skiing, after all, is a sport, and does require a good standard of fitness to stay on your feet all day. A week in the mountains requires good stamina to keep you going the whole time and asks a lot of specific muscle groups. It is recommended that you begin to think about your mountain fitness about 6 weeks before you go.
However, you don’t have to slave away in the gym for all this time! We’ve teamed up Chemmy Alcott, former British Olympic downhill skier and Ski Club Honourary President, to give you some exercises to do at home before you hit the hills.
For all our top fitness tips and tricks, head over to our Get Fit for Skiing Page
Skiing can seem horribly “unfamiliar” – sliding down a hill in heavy, uncomfortable boots, strapped to large planks of wood. However, it is easier than ever to get used to snowsports equipment right here in the UK, and get a taste of what it’s like moving about on the snow before you hit the mountains proper!
There are many “dry-slope” ski centres around the UK. These use a material similar to a door mat to allow skis to slide nice and easily over the surface. They provide a great introductory experience to skiing and snowboarding, and have the added benefit of being usable regardless of the weather outside!
However, Dry Slopes are not perfect, and it is possible to experience real-snow skiing right here in the UK. As well as the five alpine resorts in Scotland, there are a range of indoor real-snow ski centres dotted around the UK. These include Milton Keynes, Hemel Hempstead, Tamworth (near Birmingham), Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow (Braehead). These offer year-round real snow lessons as well as skiing opportunities.
We at the Ski Club would highly recommend heading to one of these centres, either real snow or dry slope, and taking a couple of lessons to just get used to the equipment and some of the skills involved. Then, when you head to the mountains proper, you’ll be that little bit more familiar with skiing and boarding and in the best position to become a master at either!
For more information on indoor ski centres, dry slopes and Scottish alpine resorts, head to our “Skiing in the UK” page – and don’t forget, most places offer discounts on lessons and lift passes with a Ski Club membership!
It is important to dress appropriately for the mountains. Not only can it be very, very cold, but it can rain or snow on you, whilst at the same time you can get quite warm from the exercise you’re doing in the hills. Ski gear has been specially designed to keep you warm and dry, as well as vent the heat you generate skiing or boarding.
If you’ve already got some outdoor or sports gear, this will be a good start – sports baselayers to wick away sweat, or fleece to keep you warm. What’s most important is a good quality ski or board jacket and trousers. These need to be waterproof, to keep the rain and snow out, as well as warm, to keep out the cold.
You’ll also need a good quality pair of skiing or boarding gloves – warm and highly water resistant – and appropriate ski socks – long enough to come nearly up to your knee, which is where the ski boot will reach to, and warm. Modern ski socks are relatively thin, and work to generate blood flow to the feet to keep them warm, rather than being big and bulky.
For all the best tips on ski clothing, head over to our “Equipment & Clothing” section for a full run through of everything you’ll knee to wear skiing or boarding. Ski Club members also receive 15% discount at Snow & Rock, our Preferred equipment and clothing partner!
So you’ve got all the right kit; trained hard for weeks; tested out your skills at your local dry-slope centre. Now it’s time to hit the mountains!
It is super important to ensure you get good quality instruction when learning to ski. All alpine countries have their own national ski schools which work to supply instruction directly, such as the Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF) in France, or coordinate and certify instruction delivered by local, resort based ski schools, such as in Italy or Austria. These are often a really good place to start, offering English language instruction and a series of progression levels to allow you to keep track of your ability.
There are also a range of private, British ski schools across the Alps, offering top notch instruction wherever you go. They are ideally placed to help you learn to ski and become a confident, independent skier. Major benefits of skiing with these schools include a UK based booking centre, and a guarantee of a British instructor to teach you. They will still be able to offer the unrivalled tuition and knowledge of the mountains