A beginner’s guide to skiing

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As a skiing novice, my first attempt at skiing was a bit of a jump in at the deep end. I went on a ski trip with a group of friends who were all already seasoned skiers. Rather than be stuck on my own (and spend more money) with some kids having some lessons, I just went for it to try and have as good a time with the gang as I could. Although, in retrospect, after a lot of scrapes and bumps, I’d advise you to have the lessons at least to begin with, here’s my survivor’s guide to skiing 101 for those of you brave enough to slide out alone.

How to start

Once you’re in all your skiing gear  and ready to move on flat ground you have three options. Firstly you can just pull yourself around using your poles. Secondly, you can ‘crab walk’ sideways, which is especially useful going up small inclines. Thirdly, you can skate on your skis just as you would on an ice rink. Nice and easy right? Getting around to begin with should be simple as you test out these weird things strapped onto your feet. They can feel clumsy and heavy at first like giant metal clown feet, but spend a bit of time moving around the flat areas when you first set out for the day and you’ll be ready to build up to some slopes fairly soon.

How to stop

In my opinion, this is the most important part and definitely not something you’ll think about as an afterthought while snowballing downhill. A cry over your shoulder to you mates along the lines of “what the hell do I do now” isn’t going to help. Basically, if you want to slow down or stop, you should keep your legs wide and point your toes together so the front tips of your skis are almost touching. It’s often referred to as a pizza with the bigger the slice meaning the slower you’ll go until coming to a complete stop. Meanwhile, if you want to speed up, you gradually narrow your skis from the pizza wedge shape into the ‘French fry’ whereby your skis are narrow and parallel to each other for a more streamlined track.

How to turn

As nowadays many people trying skiing have skateboarded as kids, it can be difficult to fight those instincts when skiing as opposed to snowboarding but it’s like riding a bike really- sometimes literally!As you go downhill you keep your feet shoulder width apart and then lean to the either side to make small adjustments. Meanwhile, for bigger changes of direction, keep leaning in to the bend but take the weight off the outside ski and swing it round before putting the weight back on again and centralising your balance to straighten out. It’s best not to rely on the sticks too much here- simply use them as balancing aids.

How to fall

As a beginner you could find yourself on your backside almost as much as on your feet. The good news is, softer snow is harder to ski on but be careful there’s not too much as a beginner or you could get into a sticky situation  As a result, mastering the art of falling over is essential for safety. Luckily, snow is comparatively soft, especially with all your warm layers on, so you shouldn’t land on anything sharp.The trick is not to let any pointy joints take the full brunt of the impact, instead spread out and let you whole surface area cushion the fall like a cat. This should stop any broken bones and busted joints. Meanwhile, if falling on your front, tuck your elbows in to your body and fists up over your face like a boxer. This not only protects your most important parts (maybe try to cross your legs too!) but also keeps all the pointy ends of your poles away from you.

How to get up

The first thing to do is to get your skis across the slope line to prevent you from drifting off as you flop around trying to get back up on your feet like a fish on dry land. This is a bit like putting the brakes on. To stand up, tuck your heels up into your backside so your weight is over your ski boots and straighten up. Depending on the steepness of the slope, you can use your hands and poles to prop you up. If you get more confident, lean back on your skis as you tuck them in and swing the front tips out and then lean forward, straightening as you do so and using gravity to help you stand up and start sliding downhill again.