With winter in full force in the northern hemisphere, many travelers are packing up their skis and heading to the mountains. But unless you grew up carving French fries and pizza pie slices, ski vacations can be intimidating. And that’s to say nothing of ski culture which is, well, serious.
As someone who has taught snowboarding lessons for four years (with nearly two decades of riding in the books), I’ve seen all the rookie mistakes. And believe me, you may feel cool showing up to the ski hill for the first time in jeans and designer sunglasses, but you won’t be anything but freezing while sliding down the slope on your stomach. Then you drop in on your first run and before you know it you’re sliding down the hill on your stomach.
Fortunately, you don’t have to hide out at the lodge to enjoy your first ski trip. Skiing and snowboarding can be two of the most best snow sports of the season, if you avoid the common mistakes most novice skiers make. Who knows? You might just find yourself looking forward to winter.
1. Wearing Jeans or Leggings
Wearing jeans — or anything cotton, for that matter — is a surefire way to advertise that you have no idea what you’re doing. You’re also guaranteed to wind up cold, wet and miserable. Cotton may be the least waterproof material available (snow is really just water, after all), and it absorbs moisture extremely well and stays wet for days. Even if you’re not sure snow sports are for you, invest in a solid pair of waterproof ski pants and a waterproof jacket. And if you spring for a jacket actually designed for skiing, you will be rewarded with the luxuries of a powder skirt that buttons around your waist to keep snow from getting up your shirt every time you fall.
2. Flaunting a Gaper Gap
A Gaper is “guaranteed accident prone on every run.” Also known as the completely clueless skier who’s very likely to land face first in the middle of every trail. The giveaway here is the Gaper Gap, or the space between the top of your goggles and your helmet that almost always results in a cold face and a vicious sunburn. And while it’s great that you’re wearing a helmet, it doesn’t do much good if it’s not covering your whole head. Make sure your helmet is pulled forward enough to cover your forehead and tight enough so it doesn’t slide back. If you still have a gap, push your goggles up or wear a headband or hat under your helmet.
3. Using Sunglasses Instead of Ski Goggles
They slide off, they don’t keep your face warm and they don’t keep the wind out of your eyes: basically all three things ski goggles are designed for. If you’re a beginner, there’s no need to buy the most expensive goggles on the market, but getting something specifically designed for skiing will make your time on the slopes significantly more enjoyable.
4. Getting Cold
No one else may know you’re cold, but it’s a good way to find yourself sulking in the ski lodge and hating skiing. We live in a world of heated car seats and battery-powered socks, so there’s no reason to be cold while skiing. Ever. Before heading out, make sure you check the forecasted air temperature and dress accordingly. A heavy base layer, medium weight fleece and waterproof ski jacket will keep you warm enough for almost any reasonable winter day. And instead of cutting off the blood circulation to your feet by layering three pairs of cotton socks on top of each other and jamming them into your boots, get one good pair of wool or synthetic socks. Keep in mind that you will get warmer when you actually start skiing, so don’t overdress and end up wearing sweaty — and, consequently, frozen — layers all day.