“If you can walk, you can ski,” I tell my beginning students. “If you can’t walk, you can still ski, we will just have to connect you with Maine Adaptive!” That is the second thing I tell them. The first is that I wish I could be learning to ski right now…with an instructor like myself.
Sounds pretty braggy, but note I said ‘like me’ not ‘me.’ A qualified instructor is essential to a good first experience. Whoever teaches you, be it a professional or your best friend or spouse, will teach what they know. Coaches like me have been through extensive training to learn not only how to make skis perform, but, also, and more importantly, how to convey that information to others.
The reason it is fantastic to learn right now is the materials and construction of modern equipment. Finally, we have the right stuff in the right shapes to allow us to move as the snow gods intended. So, if this is the year you will be learning to ski, i am thrilled for you! And, admittedly, a bit envious.
DO NOT BUY ANY EQUIPMENT BEFORE YOU GO.* My entire ski teaching career has been at Sunday River in Newry, Maine, so I know best how my mountain works. However, I have been active in Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) for decades and have skied and know instructors at most of the New England and several western areas. Every ski area with a school has a beginner program and most include equipment with their lessons.
Beginning skis are different from those you will be using when you are proficient. Because of the wide variety of shapes and lengths of skis available, there is a perfect ski for everyone and there is no ski that is perfect for everyone. You will want skis that are best suited to make your experience optimal. Skis are expensive. Save your money for when you know what you want!
The basics of skiing are simple, but each person learns at his own pace. The problem with learning anything as an adult, is that we have learned about consequences. We know that snow and other surface conditions are slippery. We know people fall, and falling can be unpleasant. Children are usually delighted with the first sensation of gliding across the snow. There is nothing that halts the progress down the hill like a 3-year-old who finds falling to be hilarious, and, having once fallen, does so again at every opportunity. On the other hand, one of the most frequently asked questions in adult beginning clinics is, “How do I stop?”
We learn to stop while wearing boots, not skis. It is a gentle process, and I am not going to try to teach you how to ski as we each sit in front of a computer. Although, the ski geek in me would like to share. I just want to dispel any worries that the question might have raised in anyone’s mind. You will be able to stop.
Because of the individual pace of learning, most areas have a multi-lesson plan available. Sunday River offers a 3-day plan that is good for one year from purchase and can be redeemed at Sugarloaf as well. Saddleback gives the third lesson free after one buys the first two. Every ski area has one goal when it comes to beginning lessons: hook that learner on skiing! Skiers are the life blood of the industry. It is just that simple. If you do not want to ski after your first endeavor, we lose.
You can learn to ski at any area. I learned in Dover, NH at a hill with a rope tow and two trails; the Beginner and The Big Trail. At night by a ski patroller who volunteered in the recreation department to teach people to enjoy his life-long addiction. Bob’s voice still plays in my mind, chanting, “Down, UP, Down.” (The commands for a snow plow turn no longer ring through the hills.)
The best thing to do is find an area that is close enough for you to visit regularly. If you have friends and family with whom you will be skiing, an area that will serve their needs is critical. For the first few hours, you do not want them skiing with you. When you finish your first experience, your coach will let you know where you should and should not ski with your posse.
It is possible that you will have moved from the beginner area, but it is more likely that you won’t have. You should ski where you are comfortable and in control. If your companions are seasoned skiers, it is highly likely that they will not really remember the changes in pitch. What is very easy for them might be quite daunting to you. Encourage them to either stay with you or meet you later. (Change ‘encourage’ to ‘insist’ in your mind.) There will be plenty of time to go up lifts and try trails. It will happen quicker if you master techniques first. So a ski area that is big and varied enough to provide enjoyable terrain for everyone is a decided benefit to your progress.
If you have any questions, I am happy to answer! Hope to see you on the slopes! There is no better way to enjoy what our great state has to offer from November through April!
*If you are a woman, I want to make it clear that when I said “do not buy any equipment” I included clothing. Men are apt to scoff at this, but a coordinated outfit helps with balance! You won’t want your new jacket to clash with your new boots, and you won’t want to buy your boots, although they should be the first piece of equipment you purchase, until you have an idea of how they are supposed to fit. If you live in the north, you have outer clothing that is appropriate for the temperatures, if not, precisely ‘ski’ clothes.