Hello aspiring snow bunny. You’re considering ripping up some powder? Have you been drooling over your social media news feed as friends post magical picture after magical picture? They’ve Instagram’ed you into thinking a season at Whistler is exactly where you need to be, right? Well, before you start googling heli-skiing in the Chugach Range of Alaska, here’s a few tips.
- Before you throw yourself down a mountain, you need to decide if it will be aboard a lunch tray (snowboard) or planks (skis). Skiing is easier to learn as a beginner but harder to master; whereas snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master. Of course, snowboarding is considerably “cooler” than skiing, despite the temperature being the same. Weird.
- Get the right gear. Don’t stand out as a “Jerry or Joey” (inexperienced skier or snowboarder clueless about the required fashion sense; eg. wearing jeans) on the slopes. Make sure you either have the gear before you go or you KNOW that it can be hired. Yours truly was at the end of the season, without gear to hire. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I had to borrow clothes left behind from instructors. Good times.
- Lessons. I want you to take that indignant pride about being an all-rounder athlete and put a lid on it. Snow looks like a lot of fun – and it is – but it is also very fast, very wet and slipperier than you’ll give it credit for. Learning how to stay upright, stop and turn will make quite the difference when you’re hurtling down a black run because of a wrong turn.
- Insurance. There is a reason snow sports have a higher premium when attached to a policy and that’s because the chance of injury sky rockets through the roof. It is also because the means of rescuing an injured person on the slopes is a little trickier than sending out an ambo. Helicopters and snow skis don’t come cheap and nor do hospital services. If you are an international visitor – a lot of hospitals won’t treat without upfront payment (and in the US this is literally tens of thousands of dollars). You can rip it up with your posse all you like but make sure you are covered in the event you tomahawk (to fall end over end down the mountain without any control) down the slopes and find yourself in the position of having had a yard sale (a major crash and littering the slopes with all your possessions).
- Small children. If you are learning to ski or snowboard the first time as an adult, you are about to be crushed by the 7 year olds that are giggling their way down a red run while you’re clenched on the side, trying to find the courage to snowplow (the wedge move of placing the ski tips together to slow or stop) down the mountain. Children are fearless; they also don’t have as far to fall. Try not to hate them too much.
- So you’ve been skiing your little heart out but it’s time to call it a day. Or is it? When you aren’t hitting the slopes, you’ll be hitting the bar. Don’t kid yourself – it wouldn’t be the ultimate beginners experience if you weren’t crawling into bed 2 hours before you have to be up for ski school. If you aren’t learning how to hold onto your stomach while you snake your way down a run, then have you really even been skiing?
- Wipeouts. You need to make peace with this right now. You are going to land face first in pow pow (fresh powder) at some point. Whether you windmill your way down a slope or get your skis crossed or fall off the ski lift ; you will topple at some point. As a learner, you will find yourself on the ground more than you’d like. Just keep getting back up because that’s the only way to build the confidence to shred it up like everyone else on the slopes.
Snow sports might be your calling and you pick it up like a duck to water OR you might be a baby giraffe, trying to figure out how to use your knees to stay upright. I belonged to the second category. But no matter how you start out – you’ll get better and then you too can be declaring just how much you love big dumps (you’ll figure it out).