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7 Tips for first time skiers

Buckle your boots and clip into your skis because ski season has officially arrived.

By: Aurora Slaughter + Save to a List

As the air turns colder and the days grow shorter it is time to turn in your hiking boots, exchange your shorts and t-shirts for warm jackets and sweaters, and start pulling out all your winter adventure gear.

Growing up in Colorado, my family often spent the weekends driving up to the mountains, ski rack packed with our gear, savoring every moment that ski season had to offer. I started skiing when I was 5 or 6 on the bunny hills of Eldora Ski Resort. Now, with over 15 seasons under my belt and an Ikon Pass in hand, I have made a lot of mistakes and gained a lot more knowledge on how to make the most of the season before the snow melts away.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast looking to add a new winter sport this season, here are some of my best tips to help your first ski day run as smoothly as possible.

1. Purchasing Tickets

Skis are scattered around the snow and a dog stands near them

Photo by: Holly Mandarich

While most ski resorts do sell day-of tickets at the window, from my experience it is best to order your tickets online in advance. There are normally long lines and a limited number of tickets sold each day so ordering in advance is the best and easiest way to ensure you will have a spot on the mountain. Day-of tickets are more expensive than buying tickets in advance as well.

There are several options for buying tickets. While regular going skiers often have ski passes, like the Epic of Ikon pass, for your first time you probably won’t want to commit to a full season. Instead, I would recommend getting a single-day or multi-day pack of tickets. If you know you want to go more than once, the multi-day pack will be a cheaper option than buying individual tickets for each day.

Now that you know your options let’s talk about price. Lift tickets aren’t always cheap. However, there are a lot of online sites that can help you buy discounted tickets. 

Here are some options for you to explore:

  1. Online sites like Liftopia offer discounts when you buy in advance.
  2. local retail stores like Costco and REI sell discounted lift tickets in stores. These vary by state though so check with your local store in advance.
  3. Go during January’s National Learn to Ski Month where a lot of ski resorts and state ski associations offer beginner packages for ski rentals, lift tickets, and lessons at a discounted price to encourage more people to get out and start trying winter sports. Once again, these vary by state so check in with your local resort or skier association to find out if there are any deals near you. 
  4. Go during the weekday. Friday through Sunday are the busiest ski days, so the ticket prices are usually higher. Go on a weekday for less crowds and cheaper prices. 

2. Sun Protection and hydration are key

A hiker treks across Pikes Peak in their skis

Photo by: Kyle C

Sun Protection

When it is snowing out, it can be difficult to remember that you still need sun protection. However, hanging out on a mountain all day means you are at a higher elevation, closer to the sun, and at greater risk for exposure. Even on really cold ski days when you are bundled from head to toe, don’t forget sunscreen on any exposed skin. Trust me, it’s the worst when you get done with a ski day, take off your goggles and realize you sunburnt your cheeks in a perfect goggle line. I’ve been there and it is definitely not the ideal end to the day.

On the same line, it is essential to wear UV-protected goggles. Believe it or not, you can sunburn your eyes, especially in the snow. The snow is able to reflect UV rays into your eyes resulting in a burned cornea. I have heard horror stories about the pain of burnt eyes after a day skiing with no goggles so if you get there and realize you forgot them, try to head into the local shops and buy a new pair they are essential protection.


A lot of people forget that downhill skiing is still a lot of work. Especially when you are starting out, you are using muscles you have never used before and will exert a lot of energy. Therefore, even though you are going downhill the whole time, just like any other sport you need lots of water. If you don’t want to stop at the lodge every time you get thirsty, I recommend bringing water with you. I prefer wearing a CamelBak since the tubing makes it so easy to use. Other people may just bring water bottles in a backpack they wear. Whatever you decide, watch out for the temperature. If the temps are below freezing, your water may turn into ice so invest in insulated water bottles or an insulated CamelBak water bladder so you aren’t lugging around a massive ice cube all day.

3. Layer Up

two skiers look at each other while skiing through the trees

Photo by: Jason Hatfield

Make sure to check the temperatures before your arrival. While late spring skiing usually has warmer days where you can get away with only wearing a shell jacket, most of the time it is best to wear several insulated and fleece layers.

The outer layers should always be waterproof as well. Some people may ski in sweatpants and sweatshirts, but especially as a beginner who will fall a lot more make sure to wear snow pants and jackets. Moreover, I recommend not wearing cotton. Once you get going down the mountain you may start to sweat. Then during the break time, this sweat can freeze and if you are wearing cotton it may make you cold even with all your layers.

My go-to ski outfit is a light polyester long-sleeved shirt, a fleece jacket, and my waterproof jacket shell. Depending on how cold it is, I will also wear insulated leggings or long underwear under my snow pants. I tend to also wear a face mask, called a Balaclava, that covers my neck and the lower half of my chin. It can get really windy and cold on the ski lifts even on warm days so these can be nice to pull up and down to keep the exposed face warm. Finally, I wear a medium-thick pair of ski socks. I really recommend these because they are made of wool and are long enough to cover your entire calf. Other socks may be too short and your boots can rub on the skin causing friction blisters. Ski socks will keep you both warmer and more comfortable.

4. You can never have too many snacks

Skiers ride the ski lift up the mountain

Photo by: Mammoth Mountain

You will burn a lot of energy skiing so its important to refuel with snacks. The best snacks to eat are filled with good carbs and proteins that will give you more energy. Here are some good options for quick snack breaks on the lifts and longer lunch breaks.

Best food to eat on the lift: 

  • Apple sauce pouches
  • Apples
  • Citrus fruit like Cuties (these help keep you warm) 
  • Trail mix
  • Granola bars
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Fruit leather
  • Peanut butter pouch
  • Beef jerky
  • Gummy bears
  • Snickers
  • M&Ms
  • Fruit snacks
  • Uncrustables

Best food for a longer break:

I would incorporate a drink with electrolytes during a longer break to help out with hydration and balance out your muscles.

  • Sandwich
  • Breakfast burritos
  • Hearty soups or chili
  • Ramen

When I was little we would always pack a cooler with food and drinks to eat in our car on our lunch break. Staple items were sandwiches, pringles, and Gatorade. I still crave this when skiing and I stand by these being excellent options.

Eating right after skiing: 

There is nothing better than having a hearty, carb and protein packed meal after skiing. My family always went to the famous Colorado pizza joint Beau Jo’s on our way home from skiing and I crave it every time I’m done skiing. Treat yourself after an exhausting day on the slopes and pick a meal that will leave you content and comfortable.

5. Take breaks as needed

A skier takes a break on the mountain by sitting on his pack

Photo by: Lars Christian Larssen

Your muscles are working hard and if your body is telling you to take a break do it. Whether that is just sitting in the snow for a minute, taking a nap in your car halfway through the day, or stopping in the lodge for a bite to eat, do what is best for you to make the most out of your ski day.

Personally, anytime I go into the lodge it is always so warm and inviting my body tends to get too relaxed and it seeps the energy right out of me. After that, I won’t really have any more runs left in me. Therefore, I have learned to get to the slopes a little later and ski through lunch. I will just eat snacks on the lifts and go until I am tired enough to go home. I discovered what was best for me through trial and error so just try to trust your body and find the balance that is right for you.

6. Renting gear

the edges of two skis are stuck into the snow

Photo by: Madison Sankovitz

If it is your first time skiing, you probably don’t want to commit to buying the boots, skis, helmet, and poles. While you can rent gear the day-of at the shop near your ski resort, I recommend not waiting until the last minute to get your equipment. Just like the tickets, there is a limit on the items they have available and long lines for everything.

Here are a few options for renting your gear in advance:

  1. Find a local ski store near you that sells ski gear and will help you get fitted.
  2. Find an outdoor retail store such as REI that can rent out gear to you.
  3. Book your rentals with your local ski resort in advance so they are waiting for you when you arrive.

Make sure it all fits comfortably. If you are renting gear, make sure you either have help getting it fitted or are certain that it is the correct size. This is essential. The skis and poles are based on height and weight and experts will fit them for you based on what you tell them. Be honest or your skis may not perform as well as they should.

Trying on the boots ahead of time is the most essential part of renting ski gear. I’ll be honest, ski boots are a bit uncomfortable and difficult to walk in and definitely take some getting used to. However, they should not cause you any serious pain or they are not fitted correctly. Make sure you have the correct size, for both comfort and warmth optimization. Having the right pair of socks once again can also help supplement this. Finally, make sure you understand how to cinch down the buckles correctly to make sure the boots perform as well as possible.

Pro Tip: I am flat footed and for several years skiing gave me severe arch pain. There are arch inserts specifically made for ski boots that have changed the game for me. If you have arch issues like me, I highly recommend the investment.

7. Have fun!

A skier poses with a leg and a pole up for the camera

Photo by: Ashley Chang

I know what you’re thinking. Duh! That’s the whole point. But think about the entire concept of skiing. It’s literally going down a snow-covered mountain on two long pieces of wood. That can be stressful, especially when you are first learning. My family still jokes about how I ended up in the “sad room” my first time doing ski school as a little kid because I was so stressed out on my skis. Therefore, I think it is important to remind ourselves that it is okay to be a little stressed out or scared when you are learning to ski. Before you have gained the skills on how to stop yourself, slow down, and make turns the mountain can look pretty daunting. Even as a beginner though, you should still be able to find ways to have fun.

A few things to keep in mind to assist in calming any nerves before your first time on the mountain:

  • We all fall. Even the most experienced of skiers. I honestly believe the concern over the fall is far worse than the fall itself. Lean into the mountain and let it happen. Especially when you are starting out, falling is inevitable and if you just roll with it, even the fall can be a lot of fun.
  • Don’t be afraid of the mountain. The slopes always looks a lot steeper when you are on them than they do when you are looking at them from below. As I said before though, if you lean into the mountain and embrace the downhill, it will be the most fun adrenaline rush.
  • There is always going to be someone on the mountain better than you and they will probably be a little kid zipping down the mountain on their tiny skis while wearing a unicorn helmet. Whether you are first learning or have been skiing for years, there is somehow always that local kid that is way cooler than everyone else as they head down the hardest slopes. It can be infuriating when you are starting out, but just remember even though they are younger than you they are probably on the mountain every week and are already very experienced. You won’t automatically become the best skier on the hill your first time, second, or even hundredth time skiing and this is okay.
  • The ski lift is so daunting. Jumping off the lift was probably the scariest thing about skiing when I first started. I was so worried I was going to fall on it and be the person that causes the lift to stop. I still am sometimes stressed when I am on a particularly fast or crowded lift. However, even if you do fall off the lift the first couple of times, everyone has been there and will understand. Furthermore, once you have accomplished it successfully, it is just like riding a bike and gets easier each time.
  • Start off on the easiest routes, take it slow, and be kind to yourself. The skills will come, and it will get easier.

Now it’s time to get out there and shred the gnar. See you on the slopes!

Cover Photo by: Kristi Teplitz

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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