I can’t say I’ve ever been someone who thought they would try downhill skiing. If I’m really honest, I always thought of skiing as a sport exclusively for the posh, and thus, I was instantly disqualified.
But, this winter, when my husband asked me if I wanted to try skiing I thought about all of the time I’ve spent inside for the last 2 years and how much I love to eat new things and that this trip would surely provide opportunities to try new food so I thought yeah…I’ll try skiing!
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got. And I mean that in the best possible way. Spoiler alert: I had a blast, but it definitely presented challenges that I wasn’t expecting.
Here’s what I wish I’d known the first time I went skiing.
1. It’s a very bulky sport—GET THERE EARLY
I scoffed at the ski school telling us to arrive an hour early to put on our equipment. “I’m just putting on boots!” I exclaimed to my husband as he was rushing me out the door. I was wrong. We got there with a half-hour to spare and were rushing to make it to our lesson on time. It’s way more involved than you think it is, and it’s also hard to move around once you have your ski boots on so, it’s going to take you some time. Arrive early and save yourself the exhaustion of hauling butt across the mountain in those clunky boots.
2. You are going to excel much faster than you think
I went skiing expecting that if I was really lucky I’d spend the entire afternoon perfecting the bunny slope and that maybe next year when we went skiing I’d tackle the most beginner level of slopes. I truly did not think I was going to get on the slopes at all.
I was wrong.
After about 40 minutes of training on flat land to get a feel for the skis and 40 minutes of bunny hill practice, our instructor told us that we were all ready for the beginner slope—which at Stow Mountain is Inspiration. And the truth is, I felt ready and excited. There was plenty of time to learn the basics in lessons and get comfortable with the odd sensation of having giant feet (aka skis).
But I can’t stress this enough—you should definitely take lessons before you attempt to ski. Even if you’re a great athlete, even if you think you know what you’re doing.
If you’ve never skied before, take a lesson to get familiar before you head to the slopes.
Which brings me to…
3. You will try a slope the first day
Like I said, I never expected to get on an actual slope the same day I strapped skis on for the first time. But, I felt ready, and on I went! This was true of everyone in the class. Even the people who really struggled on the bunny slope and I thought “there is no way they are getting on that chairlift and going up the mountain” they did, and they made it happen.
Odds are, you will be no different, and you’ll see skiing on the slopes your very first day. Get excited, it’s an incredible experience!
4. Some of the chairlifts make you feel like they’re pulling on your legs as you sit down—it’s ok! They aren’t!
I don’t know why no one warned me about this one but it seriously freaked me out the first time it happened. (between that and the height of the chairlift as we ascended, I definitely cried a little. Don’t judge, I was overwhelmed.)
Something about how low to the ground some of the chairs are and the length of the skis makes it feel like your legs are being pulled backwards for a moment when you first sit down. (it doesn’t hurt, it just feels weird). I don’t pretend to know what causes this, but it’s worth noting because it freaked me out the first time it happened and had I known it was normal, I probably wouldn’t have minded.
Note: This depends on the chairlift as some of them didn’t give me this sensation but it’s worth noting just in case you experience it.
5. This is not the sport where you want to push yourself past your comfort level
I’m the kind of person who has to be really comfortable before I try anything new. I excel when I’m confident and I’m only confident when I feel like I’ve done something 100 times over. All this to say, I’m not an adrenaline junkie and I’m kind of slow to excel. So choosing to go on the next Green Slope up (Meadows Quad at Spruce Peak in Stowe, VT) on our second day skiing, after only one run that morning on Inspiration was probably a mistake.
Even though it’s just one level up, it is kind of a giant leap. It has more turns and edges and it’s much steeper which means…faster. The ski instructors will give you a heads up on which slope is appropriate for your level…listen to them.
Whereas on the first slope, Inspiration I felt like I had a handle on the smooth back and forth of it all, and was really enjoying it, on Meadows I felt like I was constantly trying not to skid out of control and die.
Simply put, I wasn’t confident enough on the first slope yet, and therefore, I had no business trying a level up before I had perfected the first one.
Everyone is different and those adrenaline junkies out there might disagree with me (I saw a few people from our lesson who were struggling on the first slope decide to try the second one so, who knows) but in my opinion, you really want to take the time to gain confidence in the level you’re at before you try something new.
6. You might fall. That’s ok
I definitely fell. The first time I was just standing there before we’d even moved off the flat ground. The second time was when I tried a slope I wasn’t comfortable with and flew ski-first into a fence. It’s ok. Just be careful, and refer to point #5
7. There isn’t enough hot cocoa
(just kidding. But really, I was envisioning hot cocoa stands everywhere and it just wasn’t the case. Can we change that?)
All in all, I had a blast getting to go downhill skiing for the first time and I can’t wait to try it again. Just…not quite yet. For me, skiing is like a really fun, really exhausting friend. You love to hang out with them and you always miss them when they’re gone but you’re also happy to not see them for another couple of months. Skiing is like that.
Have you ever been downhill skiing? Are there any slopes or resorts you recommend for beginners?