If you’re heading into the skiing hobby as a teenager or adult, then we urge you to be prepared to feel the anger when fearless and tiny children shoot passed in snowplough without poles. This will happen and there’s nothing we can do about it. Welcome to the ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing.
A centuries-old hobby enjoyed by many across the world, even in Australia, skiing is one of those hobbies where you have to grasp at the chance. As it continues to grow in popularity and ski resorts are constantly growing their run-count with countless offers reducing overall ski trip costs, you can guarantee a new experience every year.
White snow, cosy chalets, a warm fire and a spicy après-ski after a hard day on the slopes, there’s nothing more that could scream the pinnacle of Winter Wonderland. And, here at The Hobby Kraze, we want to make sure you have all the tools and know-how to begin enjoying this seasonal hobby, too.
That’s why we’ll be covering everything from the gear requirements to the manoeuvres and levels of run. Have a read through to become the ultimate beginner:
- The Reasons You Should Consider Taking Your First Ski Holiday
- This History of Skiing and Ski School
- Ways to Stay Warm Using First-Time Skiing Tips with the Right Ski Gear
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Skiing Tools and Equipment Checklist
- Every Type of Skiing and the Ski’s You’ll Need
- Your First Ski Holiday How to Tackle the Runs Across Europe
- The Best Places to Ski in the UK and the European Alps
Before we start shooting down the slope, you should know you’ll be spending a lot of time in the snow. Especially on first-time skiing trips. And, while snow might appear to be a soft landing, freshly pisted slopes are hard-compacted by machines to outline the run in corduroy-like grooves. None-the-less, there’s nothing much more that could beat being the first to ski a newly pisted run.
A long story made short: you should expect to see a couple of bruises when you wake up the next morning.
The Reasons You Should Consider Taking Your First Ski Holiday
We’ll start this segment by debunking one of the most common myths about skiing there is: skiing is for the rich. This is not true. Of course, renting a 5* movie-style Swiss chalet, experiencing a local resort for empty days and designer ski gear will always rack-up a bill. But, the same can be said for many other sports such as climbing, hiking or stand-up paddle boarding.
In fact, recent decades and technological improvements have allowed your first ski holiday to become more accessible than ever. As long as you choose your destination right, ditch the caviar and borrow some ski gear, you’ll be rolling down the hills in no time.
And, there are so many reasons you should, too. Here at The Hobby Kraze, our team has gathered together a quick list of all the ways ski school and first-time skiing trips can benefit your life. Check them out:
- You get to visit beautiful Winter Wonderlands
- It is a sport that doesn’t feel like exercising
- When you’re comfortable, you can head off-piste to explore your resort
- You’ll have an event to look forward to each year
- It can be enjoyed alone, with family or with friends
- There are always good food chalets located up the mountains
- Ski school will have classes with people just like you
- You can battle fears of speed or height at your own pace
- There are levels of ski run you can choose from
- Exercise can help you lose weight
- You can even catch a tan on hot and sunny days over lunch
- You’ll be releasing the happy hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin
- Skiing works out your core
- Your overall health and fitness will improve
- Skiing gets your strategic planning going
- You get to enjoy hot chocolate by the fire in a cosy chalet
- There are ways to save money by borrowing gear
- Your first ski holiday can come as a package deal
- Keeping active through physical hobbies helps prevent Alzheimer’s
- You can choose from a variety of skiing types to suit you
- You’ll improve your flexibility
- Local skiing in the UK means you don’t have to give up your Summer escape
This History of Skiing and Ski School
This ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing may take a slightly dark turn as we look into one of the oldest sports in history. Paired with the likes of running, during an Ice Age in the Palaeolithic period, there are cave paintings to suggest that skiing was used as a way to escape predators or hunt prey. In fact, the oldest ski-type fragments to have ever been discovered date back to 6000 B.C. in North Russia.
As this type of skiing was cross-terrain and often on flat surfaces, it resembled what we would call cross-country or Nordic skiing, today. As time would progress, it would be the Eastern countries who would continue to wear skis and ski gear for movement while the Western hemisphere began to use snowshoes on their soft powder snow.
Eventually, the Norwegian army drafted the use of skiing as part of military skill competitions. Whereby, soldiers were instructed to ski through treescapes, down slopes and across snowfields all while shooting. These competitions acted as a precursor to the first Winter Olympic sports events. The Old Norse language would then coin the term “skio” to mean ‘stick of wood’ which has been shortened over the years to ‘ski’.
Moving onto 1868, the father of skiing – Sondre Norheim – created the Telemark ski which created a specific ski cambre to allow skiers to edge and carve without slipping down the mountain.
As skiing became more accessible to civilians through the wooden Telemark ski, the thrills of downhill skiing in the Alpine regions became more of a hobby and pastime over a necessity. So, as the hobby grew and spread around the world, key advancements in technology would bring us to the modern first ski holiday you’ll come to know.
Here’s a couple of the most notable historical developments in the history of ski gear:
1893 – Norwegian skier H.M. Christiansen created the first two-layer laminated skis.
- 1926 – Austrian Mountaineer Rudolph Lettner attached the segmented steel edge for durability.
- 1928 – Swiss Racer Guido Reuge invented the Kandahar binding to attach the heel to the ski for stability.
- 1950 – Italian shoe factory, Nordica, created the first ski boot to include plastic components rather than leather.
- 1990 – Manufacturers Elan and Kneissl brought an innovative change to ski-shapes, allowing for better carving and paving way for the modern skis we wear today.
Ways to Stay Warm Using First-Time Skiing Tips with the Right Ski Gear
Making sure you have the right gear is one of the most important aspects to being able to enjoy the run. This is because, although we mentioned you can catch a tan, being high up on a mountain surrounded by snow is very cold.
This is especially true to the likes of your first ski holiday and ski school: you’ll be spending more time on your hands and bum than you’d like to admit. So, we’ve gathered the ultimate list of clothing and items for warmth in this ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing:
- Beanie Hat
You’ll need a beanie hat to go under your helmet to keep your head and ears warm and to stop snow from melting under your helmet. Be prepared for the inevitable hat hair!
You should try and keep the scarf thick but short so it doesn’t take up too much space in your jacket and restrict your view of your boots and skis, otherwise you may find it difficult getting in and out of your bindings on your first ski holiday. Some people have found snoods do the job well.
Yes, these items of clothing do have other uses than your typical movie bank robbery scene. The balaclava, in fact, was made for British troops having to brave the cold weather in war. You can choose from a neck balaclava to different types of full-head balaclava to suit your needs in ski school.
You’ll need thick, waterproof and heavy-duty gloves for this mission. Not only do they keep you warm, but they can protect you, too. If you’ve landed in the snow and put your hands out on the ground for support, anyone can accidentally run over your hands with their ski or snowboard. So, to reduce the likelihood of injury, wear thick snow gloves or mittens.
This is the name given to a specific type of trousers made to be worn with snow sports. After the rise and fall with the onesie in 80s and 90s ski culture, two-pieces were a thing. Meaning singular salopettes and flare pants are the way to go. The flare covers the ski boot and provides a flattering shape while being thick, durable and waterproof, too.
Here at The Hobby Kraze we can’t stress this enough. Unless you’re Summer skiing on a glacier, you can expect it to be very cold. And, as this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing, you’ll not likely be heading onto a glacier’s black runs any time soon. Invest in some good thermals and you’ll be set to battle the cold at home or on the slopes.
- Ski Socks
The best invention known to man is the ski sock. The oddly knee-high super-thick and cosy addition to the foot helps to keep you warm and comfortable in your ski boot.
- Ski Jacket
Your ski jacket might be an obvious part of the snow sport armada. However, it’s important you head for a ski jacket rather than a snow jacket, waterproof or snowboarding jacket. The ski jacket is the right thickness, length and durability to make sure you’re comfortable and warm. One of your first-time skiing tips from The Hobby Kraze team is to make sure there’s plenty of room in your ski jacket to fit extra layers in there.
A jacket fleece is worn between your thermal top and ski jacket. You can have as many fleece layers as you’d like to be part of your ski gear. The only plan would be to keep you warm on your first ski holiday. Not only this, but if you take spares, you have dry fleece layers to climb into over lunch when the snow wets the cuff.
- Pocket Hand warmers
This is the secret to keeping extra warm on the mountain. Not every day will be sunny blue skies and calm winds. Unfortunately, there will be some days with wind, rain, snow and cloud coverage meaning your tools for staying warm at ski school need to be stepped up a notch. Make sure you have at least one ready-made hand warmer in each pocket for you to activate and use throughout the day.
At ski resorts, there’s a main entrance area where you’ll find a bus stop, ticket shop, restaurant, children’s area, a few chair lifts and a locker room. Grab yourself a locker and pop a blanket in. This way, you’ve got some extra coverage for you and your loved ones when you stop for some lunch.
- Boot and Glove Heater
Here’s one for the hotel or apartment you’ll be staying in. You can find portable boot and glove heaters that can be plugged-in from retailers such as Amazon. It’s best to turn them on when you wake up so, when leave for the day, your boots and gloves are toasty. Don’t forget to find an adaptor if you’re heading abroad into the Alps!
As a final addition to the ski gear list, the onesie. While you may see this as being a long-lost retro piece of ski gear, they’re back. And they’re better than ever. Adding slim lined designs and modern fashion, they look amazing. Here at The Hobby Kraze we’re not just all about trends in hobbies, we’re about trends in fashion, too. However, we will note they can be a pain when heading to the toilet.
At this point, one of the best first-time skiing tips is to remember that all these clothes (apart from your thermals) can be borrowed or bought second-hand. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. This way you can get used to the feeling of ski wear and be sure your still in love with the popular snow sport before slowly investing in gear that’s truly yours.
The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Skiing Tools and Equipment Checklist
Now, you’ve got all the right ski gear to keep you warm, let’s think about the tools and equipment to get you down the mountain in the right way. That’s assuming you’d like to travel down in Alpine fashion and not across in the historically Nordic way.
There are a few items in this list that you should always use and wear for your protection and some others that are part of the sport. But, here at The Hobby Kraze, the team want to make sure you’ve got all essential skills to keep you safe and happy while making fun memories on your first ski holiday.
- Ski Goggles or Ski Glasses
Here at The Hobby Kraze, we’ve got the best first-time skiing tips for you. And, one of them would be to try and get your hands on a GoPro. It doesn’t have to be new and it doesn’t have to be owned by you, as long as you have permission from the owner, plus a head mount, you can stick it to your ski helmet and start making memories on your first ski holiday.
Every Type of Skiing and the Ski’s You’ll Need
There are a few different types of skiing that you’ll need to be aware of. This is because you’ll need to choose a type of skiing and ski school that suit’s you and then buy the right skis, accordingly.
Skis adapt to the sport, whether it’s increasing the camber, extending the length of the deck or having an up-turned nose at both the tip and the tail. But, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through each type of ski to ensure you’ve got the right ski gear going into ski school.
Snowblades are very short and thick skis that offer full control and don’t allow the skis to go off without the rider. Another one of our first-time skiing tips from the team at The Hobby Kraze is: the longer the ski, the quicker you’ll go.
These types of skis are also referred to across the world as; ski blades, short skis and ski boards. Not to be confused with snowboards, snowblades still have one foot per blade. They often range from about 70cm to 140cm for adults and can be purely down to personal preference. They also feature an ‘hourglass’ shape, high camber and a nose on both the tip and tail to increase fun and flexibility.
As you now know, race skis need to be quite long in order to take the rider up, down and across a trail. In fact, they used to be over 200cm in length. However, another tip would be to note that length can also remove control. So, with advances in ski manufacturing and materials, racing skis are around 160cm to 180cm in length to give the racer control and speed.
In racing, the skis only ever need to move forward, but they need to be streamlined. With this, race skis will generally feature a small camber, large side cut (to make them thinner at the waist) and a nose only at the tip.
Freestyle skiers tend to be the grown-up version of those small fearless children we mentioned earlier. They like to test the boundaries of gravity and flip through the air. You can often see them in the freestyle snow park located (often) halfway up the mountain, or on the constructed half pipe at the base.
These skis need to cater for speed, turns and multi-direction travel. With this, they tend to be longer than generic carvers and they’ll have an up-turned nose at both ends.
As this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing, we highly recommend trying to get to grips with going forward before adding gymnastics to the mix. This way we can ensure you’re safe and you can slowly discover the niche of skiing to suit you most.
Also called touring and Nordic skiing, the cross-country ski trend is the most laborious as it takes on the hobbies of our ancestors by travelling across the plains. With this, the Nordic ski gear needs to be both long and thick in order to increase surface area and weight distribution while decreasing the chances of sinking into the snow.
With that, you’ll tend to find a low camber, tip-only nose, small side cut, wide contact point and thick waist. They’ll also tend to be a little longer than racing skis as speed control is not much of an issue, so expect to be wearing clown shoes of 180cm to 200cm in length.
These are the most common type of skis as they are longer than snowblades but shorter than racing skis and thicker to increase carving ability. Carving is the name given to an action to gain stability and turn on a mountain. When facing parallel and down the mountain, you’ll need to carve both skis to the side in order to slow your speed and create nice turns.
So, as a casual skier looking to enjoy their first ski holiday, the carver skis are for you. They’ll generally range from 130cm to 190cm, but this will depend on your height and ability. As an intermediate skier, the tip of your skis should come up to your nose. However, The Hobby Kraze’s first-time skiing tips say to opt for a slightly shorter length to improve control.
On the mountain, there are three types of snow you’ll come across: pisted, ice and powder. Your carvers will cover you as an all-rounder, but in order to improve your speed and performance through thick powder snow (where you’ll sink), you need to have specially designed skis. You’ll find freshly powdered snow directly off the piste.
Powder skis have slightly different characteristics where only the tip has a nose and the tail has a cut-out. However, the lengths remain similar to the carvers, where it’s often best to measure with the height of your nose.
The final type of ski you’ll come across (aside from special features here and there) are your traditional Telemark skis. This is an advanced level of all-mountain skiing where even the bindings will be different to provide your legs with the maximum amount of flexibility to help with edging and turns. As well as this, your form will change where your knee will drop, and one ski will go ahead of the other in order to function a correct turn.
In terms of their attributions and qualities, the Telemark ski should be no lighter than 1.5kg. And, the waist should be around 10cm with low camber and a nose on the tip.
Your First Ski Holiday How to Tackle the Runs Across Europe
In the UK and Europe, there’s a definitive way to find out which routes are best suited to your abilities and confidence during your first ski holiday. And, each of these slopes will help you to develop different types of skiing and technique. As this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing with a focus on the UK and Europe, we’ll talk about the slope difficulty levels seen on European maps – from Switzerland to France and beyond. But, if you do intend to head on a journey across the globe, don’t be surprised to see or hear about grading such as the North American ‘Black Diamond”.
Your first-time skiing tips from The Hobby Kraze team is to always make sure you’ve got a copy of the maps with you to make sure you can map routes and stick to your level of comfortability.
In the meantime, here are the six types of run you’ll find across the UK and Europe:
This is the easiest slope you’ll find. They’re situated at the base of the ski resort beside the ski school, restaurant and tickets for your first ski holiday. They often have small belts to take you up a small incline and will be your go-to for getting used to sliding and snowploughing.
The snowplough is the most important ski formation and technique. Simply by having your legs wide apart and pointing the tips of the ski’s inwards, you’ll have full control over slowing and stopping. In order to turn, plant your pole next to you on the side correlating to the direction you want to turn. Then, while picturing turning in a circle around your pole, apply weight on the leg in the direction you want to turn and reduce the weight on your outside leg.
Blue is still classed as a beginner slope but has a route and run. This means it will be longer and will have a little higher incline to practice your snowploughing manoeuvre. These slopes tend to have a ‘button lift’ or ‘T-bar’.
These types of lift have an ongoing belt travelling up the slope. Your job is to grab a lift bar and place it between your legs. You will not be lifted off the ground and you cannot sit down as they are highly elastic. You need to steer on the path while the belt takes you higher. Don’t become disheartened when you fall off, even the pros in the ski gear hobby still hate the sight of a button lift and T-bar.
If you’re looking at the blue slopes, falling asleep while sliding down and thinking you need more of a challenge, the red slopes are for you. The runs are longer to test stamina, they are slightly slimmer, have a higher incline, and can sometimes feature the dreaded moguls.
These moguls are lumps and bumps in the snow that will help you find the motivation to start your parallel ski technique. Instead of pointing your skis inwards, you keep them parallel. To turn, plant your pole in the side you want to turn, put the weight into your outside-ski, while reducing the weight in your inside-ski. And, when you are perpendicular to the slope instead of parallel, you will stop. This is very handy when you’re on your first ski holiday in a group and may need to stop and wait.
The black slopes are the longest, steepest and hardest slopes for experts. They’ll often be located at the top of the mountain or glacier before merging with easier slopes as it descends to the base. If you’re after a black slope (also called a Black Diamond or Black Double Diamond in the US), you should be very comfortable with heights, speed and your manoeuvres as a skier.
If you see an orange slope on your ski map, it may be a different pattern. For example; it could be a series of dashes or dots, but it’s not trying to tell you anything in morse code.
The orange routes in Europe are dedicated to off-piste or free-style areas. These will be best if you’re wanting to go powder skiing or if you want to try a jump here or there. Just be careful and abide by the slope rules as there are sometimes managers who control movement for safety.
The final type of ski slope you’ll find on a UK or European piste map is a very long and winding yellow route. These are trails that are used for Nordic skiing, tobogganing, dog walking and hiking.
The yellow route is pretty much a calm signal for anything cross-country related through the Alps. And, your first-time skiing tips from a crew member at The Hobby Kraze includes always dedicating a day in your first ski holiday to exploring and hiking these trails. Often, it’s best to do it in the middle of your holiday to let wounds heal.
The Best Places to Ski in the UK and the European Alps
Before we finish this ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing, we simply couldn’t pass on giving you a list of the best places to ski around the UK and Europe. Here at The Hobby Kraze, it’s our aim to make sure you enjoy your experience of your newest hobby to the best and most personalised way. So, we’ve gathered a list of places to go whether you’re looking for a local fix, heading abroad to find beautiful sights or looking to ski abroad on a budget.
One thing we will recommend, is to book a session at your local indoor ski slope or dry ski slope first. This way you’ll have all your ski gear included in the price and your ski school can help you get the most out of your first ski holiday.
Here’s a list of the best place for first-time skiing trips in the UK:
- Glenshee, Scotland
- Glencoe, Scotland
- Cairngorm, Scotland
- The Lecht, Scotland
- The Lake District Raise, England
- Weardale, England
- Carlisle, England
Here’s a list of the most beautiful locations for first-time skiing trips in Europe:
- Zermatt, Switzerland
- Flims Laax, Switzerland
- Flumserberg, Switzerland
- Davos, Switzerland
- Saas Fee, Switzerland
- Kitzbühel, Austria
- St. Anton, Austria
- Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria
- Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
- Saint Jean d’Arves, France
- Megève, France
- Tarvisio, Italy
- Cortina d’Ampezo, Italy
- Levi, Finland
- Pamporovo, Bulgaria
Here’s a list for trying out your first ski holiday on a budget across Europe:
- Avoriaz, France
- Les Houches, France
- Pamporovo, Bulgaria
- Borovets, Bulgaria
- Soll, Austria
- St Anton, Austria
- Vogel, Slovenia
- Poiana-Brasov, Romania
- Zakopane, Poland
- Białka Tatrzańska, Poland
- Livigno, Italy
- Andermatt, Switzerland
And, there you have it. Your complete and ultimate beginner’s guide to skiing. If it’s not skiing and ski gear that takes your fancy, maybe have a look at some snowboarding, tobogganing or even some Alpine-style hiking.
Alternatively, have a peruse of our other ultimate guides from our hobby-crazed team here at The Hobby Kraze! For example: “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching”, “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Knitting” or “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking” just to name a few.
We love to hear you having fun with your new hobby. So, if you do steal a friend’s GoPro to record your Winter Wonderland adventure, don’t forget to share it with us on The Hobby Kraze’s social media.