So you’ve committed to taking up a snow sport!? Fantastic! Regardless of how old you are, how fit you are or who you think should be skiing or snowboarding this could be one of the best decisions you will ever make. Skiing and snowboarding are great fun and a fantastic way to experience being in the mountains, which is a truly magical place.
However, as a novice what do you need to know? What kind of things should you be doing to make the most of it? Here is part 1 of our top 10 tips to get the most out of your first ski or snowboard holiday.
1. Pick your sport
Who are you!? Are you a skier? A snowboarder? A telemarker!?!? While you might have already decided what you want to do it’s worth considering the other options. All snow sports are basically just sliding about on snow, however they all have their pros and cons, so consider what you want out of your holiday before you commit.
Skiing will allow the quickest way for you to get off the nursery slopes and begin to get around the mountain. With lessons, you should be able to ski on all the green runs in Les 3 Vallees by the end of your first week and in many cases the blues too! The downside, if there is one, is that skis can seem a little heavy and clumsy to carry around and the boots can sometimes feel a little awkward until you get the hang of it after a few days. However, as anything it just takes a little practice for it to start to feel easier and more natural.
While we all have different fitness levels, the first few days of learning to snowboard are physically harder work than skiing. It is trickier to balance on one edge rather than two, so getting the basics of snowboarding may take a little longer. Until you are comfortable balancing on that one edge at speed, long flat areas can be tricky to negotiate without the convenience of ski poles. With the blending of fashions and the rise of people like Candide Thovex and James “Woodsy” Woods throwing down and going viral it’s getting harder to say that snowboarding is cooler than skiing. The good news is a board is lighter and more convenient to carry around the resort and the boots are generally more comfortable (like a big pair of slippers). Therefore, should you venture to the bar straight from the slopes snowboard boots are also far easier to dance on the tables in!
2. Try it out
The sooner you can get from a wobbly legged start and become familiar with your equipment, the more fun you will have on holiday. One of the best ways to speed up the process is to visit one of indoor real snow centres in the UK before you go.
These giant fridges make their own snow, and provide a good surface on which to make your first turns. The slopes might be short and the view won’t be as good, but on your first few days in resort you won’t be on anything much bigger. The more time you can get on snow the better, so think about booking a one day course or a set of lessons. Most centres provide all the equipment too, including clothes.
3. Get fit
Snow sports are exactly that; sports! Skiing and snowboarding use muscles you probably don’t use in everyday life, no matter how sporty you are. Prep for a summer holiday might be to go on a diet and get a spray tan to look good by the pool on day one. Prep for spending a week doing sport should be a little different. The last thing you want is to go on a ski holiday, only to find you are too tired to get out of bed on day 2. The best way to make sure you have the energy to enjoy your experience is to try and get in shape before you hit the slopes.
Anything you do will help but if your looking for specifics our Pre Holiday Training Tips will be released soon
Non gym-bunnies, don’t panic. There are lots of ways to get your heart rate up and strengthen those leg muscles in your everyday routine; take the stairs instead of a lift, or cycle to work instead of driving for instance. Your holiday won’t be a fitness boot camp but getting your body ready to be more active will allow you to enjoy yourself for longer.
4. Wear the right clothes
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.” Kinda; if you wear the right clothing, you’ll be able to stay safe and comfortable in almost any weather. As you plan for your first experience in the mountains, make sure you pack the right stuff.
A layer system is often the best. Start with a base layer that’s designed to keep you dry by wicking sweat away from your body. The mid layers are designed to keep you warm by regulating your body temperature. The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof to keep the cold out and the warm in. For your first trip getting everything you need can seem eye wateringly expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
Base layers are pretty much any wicking layer. The wicking technology in the top you wear to the gym for instance will work just as well doing sport on a mountain. The same goes for your mid layers, sweat shirts, hoodies and fleeces you already have will be fine. Jackets and snow pants of high end, big name, snow sport brands can be bought cheaply(ish) online and in discount chains such as TKMaxx. Another way to save is to avoid the big brand names altogether and shop in somewhere like Decathlon or buy out of season and in the sales. If you can, try and borrow things from friends which will help keep the costs down too. Don’t skimp on socks, there’s no need to spend £150 on a pair of heated ski socks (yes they exist), but using an old pair of football socks won’t cut it. You want good fitting socks with minimal seems and re-enforced areas on the shin, heel and toe, this will minimise rubs, hotspots and blisters from boots.
5 Rent your kit.
When you’re excited about a new thing, it can be tempting to rush out and buy the latest shiny kit; try to resist this! No matter what anyone tells you, rent equipment for at least your first time. It is very possible that you could end up buying inappropriate or poorly sized kit and have the added hassle and cost of getting it to resort.
The benefit of renting equipment is three-fold. Firstly, it gives you a chance to try before you buy and you can get a feel for what you do and don’t like about certain equipment. Secondly, most rental shops have new equipment each season which means that you won’t get stuck with outdated kit. Thirdly, as you improve, you can rent higher performance equipment. You don’t learn to drive in a Ferrari, similarly you don’t want to learn to ski or snowboard on super stiff, high performance equipment.
Keep an eye out for Part Deux coming up soon……………………………………….
Author Matt Ottaway