Booking your first ski holiday is an exciting time, but when you’ve never skied before it can also be a little bit nerve-wracking. Ski holidays are very different from your usual beach breaks, there are more aspects to consider and they involve a lot more planning and organisation.
Because of this, it’s only natural that you might have some questions about skiing safety, what to take and what to expect when you’re there. Below are nine of the most frequently asked questions from first-time ski trippers to help clear up some things about your upcoming trip.
1. What do I need to take with me?
Apart from the usual toiletries, pyjamas, towels etc. there are a few ski holiday-specific items you need to pack. Whether you buy, rent or borrow, you’ll need to take a ski jacket and trousers with you. You’ll also want lots of warm clothes to go underneath, including gloves and thick socks. Goggles will help you to see when it’s snowing, you can pick up a pair of these for a fairly reasonable price at most outdoor/adventure stores. Another thing you may not consider taking on a cold ski holiday is swimwear, but there is usually a pool or hot tub at your hotel to unwind after a day on the slopes.
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2. Should I take lessons?
No one can make you take lessons, but it is highly recommended as a beginner. You can join group lessons and even book these ahead of time through your tour provider. This will help you to get to grips with the basics, understand the best places for you to ski and help you navigate the different colours runs. Lessons will help you to improve and reduce the risk of you falling over.
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3. Will I fall over?
Most first time skiers are worried about the safety side of things, such as falling over. Sadly, this can be unavoidable, even more advanced skiers fall over every now and then. But the good news is that you’re falling onto the snow, which generally provides quite a soft landing – so don’t be put off by the prospect of falling down! Just go with the flow and relax. That said, it’s also a good idea to make sure you’ve got travel insurance before you go.
4. Should I wear a helmet?
Lots of people choose to simply wear a woolly hat on their ski trip, so you may be wondering whether a helmet is necessary or not. The truth is it’s up to you if you want to buy or rent a helmet, but as a beginner these can really help to give you that bit more confidence on the slopes and protect your head if you do take an unexpected fall.
5. Do I have to use a chair lift?
Ski lifts can feel daunting, especially if you’re not great with heights. But if you’re a first-time skier this isn’t usually something you need to worry about as you’ll probably be sticking to the smaller runs. It’s more likely that you’ll be dealing with enclosed travellators or button lifts like those you see on a playground zip line.
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6. Are there toilets on the slopes?
When picturing your first skiing experience you may be imagining a snow-covered mountain in the middle of nowhere. But this is simply not the case. Most runs will start and finish at the same point and at the end you’ll find cafes, bars, shops and toilets. You might even find restaurants and bars mid-way up the mountain where you can stop for a loo break if you get desperate.
7. What do the different colours mean?
There are a few ski-specific words you might hear thrown around and understanding the different colour runs can often be confusing. The colours vary depending on where you are in the world, for example in Europe you’ll find the following:
- Nursery Slopes – no gradient but good for learning the basics
- Green Slopes – gentle beginner slopes, usually at the base of the mountain
- Blue Slopes – still easy to navigate, the gradient goes as high as 25%
- Red Slopes – gradients of up to 40%, for intermediate skiers
- Black Slopes – these are expert slopes which can be very steep
But as mentioned above these differ depending on the country, you’re in, so do your research beforehand and if you’re still confused then speak to the hotel reception desk or your holiday rep. They should be able to help or point you in the direction of someone who can.
8. Do I need to be fit to ski?
You don’t need to be a dedicated athlete to go on a skiing holiday, but it does help to have a basic level of fitness. The stronger your muscles the easier and more enjoyable you’ll find the experience; you’ll also find it easier to balance. If you’ve got a good level of fitness, you’ll be able to ski for longer periods of time without getting too tired. It can be beneficial to build yourself up before you go, perhaps practising on dry slopes, going to the gym or doing at-home exercises. That said, as first-time skiers, you won’t be overexerting yourself so don’t stress too much about your physical fitness.
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9. What is après ski?
This is a popular skiing phrase you might have heard used but never really understood what it means. It quite literally translates to ‘after ski’ and makes reference to drinking after a day on the slopes. This usually happens between 15:00 and 18:00 and lots of bars and restaurants take full advantage of this by offering happy hours during this time.
You’ll also find they offer entertainment such as live music. Best of all there’s no need to go home and get dressed up! You can go straight from the slopes in your ski gear, just leave your skis in the racks outside the bar. This is an unmissable experience when you go skiing, especially if it’s your first time – so be sure to give it a go.
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Written by Stuart Cooke, Blog Editor at MyBaggage.com, luggage delivery specialists who help skiers make their trips a lot easier.