Growing up middle class in the suburbs of Kansas City, ski holidays were not a thing. On warm summer days my family and I would go to the Lake of the Ozarks; until I went to Colorado my junior year of university, the Ozarks were the closest I had ever gotten to a mountain. Now at 23 I am learning to ski in the Swiss Alps, something I would never think to dream of as a kid.
My experience learning to ski as an adult in Switzerland (where toddlers go to ski school and children fly down black diamond slopes) has been interesting. Learning to ski (and I still have MUCH to learn) has taught me a few tips that are helpful for anyone who is new to the sport.
Learn How to Stop
I am running out of track, my body weight slips forward — I am not slowing down – shit, there is a 3-year-old bubble-faced toddler in front of me! Fast decision: toddler or ground? Ground. Lesson one of learning to ski: learn how to stop.
Skiing works out your entire body, especially your knees, pelvis and thighs. Weight distribution is how you have control. Your weight should be centered at your core, not in the front of your ski boots. If too much of your body weight is pushed forward you will crash. Learn how to stop using a combination of techniques: carving, creating a triangle (pizza) with your skis (easier said than done); and using your poles for balance.
Ask for the Right Skis
If you’re like me, you will fall – and, yes, it hurts. My first time skiing I did not have safety skis (skis that automatically detach from your boot when you fall). My first crash resulted in a ligament tear in my knee; it still hurts as I write this article two weeks later. Be smart — ask for short, safety skis. If you’re having trouble finding skis, ask for help — an employee at the rental place will know what you’re looking for.
Even if you have done board sports before it’s a good idea to start small when learning how to ski. Gravity and ice make it super easy to go fast. It’s even a smart idea to ditch your poles at the beginning and hit the slopes empty handed. While your poles provide balance they can be an unnecessary distraction. Further, learning how to ski without poles teaches you proper balance and greater concentration on your footing, arguably the most important part of skiing.
Despite the obstacles and pain, learning how to ski in the Swiss Alps has been one of the most rewarding, athletic experiences in my life. I am pumped to learn more this winter and eventually hit the slopes without literally, hitting the slopes.
What was your first ski experience? Did you crash? Any ski or snowboarding tips? –Alex