As the shorter days prompt thoughts of a mid-winter escape, hesitant skiers shouldn’t be put off hitting the slopes for the first time. Skiing really is not as scary as it might seem and here are 10 tips to get you flying down the mountain in no time at all
1. Before you go. Getting in shape is vital, and that means more than just a few pre-ski squats against the wall in the few weeks before you pack your bags. Do whatever it takes to keep flexible as part of a regular routine: walk, swim, dance and, above all, stretch. Pilates helps improve flexibility, increases strength and improves balance. You might also want to build your confidence by having a go on a dry or real ski slope in Britain – find your nearest one here.
2. If you’ve got the time, and the bank balance. Book a longer holiday than you might have planned to – with last-minute deals it may even cost you less than your original holiday. With a short holiday you can’t start from scratch, get back to your best after a year’s absence or allow yourself a recovery day off. If you are truly going full SKI (Spending the Kids’ Inheritance), book several shorter holidays in different resorts.
3. Get kitted out. Boots are the key to confidence. If you are hiring, get the fit just right – and if you have wide feet, allow for this to avoid pure agony. Go for some decent socks, but forget traditional thick ski tubes. It’s worth investing in a pair of Monnet’s finest and silkiest, which are designed to prevent your feet from overheating. It may seem counterintuitive but one pair of thinner socks, not tights and two pairs of socks, will help you enjoy a pain-free session on the slopes. Also, take grips for the soles of your ski boots in case you find yourself having to walk any distance on icy surfaces – try Yaktrax Pro Ice grips.
4. Keep warm. It especially important for less confident skiers, who aren’t moving as much as their more experienced counterparts, to stay toasty. You can never have too many layers. Wear a beanie under your helmet, and do make sure you wear the latter. Hire one with your skis. With sky-high snow boarders flying all around you, you know it makes sense. As for skis? Trusty carvers do the turning for you.
5. Take a mini-backpack. Not one that you have to remove at every chairlift but sufficiently big to fit in an extra thermal, a bottle of water to rehydrate and a paperback for your break in the sun on a mountain café terrace.
6. Book it. Ignore the ageist title and snow plough your way into Soft Skiing: The Secrets of Effortless Low-Impact Skiing for Older Skiers by Lito Tejada-Flores. Invest in private lessons – in France for example, Evolution 2 is recommended – to give confidence and teach you how to stay safe in any conditions.
7. Ski with a buddy. Seek out a ski partner with the same aspirations as you. Book into one of the larger catered chalets to meet potential piste companions. Ski with people younger if possible too, not all day but for at least four or five runs to help you improve. If all your mates have given up but you’re not over the hill, the Association of Retired Persons ski club offers holidays for like-minded 50+ enthusiasts.
8. Don’t be a martyr to the piste. Do a bit of research to find the best restaurants in town for lunch, rather than simply submit to queuing for the fast-food that is generally served up in the restaurants on the slopes. New app Skadi could be handy in this regard.
9. Where you stay. Search for the deals that will make your holiday extra special. An apartment with a real fire and, if you’re lucky, a sauna will be wonderful to come back to after a long day up the mountain. Take a look on Powder White to find your perfect accommodation.
10. Ski hacks. My little helper is an Ipod in my pocket with my favourite dancing music, an earphone in one ear and the sound down enough so I can listen out for the scrape of other skiers and snowboarders behind me. Also, know what your limits are, don’t frighten yourself on icy black runs. Go for the red or blue alternatives and meet your more experienced friends at the bottom. As they say, come off the slopes with another run left in your legs. It’s a holiday, not an endurance test. Take time to listen to the birds when you ski through trees, notice the diamond dazzle of the snow and inhale that crisp air for your full winter tonic.