Beginner’s Guide to Skiing

It’s fun and easy to learn how to ski. In this Beginner’s Guide to Skiing video series, get simple tips from professional ski instructor Eric Lipton as he explains what to expect before you, your children, or friends ski for the first time. Be sure to watch all the videos. Share them on your social channels and tag people you know who want to learn to ski!

Part 1: Ski Gear, Using Your Bindings, and Carry Your Skis

There are several things beginner skiers can learn before they even set foot on snow. In the first section of our beginner’s guide to skiing, we will cover:

  • How to properly put on your ski boots.
  • The basic parts of your skis.
  • How to get in and out of your skis.
  • How to carry your skis.

To get skiing, you will need the basic gear: skis, boots, and poles. Eric Lipton suggests that you politely decline if a family member or friend offers to lend you some because resorts today are equipped with the best rental equipment. They will also make sure you get the right size and style of gear to ensure the best possible learning experience.

The boots are the first thing you’ll try on, they are also the most important piece of equipment. To properly fit your ski boots, start with one pair of thin socks pulled up over your calves. Slide your feet into the boot and press your heel towards the back of the boot. Start by tightening the buckles on the upper cuff to ensure your heels are all the way back and all the way down. The boot should feel snug (but not painful) around your foot and lower leg. If you can slide your foot back and forth inside the boot, chances are the boot is too big. If your toes are squished or curled, you might need a bigger size. Try on a few different sizes to make sure you have the best possible fit.

Next up, let’s talk about your skis. The front of the ski is called the tip and the back of the ski is called the tail. Somewhere between the tip and the tail, you’ll find the ski binding; bindings are what connect your boot to the ski. When your boot is not pressed into the binding, you’ll notice the ski brake preventing your skis from sliding. Unlike boots, there is no right or left ski, they are interchangeable.

Part 2: First Movements on Snow, Side-Stepping, and How to Get Up After a Fall

Now that you understand your gear, it’s time to get moving. In this section, we will cover:

  • Gliding on snow.
  • Duck walking and side-stepping.
  • Getting up from the ground.

Before you head to the top of a hill, start by pushing your way around on the flats. Start with your shins pressed against the front of your boots to stay forward and to stay balanced. This will also get you used to the sensation of gliding around on snow.

But what do you do when you can’t glide? That is where duck walking and side-stepping come into play.

Side-stepping is when you move with your skis perpendicular to the slope (meaning your skis are pointed across the hill instead of down the hill) and navigate up the hill. When you are in position, lean your knees uphill and take small steps sideways. This can be useful when you have to get up a small incline or if you drop a pole uphill and have to retrieve it.

The other way to move uphill is the herringbone or duck walk. For this move, make a V-shape with the tails of your skis closer together than the tips. Flex your ankles forward and sink your knees inward, this will create a wedge so you don’t slide backward. From there, you can walk around almost anywhere. Just make sure the tails of your skis don’t cross.

The next thing you’ll want to learn is how to get up when you fall. There are a few different ways to get up easily.

The first way is to place your skis parallel and across the slope. Make sure they are downhill (so your head is closer to the top of the hill and your feet are closer to the bottom of the hill). From there, use your hands to slowly push your way up.

Another way is to roll onto your stomach and bend your knees so your skis are in the air. Now, put your feet sideways so that the insides of your feet are touching the snow. From there, navigate into a duck walking position and push yourself up like you would if you are doing a pushup.

And as a last resort, take off one of your skis to make standing up even easier.

Part 3: How to Turn, How to Stop, and How to Get on a Chairlift

In the third part of our series, we’re going to talk about the basic movements on snow.

Turning and stopping are one and the same when skiing. In order to stop, you will first need to learn how to turn.

To turn your skis, start in a slight wedge position. To make a turn to the right, your left leg will actually do most of the work. Turn your left leg more and put more weight on your left work. It’s the opposite for a left turn. As always, keep your shins pressed against the front of your boots.

To stop, do an exaggerated turn until you are completely perpendicular.

Getting on a chairlift is easy. Ski up to the line that usually says “Wait Here.” Once the chair in front of you passes, follow that chair to the line that says “Load Here.” Wait for the chair to come around, sit down, scoot all the way back, put the safety bar down, and enjoy the ride!

When you’re nearing the top, raise the safety bar, keep your tips up, and stand up when the chair reaches the unloading area.

Part 4: 3 Key Moves for Your First Day

These three key movements will help you find success skiing:

  • Basic athletic stance
  • Side-stepping and traversing
  • Bull fighter turn

Your basic athletic stance is simple – your feet are shoulder-width apart, elbows are forward, and your eyes are up. To get into this stance, hop. How you land is your perfect skiing position.

To sidestep, start with your skis across the hill. Engage the skis by tipping your knees uphill, and then you can take small steps sideways (uphill).

If you need to traverse, first look uphill to make sure no one is coming down. Traversing is just like side-stepping but without the steps. Point your skis across the hill, tip your skis uphill slightly, then pole across the hill.

Sometimes when standing on a slope, you’ll need to turn yourself around. To do the bull fighter turn take your poles, and place your palms on the top of the poles. Stick the poles into the snow as far as you can reach downhill. Now, straighten your arms completely so they are locked up. Then, just walk your skis around until they are pointed the other way. Be sure to practice in both directions.

Part 5: Making Your First Turns

Start by practicing your first turns on a flat area by using your poles to propel yourself forward. Next, take many small steps with your skis as you move in a half circle. continue stepping until you come to a stop facing slightly uphill.

Start to practice your first turns in a flat area. Start in your basic athletic stance and remember to press your skins into the front of your boots. With your poles, give yourself a few pushes and glide forward. Next, step your skis in a half circle as if you’re making a U-turn. Keep stepping until you come to a stop. Try this in both directions, right and left, and increase your speed as much as you are comfortable. Remember, if you want to go to the left, step your left ski first. Your skis should never cross, and many small steps are better than fewer big steps.

This will help you learn two very important skills. Shifting your weight to the outside or downhill ski. And turning your skis in both directions.

What to Wear

A good day on snow starts with a good set of skivvies, so here is what to wear on the mountain. Wicking base layers keep you warm and comfortable by moving sweat away from your skin. Avoid cotton layers at all costs, they do the opposite. Also, be sure to wear one pair of ski or snowboard-specific socks and only one pair. They are designed to keep you warm.

Make sure your snow pants are waterproof, breathable, and appropriate for the climate that you are visiting. And underneath you only want to have on base layers.

Mid-layers depend on the weather and your personal preference. Layering is great as the day’s weather changes, so can your outfit. A little cold put one on, a little warm take one-off.

For jackets, you’ll want to make sure they’re waterproof and possibly insulated depending on the climate that you are in. If it’s cold, you’ll want a neck gaiter to keep your neck and face warm.

You should wear a properly fitted helmet designed for skiing or snowboarding. A bike helmet won’t do. You’ll also want ski goggles to protect your eyes from the sun (snow is very reflective), keep the elements out, and help you see where you are going.

The choice between gloves and mittens is a personal preference. In general, gloves allow for more dexterity while mittens are warmer.

And now you’re ready to go outside!

How to Get Off a Chairlift

Here are some helpful tips to help you get off the chairlift successfully. Start off by getting comfortable standing up and practicing unloading, you can use a bench or chair. Focus on standing up using your legs like you are getting up from the dinner table. Keep your hands forward with your poles in one hand and press your shins firmly into the front of the boot and glide away.

Now it’s time to ride the chairlift. When you’re riding up, make a plan with the other people on the chair and plan to unload in different directions.

Remember to keep your ski tips up and focus on standing up with the muscles in your legs like you are getting up from the dinner table. Keep your hands forward with your poles in one hand, press your shins into the front of the boots, and glide away.

Wait until you are away from the chair and other people before you skid to a stop. And if you fall while unloading, the lift operators will slow and stop the chair so you can safely get out of the way. Follow these tips and you’ll be getting off the chairlift like a pro.

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Taking a lesson is the best way to learn how to ski, so go with a pro! Visit the Take a Lesson page for more tips. Have fun, and see you on the slopes!