Not being a skiing instructor, having little in the way of style or elegance but having significant experience of all conditions and terrain allows me to give advice on skiing for others. I began skiing at 10 years old, again at 25, and avidly since around 28. This post is my observation of the beginner process and how you can get up and running quicker. Obviously, you are skiing at your own risk and it is entirely up to you.
Psychology of the beginner skier
Traditionally, you decide to become a skier, possibly book a couple of lessons in the UK, but more probably book a holiday and a week's lessons and take a chalet or hotel. Once on the way to the resort you will hear advanced skiers overload you with information, adding more trepidation to what was already worrying enough. At the hotel, people will start talking about horror stories, and there will always be one person who has sprained a wrist or broken a collar bone and by this point you are shitting it. Once lessons start, either you become an emotional wreck or suddenly a superhero who wondered what all the fuss was about. Several things can happen to your confidence during the week but normally, by talking with other skiers you will hear bad stories or get overloaded with information, exacerbating the fear and lack of confidence. Some beginners get demoted in their ski group in turn demoralising the skier, and finally, some beginners do get injured.
It isn't just this unnecessary path but it is that you can possibly repeat this process for several weeks if you can't get the confidence to do better. At what point are you good enough to venture out alone?
The well-intentioned friend - even worse, partner
Friends will try and help, many marriages and relationships destroyed by people trying to help others to progress to their level - perhaps it is altruism or trying to save money on lessons.
People can be evil, they get pleasure from your failure and can get ego boosts from your incapability.
It starts with you
Do you expect to just turn up, let somebody else train a person to become a great skier, who hasn't even read up about; techniques, fitness conditioning, equipment, skiing or watched videos and understood etiquette on the slopes?
If you had undertaken all this research and then found yourself in a beginner group, you would be highly bored.
As a beginner, you should be determining what you should be aiming to achieve by the end of your first week. My target would be something like;
- Nail the snow plough.
- Get linked turns solved.
- Negotiate step turns.
- Get onto parallel skiing.
Identify who is stopping you achieving those goals?
- Skiing lessons in groups.
- Talking with other beginners.
- Talking with friends.
- Not being ski ready before being on the snow.
What is ski ready?
Ski ready is being able to do all these goals before putting a foot on the snow and there are some vital reasons why;
- Slope time is precious and spending significant time wasted on beginner lessons does not help you. Clocking the k's is vital.
- You already know what to expect and can get advanced lessons with either your friends or you to take you way further.
- You save money and get skiing quicker.
How do I get ski ready?
- Use a ski machine - like a running machine but for skiing.
- Visit a dry/artificial ski slope after using the ski machine.
- Remember any lessons you get on the ski slopes are assuming you to be taking group lessons when you get to the resort so be selective in what you are told.
- Watch ski training videos, beginner to advanced.
The most important thing to understand about skiing
I took an off-piste lesson in Chamonix and he taught me that there are three types of control;
- Edge control.
- Pressure control.
- Rotational control.
I had been using the first two for years but hadn't found a way to define them. Once I learned rotational it became clear, very much like Plato's flow of elements, that it is simply a matter of combining them in different amounts depending upon the conditions and slopes.
The second most important thing to understand about your skiing
It means to ski well, you can't just rely upon technique, and having your own comfortable boots is a big bonus, that having amazing equipment won't make you a great skier alone but to ski the perfect run will always require effort.
These four elements make-up 20% of your ability, the other 20% is out of your control and it is terrain/conditions.
Are you saying don't get lessons?
I 100% believe you don't need lessons if you follow this approach but I would 100% recommend getting a few individual lessons, perhaps day one, day three and maybe day five. Your objective is to reach goals.
Why are you so against group lessons - you did them as a kid?
It really was a waste of time and the first few techniques never get used. It is worth understanding what the purpose of group lessons is; to make sure beginners have a certain basic standard to ski intermediate and easy slopes. However, because they don't teach you more advanced concepts they can leave you hopelessly stranded and I think at risk if you find yourself outside of your comfort zone. A simple example will suffice;
You have just got the hang of linked turns by week one and decide on week two to ski a few reds but hit a lot of ice - what is the correct technique, well you don't know do you? I would consider rotational control a safe way. On an icy black, we are talking parallel or pressure - carving is out, and possibly what I call the stop turn, where you switch rotational quickly but dig in to kill speed.
Remember the conditions bit
Unfortunately, you can get unlucky. Terrible conditions with poor visibility can really hold you back.
Before going on holiday
Find an instructor, telling them your goals and what you have done to prepare. If they try and force you into group lessons - resist.