10 Tips to Know Before Your First Ski Day

The Story

First Ski Day tips and pointers can start you off on the right foot. I wish I Knew THEN What I Know NOW

My first skiing experience was on a cold January day in Canada where my friends thought it would be a great idea to go skiing on a Saturday. I was 15 years of age at the time and had ZERO experience skiing. The night before was full of brave talk and enthusiasm to get started for the Saturday activity. I had no equipment, no ski clothing and no knowledge or skill to tackle this adolescent adventure.

“Hitting the slopes” the next day was interesting to say the least. The ski resort (I use the term loosely) was 80 vertical feet and despite the small stature of the resort, I was terrified at the vertical hill in front of me as we pulled into the parking lot. “We’re going to ski that?” I said.

First Ski Day on a Poma Lift

Ancient Equipment

I’ve been skiing for 40 years so you can imagine the equipment that we had at the time was ancient. The skis were probably 200cm, the bindings seems like small shuffle board pucks holding our boots on, and my ski boots were ankle high prehistoric versions. I will always remember trying to click in my boot this this complicated binding system (Marker Humanic) with the lift up heel piece with spring loaded tension. After 20 minutes of trying to figure out my clothing, it was time to click on the skis and head to the lift. Clicking into these small bindings was no easy task. I didn’t know you had to remove the snow from the bottom of the boot first in order for the boot to fit properly under the binding. 15 minutes later, “CLICK”, I’m in !

Marker Bindings
1975 Marker Ski Bindings

My buddy at the time, said, “don’t forget about the ski strap!”. Yes, a ski strap had to be harnessed around the ankle to prevent any run-away skis hurtling down the slope. OK, I’m all set: hat, goggles, ski poles, boots, skis, ski straps… “let’s do this!”.

A Binding Experience

Five seconds into the journey to the lift, my ski comes off. What? How did this happen? So, I proceeded to start the 10 minute process of 1)remove the snow from the bottom of my boot; 2)click in the toe first and then lift the heel clamp onto the boot; 3)double check the ski strap… Good to go (again).

Finally made it to the lift – a Poma lift. As I stood there scratching my head and waiting for my friends to deliver some instructions, I heard crickets. My friends seamlessly skied over to the Poma lift and put it between there legs and were instantly whisked up the slope. It all seemed easy enough until it was my turn. Finally, I approached to the standing point and looked over my shoulder to receive this contraption, but no one told me to point my skis in the direction of travel (up the hill)… BOOM, over I went (again). Suddenly, I’m lying there about 10 feet from where I started and you guessed it…. my skis fell off (again).

I’m telling you this not to discourage you, but to let you know I have some great tips to avoid this type of situation.

The process continued. I would drag myself off the ‘launch pad’ of the lift and gather my skis and poles to start the assembly process again. Firstly, brush off the snow under my boots; secondly, toe piece in; and finally, lift heel binding; get back in line… ughhh.

The Hard Part Was Over

After my 3rd attempt, I was finally moving up the hill with the Poma lift between my legs and freaked out about the steepness of the trail I had to remain standing on until the top. With some volleyball balance, and basketball agility, I made it to the top. wheeeeeew! The hard part was over right? (I thought).

Pre 1980's ski safety straps

As my restless friends waited for me at the top (did I forget to mention they’ve been skiing for years?), I made my way over to the group to ‘review’ the slope we were about to ski down.

Oh, my God! Are you kidding me? Why are we at the top of the hill looking at the steepest slope? Is this where everyone starts learning how to ski? My friends assured me that this was the best slope for ripping it up.

Their version and my version of ‘ripping it up’ I believe had some differences. hmmm!

With NO direction or guidance from my friends and because they made it look easy, I proceeded to descend down the slope. It was actually very exciting for the first 20 feet and then, the word ‘acceleration’ was introduced to me… WTF? No one told me how to turn or control my speed. No one told me what to do… “Make sure you push off with your ski poles so you can get some good speed” they said. Are you F*$&$))# kidding me?

As I descended the slope and accelerating, I couldn’t help wonder: “do people really enjoy doing this?” The day was a series of travelling 20 feet and falling into a ‘yard sale‘ fashion

Yard Sale where a skier falls and loses a ski, pole, hat, goggles, glasses, gloves, etc

“Yard Sale”: Where a skier falls and loses articles and equipment all over the slope (yard). It literally looks like a yard sale with items strewn across the snowy slope.

15 year old Yard Sale expert

A Catalyst

Why would anyone in their right mind think that skiing was fun? First and foremost, people can really get hurt if not given the right starting point or direction. I remember that first day skiing vividly because I used it as a catalyst to motivate me in the right direction. Secondly, there was No “F’n” way that I ever want to repeat that embarrassing, painful, and humiliating day again. Finally, I made a decision that day to learn this S(%* and become someone who could teach others to NEVER go through what I went through.

What if ?

Despite all the yard sales, I did see something there that could be magical. After that first day, I began to visualize what a good day on the slopes could look like. What could be possible? What if? Perhaps a day of whipping down the hill with my buds, powder falling over my shoulder, and a day to experience everything the mountain had to offer.

A Student-Centered Approach

In my 40 years of skiing and 35 years of teaching, I’ve kept the student centred approach. It was easy to imagine what the beginner was going through when I referred back to that day on the small hill I started at.

Equipment and clothing today has vastly improved. Ski lessons and the way a ski hill accommodates and caters to the beginner is great to see. That did not exist when I started. Anyone starting out today for the first time has a few advantages compared to when I started.


1. Choose a Nice Day

So often I’ve seen skiers just starting out that land at the resort on a cloudy or rainy day. Remember, this first day will last a lifetime and we want to give ourselves every advantage we can in order to enjoy the day to the max. Watch the forecast for the day you’re thinking and try to pick a not-so-busy day on the slopes where the weather is nice (Sunny, not too cold).

A sunny ski day

2. Know How to Dress For The Weather

Keep it simple is a good approach here. You don’t have to go out and buy half the ski shop’s apparel. Start at the bottom such as Good socks, long johns, and t-neck. As far as outerwear, a borrowed ski suit would do the job as long as it fits and is comfortable; a helmet is a must, and eye protection (goggles or sunglasses) required. A simple pair of leather mitts or gloves is required (not wool or fleece).

If it’s minus 30 degrees, you won’t be comfortable or relaxed.

What NOT to wear on your first day skiing
Uhhhhhhhh, Hell to the “NO”

3. Eat & Drink Tip

Think of starting your ski day the night before. Stay away from alcohol and keep hydrated. A good night’s sleep goes a long way the next day. The dinner the night before shouldn’t be anything too heavy and don’t eat too late. The morning meal should be a sustainable energy breakfast that will keep you going all day. Don’t forget your water bottle in the car ride on the way to the slope (Have I mentioned you’ll want to stay hydrated?).

Eating healthy for your first ski day
Some sustainable energy

4. Equipment

Most of the equipment you’ll need on your first day is ‘rentable’. You’ll need properly fitted boots, skis, and ski poles (you can even rent a helmet if you don’t have one at home). The rental shop at the resort is completely set to serve you in this capacity. They do tons of rentals everyday and have seen every walk of life rent equipment. Get there early, take your time, don’t rush this step. The rental shop will ask you questions about your ability, weight, height, in order to assess your equipment.

Some items you’ll need ahead of the rental shop will be goggles, t-neck, long johns and good ski socks. You’ll also need those gloves, pants and ski jacket.

Ski Equipment Checklist
See “Resources” at bottom for High-Res Version

You probably don’t need high-end equipment. You’ll need an ‘easy-to-turn’ ski (not too stiff or too long); a pair of poles and most of all – a very comfortable pair of ski boots. Ask the rental shop attendant on how to put on boots property. (Also see on article on How to Put On Your Ski Boots).

Don’t be that person that skis all day with a pinched sock or wrong sized ski boot.

5. Take a Lesson

A simple but often overlooked feature of starting your first ski day off on the right foot. Take a lesson with an equal ability friend. Book a semi-private for you and your friend and treat it as an adventure. You will be surprised what you can learn in an intro lesson by a seasoned ski instructor.

Take a ski lesson
Have a ski instructor help you off the chairlift
Your first ski day lesson with the proper guidance
Ski lesson with built in fun, safety and ski improvement

6. Take a Friend

Skiing is a social sport and having the support and camaraderie of a good friend will make all the difference. Remember my first day skiing and me being pressured into skiing the wrong slope too soon? Take your time, and choose wisely.

Monica Costa - Take a friend skiing
Take a Friend

7. Learn the Signs

First things first – Become familiar with the resort signage. You will learn from your intro lesson that the signs on the slopes have specific meaning. Understanding these guidelines can save you a lot of time and prevent injury. We have laid out a simple reminder of what those signs are in our article 10-ways to remain safe on the slopes.

Ski Hill Trail Signs

8. Don’t Over Do It

Understand that this is your first day on your new life long journey of skiing. Don’t over do it. Ski in the morning during your lesson and a few more runs before lunch. Take a break to eat a “healthy” lunch (Not poutine or French fries and burger. After lunch, head back out for a short afternoon and then chill in the Après bar atmosphere.

Stay away from the Poutine, French fries or burger for lunch

A stretching routine when you return home that night can do wonders for your muscle recover because believe it or not, you’ll discover muscles you never knew you had…

Post Ski Day Stretching

9. Book a Return Date Quickly

Your learning curve can be quick and steep. One recommendation I have is to return to the ring fairly soon after your first day. What you’ve learned in your first day can be built upon very quickly. The average North American skier skis 7 days a year (What?). If you’re just starting out, take frequent lessons or better yet, enrol in your favourite ski resort ski-program. Most resorts have excellent 8 week programs for all levels of skiers.

10. Record the Moment

As mentioned earlier, I vividly remember my first day on the slopes. It really does seem like that 40 year memory was yesterday. My only regret is that I didn’t capture the moment with a camera. Nowadays, there’s no excuse with smart phones readily available in our pockets. Record your experience on the slopes. The lifts, the resort, your friends, your equipment.

Capture the moment, take a photo
Capture the moment, take a photo
Capture the Moment

Snap Snap, Click Click, selfie, selfie… ok, enough already !

I hope you can use some of these simple tips to start your ski adventure off on the right foot. Don’t be pressured onto a slope that’s beyond your ability. Take your time, enjoy it, and remember it…

Pinterest Photo


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