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Learning to Ski as an Adult
When I was growing up my parents took me skiing a few times when we had the 5th grade passes or when we skied at resorts that let kids ski free. When I turned thirteen my family moved to Washington from Utah and we lived far away from any skiing. During my time in Washington, we only skied once. By the time I left for college, I lost all the skills I had learned in elementary school. I met my husband, who was an avid skier, and I had to learn how to ski as an adult. Learning to ski as an adult is harder than learning as a kid but totally doable. After a lot of practice, I am now teaching my kids how to ski.
Learning to ski as an adult can be intimidating but so worth it. Getting started can be the hardest part. Here are some of my tips to help get you started.
Pick the Right Mountain (Bigger Isn’t Always Better)
When you are first learning to ski it can be tempting to go to the bigger, fancier ski resorts but don’t do it. The smaller mountains are almost always better for beginners. The terrain is more beginner-friendly, the resort is less expensive, and the lodge is usually more family-friendly. When looking for a ski resort you’ll want to look for a resort with lots of green circle runs and a good learning area. Save the big fancy resorts with a lot of amenities and harder terrain when you have some practice skiing first.
Choosing the Right Ski Gear
I recommend renting skis the first few times you go skiing. That way you can figure out what size works best for you and gives you a chance to try a few skies before you commit to buying a set. Almost all ski resorts offer a rental and ski lesson package in their ski shop. Going that route will simplify your first few trips to the ski resort. They can help you with sizing and making sure everything is going to work well.
Layering clothes is so important when going skiing. No one wants to ski when they are cold. The most overlooked layer is the base layer. Start with a merino wool base layer (Iksplor is my favorite), you can also wear a merino blend layer. It is important to have merino wool because it helps regulate your body temperature and will make the most difference in keeping you warm. After the merino wool baselayer, you should wear a fleece mid-layer. If it is a warmer day you can leave this layer in the lodge or your car. Make sure to have a waterproof ski coat and ski pants or bibs. Gloves, helmets, and goggles are all must-haves. Most ski shops will rent helmets but not goggles, so call ahead to make sure you can get everything you need.
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Keep Your Expectations Low
Make sure you keep your expectations low for the first few times you go. It takes time and practice to learn a new skill and skiing is no different. Remember that it can be hard to go skiing with your kids for the first time because they will pick it up a lot faster than you do.
Kids are a lot better than adults at trying new things. They don’t get embarrassed when they fall, they aren’t worried about getting hurt, and sometimes they seem like they have no fears. Be persistent, skiing is hard but if you keep showing up and keep trying you will get better and you will be going down harder runs before you know it.
Set realistic goals for yourself. Start slow and be patient when progress seems slow. If you are feeling like you aren’t improving you can take a lesson or talk with a friend that also skis for encouragement or insights.
Take a Few Days of Skiing Lessons
If you can afford it you should definitely take a few days of skiing lessons. You can call ahead and find the ski lesson that would work for you. Most resorts have semi-private, private, and group lessons. They will cater to you and your group. Taking lessons is such a great way to get started. Skiing for the first time can be tough and intimidating, especially when going with a group of advanced skiers.
A ski school has professional ski instructors that are trained to help beginner skiers get started. They also offer intermediate and advanced ski lessons. The ski instructor will know exactly how to help you learn to ski.
If skiing lessons aren’t an option for you then plan on taking a few days on the bunny hill to get started and check out the videos below.
Once you take some lessons or start skiing by yourself it is still going to take a lot of practice. Don’t be discouraged and keep going back to the ski hill!
Know Your Limits
You will want to start on the bunny hill and slowly progress your way to the harder terrain. Sometimes you can be pressured into skiing terrain that you are not ready for. Try to know your limits and what you are ready for.
At the end of my first season learning to ski as an adult I had a friend convince me that I was ready to ski a double black diamond with an extra steep face. I had done several black diamonds at this point and I thought I was ready for it too but it was a lot steeper than I realized. I took a small fall near the top and as I was putting my skis back on I slipped and fell about 300 feet down the mountain. I was pretty shaken up but was ok by some miracle. I was so lucky to not hit a tree or get seriously injured.
How to Manage Your Fear of Heights or Speed
Start slowly on gentle slopes and gradually build up your confidence. Focus on controlling your speed and learning how to stop effectively. Breathing techniques and positive self-talk can also help manage fear. Remember, it’s okay to progress at your own pace.
When you are ready slowly move to more difficult terrain. You’re likely ready when you can confidently make controlled turns, stop comfortably, and handle longer beginner runs without getting too tired. It’s a good idea to try new slopes with an instructor or an experienced skier the first time.
Pick Patient People to Ski With
Make sure to ski with people who are going to be patient and wait for you. When you first start skiing you will be skiing a lot slower than anyone else that has been skiing before. It is hard enough learning a new skill and you need people that will cheer you on and be willing to help you get better.
My husband is an excellent skier and was very invested in me learning how to ski. We had to set some rules for when we went skiing. I had one run to warm up where he couldn’t give me any pointers or advice. The next two runs he could give me advice and help me with my form but after that, he wasn’t allowed to help me unless I asked for help. Skiing is supposed to be fun but it isn’t very fun when someone is being overly helpful.
If you are skiing with people that are a lot better than you they might want to ski different terrain. Instead of going on terrain, you aren’t ready for, you can pick a spot to meet up at later. Or find a run that has green and blues on it and pick spots along the way you can meet up with everyone.
How to Prevent Injuries
Always warm up before skiing. I like to do an easier run before jumping to the harder terrain. You can also do some stretching before you go. Skiing is a lot of physical exercise. You can consider physical conditioning off the slopes.
Make sure to use properly fitting equipment. You can check with your local ski shop for help with this. Ski within your ability level, and take lessons to learn proper techniques and skills. Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks when tired. We bring a thermos of hot chocolate and take a lot of breaks with our kids. Don’t underestimate the power of a quick snack or hot chocolate break.
Some of the basic skills you need when you start skiing are how to stop, how to turn, and how to get on and off a ski lift. These will be the first skills that you will learn during a skiing lesson. But if you aren’t able to take any ski school lessons then check out the following videos to get the basics.
How to Stop
One of the most important skills you can learn when skiing is how to stop.
How to Get on a Magic Carpet
He will show you exactly how to get on a magic carpet lift. Have more questions? Check out our magic carpet post.
How to Turn on Skis
In this video, he shows you how to do basic turns and how to turn without doing a wedge or a “pizza.”
Is it too late to learn to ski as an adult?
No! It is never too late to learn how to ski. Adult beginners often have excellent focus and commitment, making them quick learners. Ski schools offer adult-specific classes that can teach different experience levels.
How long will it take to learn?
This varies widely among individuals. Some may feel comfortable on easy slopes after a few days, while others might need a few trips to build confidence. Consistent practice is key to progress and success.
What are the biggest challenges for adult beginners?
The most common challenges include overcoming fear, especially of falling or heights, and getting used to the physical demands of skiing. Good fitness levels can help, but patience and persistence are most important.
Is it necessary to take lessons?
While it’s possible to learn from friends or family (I did), professional lessons are highly recommended. Instructors can provide structured guidance and correct mistakes early on, helping to prevent bad habits and injuries.
What is the best time of year to learn skiing?
Mid-winter, typically January to March, often offers the best conditions – consistent snow coverage and milder temperatures. Avoid peak holiday times to benefit from less crowded slopes and more attention from instructors.
This article was contributed by Jacy Murray.