Snow Zone

Ski Tips

The beginner’s circle


So this is your first trip to the mountains for skiing or snowboarding,
eh? I know, I know—the experience can be a little overwhelming and if
you’re not going on a group trip, there are a few handy tips I’ve
accumulated over many years of mountain excursions. Pay attention to me, and
with a little preparation you can get some extra hours on the hill, beat
crowds and make the whole thing more enjoyable.

• First of all, start your preparations well before you
leave—you’ll save a lot of time by getting your clothing,
equipment and other necessities ready before you even reach the mountain.
Call the resort to find out whether they offer a discount “learn to ski”
package that combines equipment rental, lift ticket and lessons.

• Avoid the morning rush at the on-mountain rental shop by getting there
half an hour before the lifts open. Rental shops can get jammed by
mid-morning and by avoiding the rush you’re guaranteed an hour or so of
extra snow time. Besides, the snow is usually best (and the lift lines are
usually shortest) early in the morning.

• If you’re going to partake of the “learn to ski” package, head
straight for the ski school desk. Make sure to ask about weekend and
multiple-day discount packages and check whether your lift ticket can be
purchased with the rental package. Go and get your stuff early! If
you’re simply buying lift tickets, go first thing. If you’re
staying two or more days, ask for multi-day discounts.

• I like to wear my runners into the lodge and carry my boots in a boot
bag along with extra stuff for the day. I can’t emphasize enough how
much I use my cable ski and board locks. I have two: one for the skis and one
for my bag. In the chalet, I find a good place—e.g., below a
table—to wrap the lock around. My bag has a zipper that I put the cable
through and wrap around the table leg tight. No more ripping off my Nikes and
extra goggles, you little pricks!

• Before you head outside, check out a map and familiarize yourself with
the layout of the mountain. You need to watch what lift you’re going up
so that you have a reference. Look at the lift name before you get on. Read
your map carefully to ensure you don’t wander onto terrain for
intermediate or advanced skiers. (You can get a map when you grab your lift

• At U.S. resorts, beginner trails are marked with a green circle,
intermediate with a blue square and advanced with a black diamond. At some
bigger mountains you’ll also find double black diamond slopes for
experts. If you’re not sure how to find a green trail, ask ski
patrollers, ski instructors, lift attendants or other area employees.

• Above all, try to relax and have fun. Just act like you’ve been
doing this for a long time. Don’t think that all those other people are
cooler than you just because they know their way around. If you wipe out,
laugh and enjoy the rush. Don’t get embarrassed. It’s the people
who don’t push themselves who never fall. Experts like to see pure
beginners enjoying themselves—it’s why we do it too! If you run
into some snobby prick, tell him to screw off and continue enjoying your day.
The hill is for beginners as much as it’s for experts. Maybe more

• You don’t get too many days in the mountains, so don’t
worry about rushing home to unpack when it’s all over. It can wait. Let
the traffic go ahead of you and have a pre-trip snack in the lodge. Change
out of your ski clothes right in the parking lot. Trust me: after you ski a
few seasons, you won’t think twice about doing it. Remember to take
pictures. (Not in the parking lot, though, you pervert.)

So here’s to the next season on our doorstep. I’m looking forward
to yet another season of Ski Tips. Feel free to drop me a line with any
questions or comments—my e-mail address is

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