Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Learning as an adult is easier (and more fun) than you think. If you can convince yourself to take that first plunge, you’ll soon be confident on gentle groomers, and ready for more. Christine Wells shares how she conquered her fear of falling off the chairlift in her early twenties and has wholeheartedly embraced skiing.
Learning to Ski as an Adult—Get Out There. For the neophyte, strapping on rental boots and clicking into skis can feel like a herculean task. Between the gear and the fear of injury, it’s easy to let the years go by without taking this plunge. While the barriers to entry may seem high, the hardest part of learning to ski as an adult is getting out there for the first time.
A Vermonter Goes West, Swallows her Pride, and Finds the Powder. An atypical Vermonter, I came late to alpine skiing. As the years went on, while the fear of junior-high ridicule certainly receded, it was only replaced by a deeper, more adult apprehension: trying new things is hard, and there are seemingly infinite reasons to stick with the familiar.
Through good luck and a great friend I found myself at the Mountain Sports School in Jackson Hole. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement. My mind was a barrage of fears and questions: How do you get your skis on? What happens if you fall getting off the chairlift? This time, though, I shoved those thoughts into a corner as I marched off to my lesson: I was really doing this.
From the Rope Tow to Riding that Chairlift. In the span of a few short hours we went from the rope tow to a real, live chairlift, which, to my surprise, I exited without incident, and by the end of the day I had some of Jackson’s green runs under my belt.
The following morning I was back for more. While riding the chairlift with my instructor—I could feel everything waiting for me back home fade away. Up here, I thought, I could be whomever I wanted.“You know, if you moved out here, you would be skiing the whole mountain in no time,” my instructor said with a smile, as we reached the top. I laughed, thinking to myself, “if only.”
In the Mountains you can Be. In the years that followed, long after I finished my graduate degree and started on the corporate path for which it had groomed me, skiing became this outsized symbol for the person I wanted to be. In the mountains, I could be fearless; in the mountains, I was free.
Recently, my family and I traded the East Coast metropolitan life for Park City, Utah. Before the move, I was dogged by my old companions, fear and pride: fear of the unknown and worry about what people would think about me trading in my corporate life for a more unconventional one. But as soon as we drove West, and the flats gave way to the mountains, I felt myself exhale and knew that I was home.
The Highs and Lows (For the TL/DR crowd)
The hardest part of learning to ski as an adult is getting out there for the first time. Commit to one day and go from there
To get comfortable fast, take lessons and ski several days in a row. This is the best way to get your muscles and your mind used to a new activity. Book that ski vacation now!
When starting out, we love group lessons. Many resorts cap the number of students enabling one-on-one attention. Meanwhile, it’s nice to have solidarity with others at your level
It takes ~5 days of skiing to get comfortable, then you’ll likely feel confident on greens and ready to further challenge yourself
ADvice for the First Time Adult Skier
Don’t sweat the gear (rent before you buy). The sheer volume of gear associated with skiing is enough to make a beginner’s head spin. My advice? Rent your boots, poles, helmet, and skis all in one fell swoop. Then, with a season under your belt, you'll be better placed to invest in your own gear. > See our related post on 6 Tips for a Smooth Rental Experience
Spring for a lesson. Group lessons will introduce you to others who are having the same experience. Check out early-bird or half-day options if you want some time to ski with family and friends. Many resorts offer special packages for beginners that include lift tickets, equipment rentals, and lessons. Mammoth and Alta have great value beginner packages.
Don't be shy. Your overall experience will be better when you own your inexperience. Tell the staff you’re a Type 1 or novice skier and don’t be embarrassed when the recommended skis are short, wide, and look like they could belong to a kid.
Have fun and be safe. While it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings when on the slope, yielding to downhill skiers and stopping on the side or by signs in areas where others can spot you, as a new skier try not to feel self conscious on the mountain. Just do your thing and have fun.
You can learn anywhere. Don’t let proximity (or a vacation) to an intimidating mountain deter you from getting started. Despite its reputation for difficult terrain, I found the Jackson Hole Mountain Sports School to be welcoming for never-evers. Another perk to being on a mountain full of experts is that there is no shortage of people around to lend a hand, or a pole. While a trip out West is a treat, it’s not essential. Some of our favorites for starting out are Okemo, Deer Valley, and Vail.
Consider a day trip. There are no shortage of day trips from most major urban areas These gateway mountains are great for getting started. See our complete regional guides to Where to Ski in California, from Chicago, New York, or Washington D.C.
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