Category:New to the Snow
DON'T PANIC. EVERYBODY WAS A BEGINNER ONCE.
If they can work it out, so can you.
Do your homework before you go - study village maps & familiarise yourself with the location.
- 1 Preparation
- 2 Before You Go
- 3 On Snow
- 4 Health and Safety
- 5 Other Winter Sport Activities
- 6 Books and Instructional Resources
- 7 Been before but always looking for new ideas
What can I expect?lessons (from a professional instructor - NOT your mate who started last year) you will begin to see what is so wonderful about a sport that you can enjoy for a lifetime. It is, incidentally, a sport you can enjoy with your children and grandchildren. There are not many of those around.
A bit of persistence is worthwhile. There is a theory around that the people who get addicted are those who committed for a week on their first trip. After four days you begin to get a feeling of what it is all about. After two days most people do not achieve that epiphany.
Skiing and boarding occur in cold environments (Well duh). It is often windy. The combination means that appropriate clothing must be worn. To help keep the expense down for first timers, most items of outerwear can be hired, with the exception of gloves, beanies (toques) and goggles. Hiring of outerwear is noy as common in the USA compared to Australia, although some places do hire. You may have to call a few hire places.
Experiencing unusual road conditions would be the first thing that you would be likely to encounter when travelling to a ski resort for the first time, although the roads to the Victorian resorts are much more 'interesting' than those to NSW resorts. The resorts are interested in increasing the number of vistors they receive, so generally work hard to minimise any risk or danger. Take your time, be careful, and follow all signs and directions by the Police, National Parks or Resort Management. Perisher Blue is the only resort in Australia where visitors can park well below snowline, and catch the 'SkiTube' up to the resort. This is a good option for first-timers or when the weather is bad. Once you arrive at a ski resort, you should be allocated to two different type of carparks, one for day trippers and one for the overnight stayers who have accommodation on the mountain.
Once you are on the mountain and planning to ski or snowboard, you should do the first thing first, get some lift and ski school tickets! Most ski resorts allow the customer to purchase lift tickets that are bundled with ski school admissions to reduce the hassle of handling multiple tickets for different purposes.
Some videos from the Perisher site to give you a few tips.
Should I take a lesson?
YES!!! A lesson or 77 will get you to a point where you start to enjoy the activity, instead of wondering why you have paid a fortune to feel wet, cold and miserable.
You don't have to, but it is wise to have a lesson at least on your first day, and daily for your first week or three of skiing or boarding. Having a lesson is fun and an enjoyable experience while you learn all the important safety skills like snowplow and keeping control of your speed while on the slope in order to reduce a chance of injury. It is best to check with the resort you are visiting to find out about their ski school timetables and prices.
Much of skiing is counter intuitive (like leaning DOWN the hill). Most instructors say that 80% of their time is spent getting people out of bad habits and not developing good ones. Regular lessons when you are improving mean that you willl acquire good habits. Good habits mean control, and greater enjoyment. Many people with decades of experience still take the occasional refresher lesson to polish their technique. All World Cup racers have coaches. If the creme de la creme of skiers use instructors there is a reason for it.
Most resorts have good value lift/lesson packages for beginners. Some have restricted lift passes for use on the beginner areas, which are cheaper than full passes (and they can be upgraded if your skills outstrip the available terrain.)
Is skiing dangerous?
Skiing can be dangerous if you are unprepared. You are travelling at high speed near solid objects and other slope users with little protection. If you fall and slide you may go downhill on ice at a very high speed with minimal control. Colliding with solid objects can be fatal, and people do die.
There are many things you can do to reduce the danger to relatively small proportions. Most of these are embodied in the Alpine Responsibility Code This code is pretty much universal across all countries. Skiing or boarding on slopes that are not too far beyond your ability, and sliding in control will also reduce the likelihood of injury.
Have lessons. At ski school you will be taught how to slide safely, and be alerted to potential dangers of which you may not be aware.
If you are a skier, make sure your bindings are properly adjusted and tested. Bindings should allow your skis to separate from your boots in a fall, reducing the chance of injury. If you are hiring, the adjustment should be done by the hire shop. If you are borrowing gear, it is vital that the bindings be adjusted by someone who knows what they are doing. Your mate who went last year almost certainly does not. Most ski shops will adjust bindings for a price. Be honest about your weight and ability. It is your bones and ligaments that are being protected.
You can also wear a helmet to reduce the potential for head injuries.
Cross country skiing has the potential to be dangerous, in particular hypothermia or getting injured in a remote area.
For more snow safety tips visit the Australian Snowsafe website.
Good Resorts For Beginners
It is wise to go to small ski resort like Mt Baw Baw in Victoria and Selwyn Snowfields in NSW due to the small resort size and low lift ticket fee. It is unlikely that a beginner would need a huge variety of runs to choose from on the first day and making most of the lift/run ticket cost.
Major Budget Items
The major items you must allow for in your budget for a snow holiday are:
- Travel to the snow, and shuttles to and from the resorts if you are staying below the snowline
- Food, if not bundled with accommodation, and you will always have to allow for lunches
- Drinks and partying
- Hire of ski or board gear
- Hire of outer clothes
- Purchase of small items including beanies, gloves and eye protection (if you cannot borrow them)
- Lift tickets
- Lessons (often bundled with lifts for beginners)
When you assess the cost of package deals, make sure which of these items are included, or factor them in when you compare. You should also remember that food, drinks and partying may be more expensive in the snow than in the major cities.
Before You Go
Consider a Package
An easy way to arrange your first trip is through a package deal. These usually include transport, accommodation, lift tickets and gear hire. Packages can be found through bus companies, the resorts themselves and specialist snow travel agents.
Organise your accommodation in advance - most accommodation is booked well beforehand for 'peak' times such as school holidays and August. You can book online or just see where to stay by visiting www.ski.com.au. Many places have weekday packages that allow you to stay Monday to Friday, but do not include weekends. These deals are cheaper by the night than weekend accommodation.
In many places you can stay "on mountain", within the resort, or "off mountain" which requires daily transport to and from the lifts. Off mountain is cheaper. The journey is usually at least 30 minutes and can be a lot longer, even in good conditions. In bad conditions commuting can take a lot longer. If you are staying 'off mountain' investigate transport options to and from the snow fields. Your accommodation should be able to help you plan your transport.
If staying in the village on the mountain, check with your accommodation regarding access - many resort have access restrictions and you may not be able to drive to your lodge. In these cases you may need to take oversnow transport with all your baggage. If necessary, check the hours of operation for oversnow, make bookings and plan your travel as required. Remember not to pack too much excess baggage as this will result in extra fees on the oversnow transport. Either that or speak to your travel agent about luggage delivery services. By far and away the most popular is Personal Porter and is recommended by the majority of travel agents (not available for domestic Ski Resorts in Australia).
Dressing for the Weather
To stay warm, you need windproof and waterproof outer garments. Wind chill can dramatically reduce the temperature that you feel. If you get wet, your temperature will also drop quickly. You need clothes underneath those garments as well.
The snow is a cold environment, but you are exercising and getting hot. What to do? The best thing to do is dress in layers that you can add or remove to control your temperature. You may have a base layer of thermal underwear, a second layer of light fleece and a waterproof outer layer. A vest, either as an extra layer over a sweater or by itself provides warmth for the body but leaves the arms free. Cotton is not a very efficient insulator, and is even less effective when it is damp or wet. The outer layer may be padded and insulated, or just a shell. Many people prefer a shell as they believe that this offers the greatest flexibility. You can buy parkas with zip out padding. Some parkas have "pit zips" - zips under the armpits that can be opened or closed to regulate ventilation. How many layers you need, and what they are made of, depends on your metabolism and tolerance for cold. What you need can only be discovered by experiment. Most people start with a layer of thermal underwear, a light sweater and a padded parka. In Australia this is probably a tad too much warmth, but you will not die of hypothermia. In colder climes you may need a little more than this.
One way to control temperature is with a hat (Beanie) and neck gaiter. You lose something like a third of body heat through your head and neck. If you are hot, take your beanie off or open your helmet vents.
Good, waterproof Gloves or Mittens are vital - cold hands make you miserable.
If you are a beginner you will fall often. Snow can be wet, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer is vital. Jeans or trackie daks and footy jumpers will get wet and misery will soon set in not to speak of hypothermia. Wet cotton provides no insulation and you will get dangerously cold very quickly, particularly if it is windy.
You will also need eye protection. Goggles give wind and sun protection, and can generally be used in all conditions. Sunglasses do not give as good wind protection, and many make it hard to see in foggy or cloudy conditions because they do not help definition. Sunglasses are also prone to fogging up, when moisture condenses on the lens making it hard to see.
If you are driving up from below the snowline throw everything in the car. The weather in Jindabyne, for example, is often very different to the weather in Perisher or Thredbo, or Salt Lake City for the Wasatch resorts, and the weather can change dramatically during a day. If you have it in the car you can decide what you need when you have a better idea of the actual conditions in the resort. It is a long drive back if you guess wrong. If you are travelling by bus check with the driver if it is OK to leave stuff on the bus. There are also lockers available for hire in most resorts, for not much money, where you can put items of gear you are not using. One boot locker is usually enough for a couple of people if you are not actually storing boots in it. Local radio stations also have snow and weather reports, so you should listen to these before you leave your accommodation. They fib a bit about snow conditions, but not usually about the weather.
When you are assessing what you wear remember windchill. A bit of wind can dramatically reduce the temperature you feel Wind Chill Calculator
Should I Ski or Snowboard?
You will get a million polarised opinions. The only thing that matters is what you enjoy.
The conventional wisdom appears to be that snowboarding will get you to basic competence faster, but skiing rewards patience by eventually getting you to a higher degree of competence. In other words, the intermediate plateau of boarding is reached quickly but is harder to leave. Reaching the plateau takes a bit longer for skiing, but you spend less time there.
If you already surf, wakeboard or ride a skateboard you may find it is easier to learn to snowboard.
Main Article: Equipment
The sporting equipment required will vary greatly depending on which activity you plan to persue. Check out the Equipment pages for more information.
Most gear can be hired. The only things that cannot be hired in Australia are goggles, waterproof gloves and small warming things like beanies, neck gaiters and all clothes underneath the outer layer. In the US hiring of outer wear is less common than in Australia. Much of the rest of what you need is probably in your wardrobe. Wool, thermal underwear and fleece is the way to go here, as Cotton will not keep you warm when it is damp. Outdoor shops like Kathmandu in their perpetual sale sell relatively cheap (around $20/piece) thermal underwear. You only need one or two sets as it dries quickly after an evening rinse.
Rental Equipment Tips
Most rental shops you can trust, but it is wise to shop around and compare prices in other rental shops around the area. Visit a range of shops and ask the staff questions about your needs. Ask your close friends who ski where they get their gear from, this may help you find a suitable shop that rents gear that suits your needs.
Just a hint - sometimes it is better to hire on or close to the mountain so that if you have any problems with the gear (eg. skis or boots) you can exchange them easily. Not so good if outlet is in Sydney or Melbourne. A draw back is that the price system can be higher on the mountain than in big smoke (the city).
Driving in Alpine regions requires some additional preparation and care; you will need to check you vehicle is mechanically sound and consider such things as alpine diesel, antifreeze and chains... for more information check out the Chains and Alpine Driving sections of the wiki.
The concept of chain rental has not penetrated the US and you will have to buy chains for areas where carrying chains is compulsory.
Get in Shape
It's strenuous exercise. It is more enjoyable if you are fit and strong. General strength and fitness helps, but a focus on the legs, particularly the quads, abductors and adductors, and core strength will help a lot. Bicycling and in line skating are good dry land training.
Preparation is the key with young kids. Kids will get wet and will get cold very quickly so being prepared is an absolute must. Consider taking them for snowplay a year or two before introducing them to ski school. If they have already been to the snow and seen it all then they are usually super keen to get to ski school but if it is all new in the one trip it can be rather daunting. Here is a long list of hints for kids at ski school.
Some kids are ready for lessons at 3 (the youngest most ski schools will take kids). Others aren't. You will know your child best. If you have an adventurous bundle of manic energy there is a good chance they are ready. If they have been to creche at ski resorts, or have demonstrated a love of snowplay in earlier trips, it is worth the experiment. Some kids take an extra few years. Forcing the kids is a bad plan. If they decide not to like it that decision may have impact for many years. You, and the rest of your family, are the ones who will suffer. Ski school is definitely the way to go. The kids' instructors are trained to convey weird concepts to children in intelligible, memorable ways. You aren't, so leave it to the experts.
Many people think that the fact that their children are growing means that money should not be spent on good gear. Wet, cold children are miserable, which means misery for parents. Buy them good gear, either new or second hand. There is a good market in second hand kids' gear, and the apparent front end expense will be ameliorated if you buy and sell on classified markets, the best of which is ski.com.au marketplace
This contributor's theory is that for boots you buy new, and recoup part of the cost by selling later. This way your child has properly fitted boots, and is likely to be much happier.
One thing that can (emphasis on can) help young kids early on are Edgie Wedgies. They are rubber links that clamp onto the shovel of skis. It stops the tips crossing while kids are dealing with learning the wedge (snowplough) turn. Most kids will only need them for a couple of days, but they take one variable out of learning initial skills.
Clothes for Snowplay
Main Article: Snowplay
Not everyone in your party will want to ski or board, but they will all want to play in the snow. Some suggestions on what to wear follow.
Make sure you dress warmly in layers. Any jacket will work unless you plan to roll in the snow when nylon or similar is advisable for snow shedding. Cloth can get wet, depending on snow temperature.
Good, waterproof boots are also a very good idea. The higher the better. Snow will fall into low shoes, melt and you will have wet cold feet.
Snow shedding nylon type overpants are a good idea. They are available in many places for not much money, or you can go to a specialist outdoor shop for Goretex or other waterproof breathable fabrics.
Gloves are vital. Your hands will get cold. Wool or pile gloves are OK, but, again, waterproof snow shedding gloves are a good idea. Your ears will get cold, so a warm hat is a good idea.
Code of Behaviour
To help everyone understand the basic expected behaviours, a set of guidelines has been drawn up by various ski bodies around the world. These are called the Alpine Responsibility Code, and all resorts require customers to adhere to these guidelines as a condition of their lift ticket.
Resorts rate their runs according to their difficulty. The gradings are denoted by colors and shapes on trail maps and signs on the mountain. The easiest runs are designated by a green circle. Intermediate runs are marked by a blue square. In North America and Australia the next level is a black diamond. In some European resorts the beginner level is blue (no green) and there is a red level before black. Examples
Double ratings - double blue or double black are intended to convey a level harder than the single rating.
Ratings are deceptive. There is no standard internationally, or even within resorts in the same company. There is a magic mix - usually something like 20% expert, 60% intermediate and 20% beginner that suits the marketers' desired mix. Ratings are manipulated to suit this mix, regardless of objective criteria. In really extreme cases, ratings can vary within individual resorts.
The fact that you can ride all blue runs in one resort does not mean you can ride blue runs in another resort. If you are skiing or boarding in a new place spend a bit of time feeling the place out so you know the standard.
There are two ways of measuring slope steepness. The first is a measurement using degrees, which measures the angle of the slope in degrees from the horizontal. The second is a percentage. This is calculated using the formula 100*rise/run. Rise is the vertical change and run is the horizontal distance. A 100% slope is angled at 45 degrees.
10% is equivalent to 5.71º
20% is equivalent to 11.31º
30% is equivalent to 16.7º
40% is equivalent to 21.8º
50% is equivalent to 25.67º
75% is equivalent to 36.8º
100% is equivalent to 45º
A beginner slope is typically between 6% and 25%. Intermediate hills range from 25% to 40%, and expert is 40% plus. As you can see, hills are not as steep as you think they are.
Beginner's guide to ski jargon
Turns - What It's All About
If you stand on your skis or board with the tip or tips pointed straight downhill you will accelerate until you reach terminal velocity or hit something unyielding. Downhill racers travel at over 130 km/hr and the world speed record on skis is over 250 km/hr, so terminal velocity can be pretty quick. Unyielding objects are always unyielding. If your skis or board are across the fall line you will go nowhere. Controlling your speed is finding a happy balance between the two states. This is achieved by doing a constant series of turns across the slope. As you turn downhill you accelerate. As you complete the turn so your skis are across the hill you slow down. This is why all riders, apart from those generally out of control or hooning on bunny hills, perform a series of linked turns as they proceed downhill. It is also why, if you are heading straight downhill in a racing snowplough with windmilling arms and legs akimbo, you will be the only person who thinks you are a good skier.
Turns have different radii, and riders will complete more or less of a turn before initiating the next turn. They may perform more or less turns for a given distance. How turns are performed depends on slope steepness, a particular sliders preferred style of riding, pose factors, the snow conditions and a rider's particular comfort zone.
Skiers use different types of turn, depending on experience and situation. The most basic is the snowplow. As skiers develop more skill they proceed through stem christies (although these are not taught much in modern teaching technique) to parallel turns. The parallel is so called because the skis remain parallel throughout the turn. Once a basic parallel is learnt, which can take as short a time as a few days for some people, the process is continuing refinement and development of the parallel turn to carving, and refinements of carving.
Turns also help you dodge obstacles.
Lessons are pretty much a process of refining turns, performing different types of turn in various conditions.
Health and Safety
Although it is cold you are at high altitude and there is less atmosphere to absorb radiation. Snow is also highly reflective. The combination means that sunburn can be a real problem, even on overcast days. Make sure you apply sunscreen regularly. Don't forget the underside of your chin and nose - the reflected light can burn these areas. Your lips will also burn. You should use lip balm for protection from sun and wind.
For the same reason it is important to wear eye protection - either sunglasses or goggles. Snow blindness does happen, and is apparently very uncomfortable.
Your skin will dry out. Moisturiser, liberally applied, in the evening is a good idea. The cold dry conditions can also cause skin to crack. Again, hand cream or moisturiser is a good idea.
Snow sports are exercise, and you will perspire. The alpine air tends to be dry. These factors mean that it is possible to get dehydrated, and as you are not hot you may not realise that this is happening. You should ensure that you remain hydrated. You can do this by taking regular drink breaks, carrying a water bottle or using a hydration pack such as a Camelbak. A hydration pack allows you to take frequent sips of water while you are on the move through a tube and mouthpiece. Make sure your mouthpiece does not freeze. Alcohol tends to dehydrate you (you don't buy beer - you rent it). If you must drink alcohol on the slopes you should be aware of this.
Hypothermia is a condition in which an organism's temperature drops below that required for normal metabolism and bodily functions. It occurs when you have inadequate protection from the cold. The danger of hypothermia increases with wind, and increases dramatically if clothes are damp or wet.
Initial symptoms are mild to strong shivering,inability to perform complex tasks with the hands, and numb hands. There will be some degree of mental confusion. Blood vessels in the outer extremities constrict, lessening heat loss to the outside air. Breathing becomes quick and shallow. Goose bumps will form, raising body hair on end in an attempt to create an insulating layer of air around the body (which is of limited use in humans due to lack of sufficient hair, but useful in other species).
In the next stage shivering becomes more violent. Muscle mis-coordination becomes apparent. Movements are slow and labored, accompanied by a stumbling pace and mild confusion, although the victim may appear alert. Surface blood vessels contract further as the body focuses its remaining resources on keeping the vital organs warm. The victim becomes pale. Lips, ears, fingers and toes may become blue.
There is a final stage, which is usually very final.
The mental confusion aspect of hypothermia means that often the victim is not aware that it is happening. In adverse conditions you should be aware of the possibility of hypothermia in your companions.
In ski resorts, it is relatively easy to find shelter and to warm up. Treatment for hypothermia consists of drying, sheltering, and gradually warming (making sure to not rub the patient's body, to warm with blankets and, if possible, to transfer your own body heat). While blankets help a person retain body heat, they are not sufficient to treat hypothermia. It is vital that you warm the core of the body first or the cold blood will be forced towards the heart and may cause death. In the field, a mildly hypothermic person can be effectively rewarmed through close body contact from a companion and by drinking warm, sweet liquids NOT alcohol, which dilates surface blood vessels and accelerates heat loss..
Moderate and severe cases of hypothermia require immediate evacuation and treatment in a hospital. In hospital, warming is accomplished by external techniques such as heated blankets for mild hypothermia and by more invasive techniques such as warm fluids injected in the veins or even lavage (washing) of the bladder, stomach, chest and abdominal cavities with warmed fluids for severely hypothermic patients. These patients are at high risk for arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and care must be taken to minimize jostling and other disturbances until they have been sufficiently warmed, as these arrhythmias are very difficult to treat while the victim is still cold.
An important tenet of treatment is that a person is not dead until they are warm and dead. Remarkable accounts of recovery after prolonged cardiac arrest have been reported in patients with hypothermia. This is presumably because the low temperature prevents some of the cellular damage that occurs when blood flow and oxygen are lost for an extended period of time.
Wikipedia Article, from which this information was taken.
It is highly unlikely to be a problem in Australia, but in countries that have higher and colder resorts frostbite is a potential problem. When temperatures get below -20 degrees celsius or so there is a real danger of frostbite. Wind chill, including wind from fast riding, makes things dangerous at higher temperatures. When things get this cold you should ensure that there is no bare skin exposed to the outside air. If you are skiing or boarding in a group you should keep an eye on each other. In many resorts the lifties will also be checking, but you should not rely on this. Look for whitish or discoloured patches on the skin. If you detect frostbite, or anything you vaguely suspect might be frostbite, check with ski patrol or the medical centre.
Wind Chill Calculator including exposure times for frostbite.
Other Winter Sport Activities
There are so many activities to undertake in the winter, especially in the Alps. Such as white water rafting; horse riding; helicopter rides (Falls Creek and Mt Hotham have a reciprocal arrangement on their lift passes so you can ride from one to the other ski all day and fly back). You can visit www.ski.com.au/activities and see what activities are available.
Books and Instructional Resources
People learn in different ways. Some by doing. Some by watching. Some by reading. These are some resources for instruction that may (or may not) be of assistance.
Smith, Warren "Go Ski (with Live action DVD coaching)" Dorling Kindersley; Great Britain; 2006 ISBN-10: 1405316179
Elling, Mark R. "The All Mountain Skier" Ragged Mountain Press; Camden, Maine; 1998 ISBN 007021864
LeMaster, Ron "The Skier's Edge" Human Kinetics; Champaign, IL; 1999 ISBN 0880119829
Tejada Flores, Lito "Breakthrough on the New Skis" Ski Magazine 2006. ISBN-10: 0967674727
Harb Requires tithes.
Your Ski Coach Online instruction articles
Videos & DVDs
Been before but always looking for new ideas
- Boot bags serve a purpose Sure, they hold your boots. And your helmet. And your goggles. And sunscreen. And beanies and gloves and gaiters and balaclavas. Keep all the little things that will only go anywhere when you are off to the snow in one place . A boot bag is as good as anything.
- Cold Feet & Fingers go for THINNER socks - preferably ski socks - and make sure your bottom 2 buckles over the arch of your foot and toe are so loose they almost come off. These are only there to ensure the boot holds its basic shape and are easier (possible) to get on. If you tighten them you will restrict blood flow to your toes and this results in cold feet and possibly cramps. If your feet and fingers get cold try putting on a beanie. You lose a lot of heat through your head and neck. Your body protects itself from the heat loss by cutting of blood flow to the periphery of your body, being fingers and feet. If you reduce heat loss through your head blood returns to your fingers and feet, and they warm up.
- If you are feeling cold put on a hat Your body loses about a third of its heat through your head and neck. If you are feeling cold (or hot) you can regulate heat very effectively by putting on or removing hats and neck gaiters, or opening and closing your helmet vents.
- Sore Shins One, apparently counter-intuitive, tip is that if your shins hurt try tightening your top two buckles. Often sore shins are caused by boots rubbing against the shin. If the buckles are tight, there is less rubbing.
- Simple Security Thieves are active in the snowfields and gear is stolen. A simple way to make things harder for thieves is to separate your skis. If you are skiing with a mate you keep one of his skis and one of your skis, while he wanders off a few metres with the other half of each pair. Provided the thief is not watching the exercise, the skis are less likely to be stolen if they are not a complete set. Even if you are on hire skis this is a good idea. Most hire contracts provide for replacement of lost skis. It is surprising how many people pick up the wrong pair of identical hire skis. Obviously this does not work for boarders, but locks are available for boards and skis.
- Skiing Video To enjoy the skiing rush while at home, bring a small video camera with you and video your friends bombing down the slopes or hucking off cliffs. If you get good at it, you can make a ski movie or sell skiing stock footage to other producers.