Travel Advice: A Beginner's Guide to Ski or Snowboard Holidays

When you think about skiing, what images come into your mind? All in one ski suits from the 80s? Baggy snowboard pants from the 90s? Crazy over-sized and mismatch coloured outfits from the 2000s? Or nothing at all because you've not been on a ski holiday before and that's why you're here, because you want some tips for your first ski holiday so stop your journey down memory lane, Frankie and GIVE ME THE TIPS AND ADVICE!!!

Okay, I will. Oh, but before I do can I just point you towards this packing list which covers everything you will need to pack for your first snow sports trip, and you can also get some tips specifically for a ski or snowboard holiday with a toddler or young children here, plus a packing list for getting young children ready for the snow.

Right now on with the article.

A Beginner's Guide to Ski Holidays

Skiing is a brilliant sport loved by many and worshiped by several. Winter sports enthusiasts are pretty hardcore people (I should know because I live with one) and when you're new to skiing or snowboarding, it's easy to feel intimidated and a little out of your depth. I'm writing this post to say DON'T feel that way. 

Ski holidays are supposed to be fun!

I was 16 when I went skiing for the first time. It was a school trip, and I was so excited... and so scared. While I knew I wanted to see the mountains and snow and experience life in a resort, I was petrified of not being able to ski. And later when I started to learn snowboarding, I had the same fear; I''ll be honest it was mostly a fear of embarrassing myself. While this is normal and a certain amount of trepidation and fear is to be expected - learning something new that could involve breaking your leg is not easy to do! - you also need to remember that you are still going on holiday and you should try to remind yourself that you're doing so to have fun trying to learn something new. Also, I'll let you in on a little secret...

There's more to ski holidays than skiing

Yes, the main aim of a ski holiday is to go skiing (or snowboarding!) but actually there's so much more to a ski holiday. There's the mountains, the snow (and you can do several other winter sports on the snow like sledding or snow-shoeing) but there's also the food, the drink, the parties, the cosy Alpine ski huts and chalets... There's a lot to enjoy on a ski holiday and even if you went on one with no intention of buying a lift pass as long as you were in the right resort you'd still have a good time.

All resorts are different... but kinda the same

There's something about ski resorts. I don't know if it's the wooden chalets, the mountains in the background, the swoosh-swoosh of ski trousers or the clunk-clunk of ski boots, but I just love the familiarity of all ski resorts. I wish I could remember discovering it for the first time... So, please would you go ahead and enjoy discovering it all for the first time for me? Thank you!

There's no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing (ish)

Gear. Gear. Gear. You have to have the right kind of gear. I don't mean expensive or flashy or labelled gear, I mean gear that is waterproof, windproof and fits well. In Europe, I frequently recommend Decathlon as an affordable place for you to source pretty much all your ski and snowboard gear, and if you're looking for a list of everything you may need, here it is. My top tip to save money is to ask around from friends and family who have already been as they may already have items you can borrow and the good thing about that is that you know they're gear that "works", well, hopefully.

The one situation where I would say bad weather wins and it's just not worth going up the mountain is when you have a blizzard and visibility is less than the hand in front of your face. That is just not fun to be outside in let alone skiing in as it will give you nausea and make you want to roll down on your bum just so you can actually feel the ground you can't see... But please don't do that.

About your ski pass...

A ski pass is what you need to access the lifts, runs and general area that is for skiing. You normally have to buy the ski pass on your first day of skiing or you can try and buy in advance online. It's also possible you have your ski pass included in a package holiday. Either way your ski pass is very important and should be looked after. The good thing is most ski jackets and trousers will have special pockets designed to put your pass in and keep it there, safely and waterproof, so try to do that if you can as getting it in and out of a pocket will greatly increase your risk of losing it and most resorts aren't very sympathetic to lost passes, unless you bought insurance.

You will also find that your ski pass covers you for other ski areas not in your immediate vicinity so be sure to find out so you can get your money's worth.

Going up and going down...

Depending on your hotel and/or resort you may need to get a big lift called a gondola up to the ski area or you may be able to walk to a smaller lift or even ski in and out from your hotel (lucky you if so!). For many others you will need to get on a ski bus to get to the lift station and 

In most resorts your ski pass covers the cost of both ski buses and ski lifts.  

Apres ski is not always ''apres''

Some people go on ski holidays to spend their days on the mountain hitting run after run after run, and then they congratulate their hard work with a drink at the end of the day before getting the last lift.

Other people go on ski holidays so they can do a run, then have a drink, do a run then have a drink, do a run then stop doing anymore runs and just watch everyone else skiing while they enjoy a good view and a few (more) drinks. 

It's very important that you find out the type of people you're going skiing with!

Soak up the culture as much as you can

Ski holidays celebrate special traditions and you should try to seek out and enjoy as many of them as possible. From local foods and local drinks to the regional dialect and traditional music and crafts, make a little effort to enjoy everything the resort you're staying has to offer. And trust me, locals' bars can be just as much fun for apres ski as busy tourist bars.

Never eat yellow snow!

Last but certainly not least, if you're on the mountain and area a little thirsty and you remember that snow is water already nice and chilled, please make sure the snow is as pure white as it can be....

Tips for Learning How to Ski or Snowboard

I'm going to write a separate post with some tips specifically for learning how to snowboard but I hope the below tips will help you see 

Everybody was a beginner once

Nobody starts skiing an expert. Nobody. Whether they were three or forty-three you have to start at the beginning and learn how to ski and snowboard. And it's harder for some than others so don't have strict expectations of yourself, just do what you can do, and focus more on enjoying being outside on top of a mountain.

Don't set yourself any goals

At the risk of repeating myself - DO NOT SET YOURSELF ANY GOALS - because skiing and snowboarding can be a frustrating thing to learn at the best of times but when you aim to be skiing down black runs with your boyfriend who's been every year since he was ten by the end of your holiday you really increase your risk of disappointment!

Prepare your body

One of the things that makes skiing and snowboarding hard is that you're using different muscles and movements to what your used to. This also means achey bodies after day one, so while it may be the last thing on your mind if you can take time to do some stretches before and after a day on the slopes - and maybe take a long bath - your muscles will thank you!

Know your colours

While there is some subtle differences among resorts, in general, blue is the colour of the easiest slope (or green in some resorts) and then it goes red and then black for the hardest. Some say that French black slopes are harder than those in Austria but for beginners I wouldn't even dream of doing a black in your first week skiing or snowboarding. Instead, focus on mastering the blues and enjoying them!

Safety first, and second, and third...

Yes, skiing and snowboarding are fun activities in a beautiful setting, but there are always risks and dangers in ski resorts, especially if you decide to go off piste (i.e. DON'T GO OFF PISTE!). Make sure you have good insurance to cover your trip (we've previously used Boots travel insurance, though have never made a claim) and don't try anything you are not comfortable doing. Yes, skiing and snowboarding will naturally push you a bit out of your comfort zone but you should always be able to figure out your next move, even if it's just falling to the floor safely. Don't put yourself in a situation (going too fast or down too steep a slope) where you feel completely uncertain of what's going on.

What to pack for your first ski or snowboard trip

I've written a really in-depth packing list of essential items for your first ski or snowboard trip here, and that covers all the basics but below is an abbreviated list that you can check off. If you live in Europe, I would highly recommend checking out what Decathlon sell as they sell affordable high quality ski and snowboard gear and you should know by now that ski holidays aren't cheap so anyway you can keep down the cost will help!

Ski trousers and jacket

  • Gloves
  • Socks
  • Hat
  • Goggles
  • Sunglasses
  • Face/neck warmer
  • Waterproof, warm shoes (with a good grip)
  • Comfortable underwear
  • Thermals or layers
  • Lots of warm and comfy clothes
  • Lip balm
  • Paracetamol/ibuprofen (or other painkillers
  • Tissues
  • Sun cream
  • Sense of humour... because it will help you get up when you fall, that and swearing loudly!

If you'd like to pin this post to Pinterest, here's a good image to use.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+

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