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A Beginner's Guide to Skiing

By Ambika Rajyagor

Interested in skiing, but don’t know where to start? No worries! We’ve put together a cool beginner’s guide that’ll get you started on the slopes in no time AND help you carry yourself through a skiing conversation with steez. By the end of this article, you should be feeling just as confident and cool in the snow as one of the best winter athletes of all time, the great Stormi Jenner.
But all jokes aside-- before we get to the technical things, let’s cover some of the basics you should know about Skiing as a sport, what it’s all about, and some of the gear that you’re gonna need to suit up with before you hitch a ride on the lift.

Some Quick History

Skiing is probably one of the oldest sports in the history of the World, dating back 5 millenia. It’s geographical origins are up for debate between early records in Asia and early skiing artifacts uncovered in Europe, but the modern version of skiing that we know today is linked straight back to historical records from Scandinavia.

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The name “Ski” actually came from a Norse word called, “skíð,” meaning split wood, and before it became a two-pole sport for recreation, it was actually a widespread form of transportation for people traveling through the snowy mountains. Most early accounts of skiing reference the use of just one pole to use on the slopes, but as early as 1741, there are depictions of skiers using the two-pole method that we see today.

In any case, as skiing evolved, so did the equipment for it, and needs for the recreational use that we see today. Over the course of 5 millenia, this sport made its own journey into different types of skiing that we now know.

Picking A Destination

There are 481 Alpine ski resorts in the United States - all of which you can learn how to alpine ski (the most common form of skiing). Every resort will offer a variety of runs with different difficulty levels, and usually have an area for beginners.

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A few things to consider when choosing your destination are your budget, mountain difficulty and of course nightlife (when we’re not social distancing). Some resorts also offer on-mountain rental options, a perfect option to test out gear (and not to mention travel a little more lightly).

So, now that we have a basic framework of how to consider your destination, let’s start talking about some of the gear you’re going to need before you get to the lifts!

Gear Basics & Breakdown

So, now that we have a basic framework of what skiing is and what the different types are, let’s start talking about some of the gear you’re going to need before you get to the lifts!

Base Layer

It’s really important to have a base layer that’s sweat wicking and not too heavy. For these, fabrics are important and you’re going to want to lean away from cotton heavy material

Mid Layer

Mid Layers are what keep you warm when it’s extra cold and add that bit of comfort and flexibility while you’re in the snow. When picking your mid-layer, make sure you’re considering something that adds warmth, but doesn’t restrict your movement, like a thin jacket or vest to reduce unnecessary bulk. Skiing a sport, so think of it like a warmer for your workout!

Pants

Waterproof is the way to go on this one, trust us. Plenty of beginner skiers roll through in pants that aren’t meant for the snow-- like sweats, warm up pants, and sometimes even.. JEANS!! But really, if you’re not looking to be walking around in wet fabric after a long day in the powder, you’re going to want a pair of pants that are meant for the snow and waterproof

Jacket

Your jacket’s going to be one of the most important parts of your clothing, so make sure to choose something that’s going to keep you both warm and waterproof. And of course, it’s always a bonus if your jacket has storage areas for your lift pass, phone and snacks

Socks

Socks that are meant for the snow or skiing are a go-to here. Any other socks, like ankle or non-slip socks are not going to protect your toes and heels from the cold. Ski or snow socks are designed to be the length of your ski boot for comfort and warmth. Again, it’s a plus if you can find sweat wicking or waterproof fabric for these

Gloves

Here most people have the choice between mittens or finger gloves, so it’s a personal preference on whichever you’re more comfortable with. Just make sure your hand coverings are waterproof and durable!

Gaiters

Gaiters are also known as neck warmers. They’re an extra layer to keep your neck and face warm from the snow, and most importantly-- the wind. Windburn is a very real thing and can be super painful! Unlike scarves, gaiters are designed for skiing, so you don’t have to worry about them falling off. They’re also made from materials that help with breathability when your mouth and nose are covered

Googles

Whether it’s sunny or cloudy-- goggles are essential to keep your eyes from watering when you’re skiing. It’s nice to have a pair of goggles with two different lenses so that you can have different options depending on the weather. Snow can be extremely reflective, so having a lens that protects your eyes is key. When the sun goes away, light becomes pretty flat, so a clearer lens might be more helpful in those situations

Helmet

This is your brain bucket, and wearing a helmet is always the cool thing to do. There are so many great options for skiing/snowboarding specific helmets, and they come in all sorts of colors to fit your personal style. It’s extremely important to make sure that the helmet you choose has the proper certifications to protect your noggin!

Boots

Ski Boots are made specifically for the sport, so it’s important to get fitted correctly with rentals or your own pair before you head up on the mountain.

Poles

These come in pairs! Unless you’re going back to basics on the traditional methods of skiing we talked about earlier, lol. But really, like your boots and skis, you’re going to want to be fitted and adjust the poles accordingly to your height and ability

Skis (lol)

This one feels obvious-- but you’re going to need skis that fit you and the type of skiing you’ll be doing. It’s important to know that skis come in all different lengths and widths, so make you ask for an expert opinion on what will work the best for you.

First Day on the Slopes

One big tip, especially if you’re just starting out skiing-- load up on a good meal and be sure to bring snacks that’ll sustain you for the day’s workout. Then, once you’ve been outfitted and have all your gear, it’s time to head to the ski resort. Here you’ll purchase lift tickets that are going to be your pass up the mountain. Now that you have your lift pass and your gear in tow, it’s time to get on the lift! Pro-tip for when you’re in the chair is to keep your phone zipped up and out of your hands-- unless you’re using a Halfdays jacket with a built-in phone leash! The last thing you’re gonna want is to drop your phone off the lift! Make sure your non-attached items are secure elsewhere on your body or on your pack, and that you put the bar down so you don’t accidentally fall!

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Once you get to your stop, you’re going to make sure to keep your tips up, and push off the chair as you stand up to unload the lift. This is kind of tricky to do for beginners, so don’t be too mad at yourself if you don’t get it as easily the first time. When you’re off the chair and in the unload zone, you’re ready to get started! A key thing to remember is that just like with any sport-- it’s going to take time and practice to get better and feel more comfortable on the slopes. Most beginners start out with a group of trusted friends who know the sport, or hire an instructor, but if that’s not for you, try doing a couple crash courses on strategy before you head up the first time. The most important thing to keep in mind is safety-- for yourself and the others you’re sharing the slopes with.

But yes! If you’ve made it this far in the article, you should be able to not only carry yourself through a skiing convo like a pro, but you should also be geared up and ready to cruise down those slopes! Good luck out there, and don’t forget to tag us @Halfdays on socials, so we can be in on the adventure!

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