Travel Tips

25 Helpful Tips for First-Time Skiers

I’m that person that people refer to when they say, ‘If so-and-so can do it, then so can you!‘ in regards to anything athletic, so if I survived my first ski holiday, I’m positive you can, too. And hopefully these tips for first-time skiers that I’ve gathered from veteran skiers, qualified instructors, and from my own (humbling) personal experience will help you out a bit, too!

25 Helpful Tips For First-Time Skiers

Before You Go

Decide What Kind of Holiday You’re After

Do you want an all-inclusive resort with all the bells and whistles, or will you be fine staying in a self-service apartment? Do your research and read as many reviews as you can and then…

Book Your Trip Early

This is especially important if your holiday falls over a school break. Resorts and inns fill up quickly, sometimes a year in advance due to annual recurring visitors, so the earlier you can make preparations the better!

Don’t Buy Professional-Grade Gear

You’ll need up to three layers of clothing on the slopes – a base layer, a mid layer, and a waterproof jacket and trousers – plus a scarf, hat, helmet, goggles, ski gloves, and tall socks. You’d be crazy to go out and buy all of that for your first time. Just use what you already have, borrow things from friends, and then buy whatever is left over. (This does not apply to skis, boots, and poles – rent those, don’t borrow them!)

Get in Shape

You don’t need six pack abs, but skiing is hard – if you’re not in good shape, you’re not going to last very long on the slopes, especially as a beginner.

Book a Ski Class for at Least Your First Day

They’re not just for kids! I know it’s expensive, especially after you’ve already paid for equipment rentals and lift passes, but I also know from experience, you will waste a lot of time on the slopes if you try to teach yourself. You don’t want to spend all this money on your perfect ski holiday just to spend half of it on your back in the snow. Save yourself the headache and book the class.

25 Helpful Tips For First-Time Skiers

When You Arrive

Rent Your Equipment from a Reputable Service

This includes skis, boots, poles, and a helmet if you didn’t bring your own. Here is an excellent guide that will help you make sure you’re properly fitted for your ski gear. Don’t leave until you’re satisfied!

Eat a Good Meal and Go to Bed Early

Maybe this is a little too obvious of a tip, but the temptation is definitely there to stay up late by the fireside chatting with others in the resort. Go to bed early and you’ll feel a lot better the next morning!

25 Helpful Tips For First-Time Skiers

What to Wear

A Base Layer

Nothing made of cotton since it’s the layer next to your skin and it won’t be able to keep you dry. We used moisture wicking running clothes we already had and those were perfect. I personally use moisture wicking long sleeve tops from Joe’s USA. They’re cheap, comfortable, and come in lots of fun colors. Joe’s USA also makes moisture wicking leggings for women that make a perfect base layer, but for men you’ll probably want to go with something like these from Adidas.

A Mid Layer

This could be anything that’ll keep you warm. I just used my running jacket. A fleece pullover would work, too, as long as your outer layer is waterproof. Chances are, you have something in your closet that will work as a thermal mid layer, but if you don’t, fleece jackets and pullovers from Columbia look just as good off the slopes, so you can wear them long after your trip is over. As for bottoms, if you buy an insulated outer layer (most ski trousers are), you can skip a mid layer on your legs.

An Outer Layer

This is your waterproof jacket and trousers. You could spend a lot of money on a jacket, but you don’t have to. You’re just going to look big and bulky like everyone else, so you might as well save some cash and buy cheap. Wantdo makes good quality waterproof ski jackets for the whole family, and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. (Which is important, because you’ll need both of those to ski.)

Good Ski Trousers That Vent

Besides goggles, ski gloves, and socks, nice ski trousers were the only thing we didn’t already have prior to our trip. We bought ours from a discount store to save a little cash, but you can also find good deals online. Your ski trousers need to be waterproof and insulated (especially if you don’t have a mid layer for your legs), and if you can, I suggest buying ones that vent. It ended up being warmer on the mountain than we expected and I was so grateful for the zippers on the inside legs of my pants that allowed some air in. It’s easy to take your top layers off, but your trousers? Not so much.

Waterproof. Insulated. Venting. Plus you want them to fit comfortably so you can, you know, ski. That’s a lot of boxes to tick, so of all the things on this list, you’ll probably spend the most on your ski trousers. The budget-friendly choice is to go with Wantdo again, but I don’t think they make trousers that vent. If that’s important to you, I recommend springing for a good brand like The North Face. They’re more expensive, but they last forever. (My husband has been wearing his North Face jacket for 15 years now!)

Hat and Neckwarmer

Make sure your hat fits close to your head and bring it with you when you get fitted for your helmet. A scarf is all you need to keep your neck warm. Also, if you’ve got long hair, bring something to tie it back with. I left my hair down the first day and ended up swallowing more strands than I cared to. After that, I started putting it in a side braid. It kept it out of my face, and it looked cute. (Most important part, right?)

Your Helmet

Even if you’re skiing at a snail’s pace and you’re not leaving the bunny hill, someone else could be reckless and plow into you. Like your momma always said, ‘Better safe than sorry!’

25 Helpful Tips For First-Time Skiers

Goggles or Sunglasses

Or maybe both! On a sunny day without a lot of wind, you’d be fine with sunglasses that wrap tightly around your face. I didn’t care for skiing with goggles because I felt like I had limited peripheral vision with them, but they were absolutely necessary when it was snowing hard! The particular brand of unisex ski goggles we bought aren’t on Amazon anymore, but these by Bolle are highly recommended and well-priced.

Ski Socks

Or any tall, thick socks. They’ll make your boots feel more comfortable around your feet and on your calf where the boot presses into your leg. Wigwam makes good ones for both men and women (and kids).

Gloves, the Proper Ski Kind

This tip comes from my helpful instructor, Hans. He told me I could ski in a bikini if I wanted to, but to never take off my gloves. The edges of your skis are sharp, and he’s seen fingers sliced right off in a fall. Thick ski gloves will help prevent that.

Regular Gloves Under Your Ski Gloves

The ski gloves are big and bulky. When you’re not skiing, like say at lunch at the ski bar, you’ll want something covering your hands, but you’ll still want to be able to pick up your food. Regular gloves will come in handy!


Or a balaclava if it’ll be cold enough to wear one. You just need something to protect your skin from the sun that reflects off the snow. I saw a lot of sunburned faces in Alpbach!

25 Helpful Tips For First-Time Skiers

On the Slopes

Try to Get on the Mountain Early

The less crowded the slopes are, the more confident you’ll feel. Plus, if you look like an idiot, less people will be around to see it. :)

Always Underestimate Your Abilities

You don’t want to get partway down a piste you can’t handle, because there’s no going back after you get started. Stick with the beginner slopes until you’re confident enough to move on. No one’s judging you!

Never Go Off on Your Own

I know you’re smarter than that, but I still needed to mention it. Always have at least one other person with you, just in case.

Know Your Signage

In Europe, greens are for beginners, blues are for novices, red are for intermediates, and blacks are for experts. In North America, it’s slightly different and also incorporates shapes. The point is, know how to read the signs.

Bring a Backpack

You may need to shed layers, and you’ll need somewhere to keep them. It’s also smart to bring a few snacks – skiing burns a lot of calories! Alternatively, if you don’t want the bother of extra weight, you could rent a locker, if available, from the ski station.

Bring a Map

For two reasons – first, you won’t get lost. Second, knock on wood, if you do have an accident, you’ll be able to mark where you are on the map and whoever you’re skiing with can take the map to the nearest ski patrol. They’ll have an easier time finding you if they know your exact location.

Stay Hydrated

We were so thirsty all the time! I think skiing makes me more dehydrated than running does. Bring a couple water bottles in your backpack and then you can keep filling them up at the ski stations or restaurants.

And a bonus 26th tip – Have fun, and don’t give up. You’re going to fall down. You’re going to do it in front of other people. And then you’re going to stand up and laugh it off. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Everyone you see skiing on the slopes started just like you did. You will get better!

25 Helpful Tips For First-Time Skiers

If you’re nerdy like me, when you fall down you can use the opportunity to take a selfie. Although, if I’m not aimlessly looking off into the distance or raising a sassy eyebrow, does it really count as a selfie?!

Any other tips for first-time skiers I missed? Leave them in the comment section below! And if you want to read about my (somewhat embarrassing) experience as a beginner skier in the Alps, just click on the link!

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25 Helpful Tips For First-Time Skiers

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  • Lynn
    April 18, 2019 at 10:31 AM

    Excellent tips which I’ll be keeping a note of for whenever I get the opportunity to go on a skiing holiday. I’ve decided to learn to ski at the age of 46 proving you’re never too old to learn a new skill. I’m lucky to have an indoor snowy ski slope 30 mins from home which provide lessons. It’s not quite got the same views but a good place to start without battling falling snow/rain/glaring sunshine/bumpy snow.

    • Sarah Shumate
      April 18, 2019 at 2:19 PM

      46 is definitely not too old! I’ve been on one of those indoor slopes before – they’re really fun, I mean, at least for those of us who don’t have the mountains immediately at our disposal. :) I think that’ll be a great place to practice for the real thing!

  • Bill Curry
    January 27, 2019 at 8:06 AM

    Briefly, keep your tips up and weight forward on your ski boots to hop off the lift without falling. Then, know that there are two ways to get down the mtn w/out killing yourself. If you make the pie-shaped wedge known as a snow plow, be aware that the shape itself does nothing. Edging your skis and pushing snow in front of you will make you stop. Alternatively, you can sideslide. Stand parallel to the fall-line (steepest way down) and dig your edges in so you don’t slide. Gradually let up pressure until you’re sidesliding at a comfortable pace. When you want to stop, dig those edges in. Don’t even think about skiing moguls. But if you’re stuck there, know that it’s an eyesight and planning thing. I recommend planning a route from the top of one mogul to the top of one a bit down. Why? Because at the summit of a mogul you can go in any direction. These are all things I wish I had known my first time.

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 28, 2019 at 9:04 AM

      Thanks so much for the great beginner ski tips, Bill! That was really helpful. The first time I learned to ski (in Colorado in the mid-90’s), they taught us the snow plow method. When I attempted to re-learn to ski again in Austria, my instructor taught the sideslide method. Of the two, I definitely prefer the latter. I felt more in control with that method, but I could see how (particularly if you’re a small child), the snow plow method might seem a little less scary. :)

  • Gerty Gift
    March 29, 2018 at 11:02 AM

    I really appreciate the advice about using sunscreen. My first reaction when I read that was skepticism, but then I remember seeing all of my friends come back from skiing trips sunburned. I will be sure to remember this for our skiing trip this next winter.

  • pauliesgirl
    January 21, 2018 at 11:27 PM

    I’m just starting 20+ years after trying and being totally terrified. I found a small ski resort about two hours from home (IN) and found an exceptional instructor willing to work with me. An hour went fast and I wish I could have stayed out longer but the rental boots were making my feet FREEZE! I’d heard from my husband and son that boots are THE most important piece of equipment. My husband took me shopping for my very own pair of boots which were molded to my feet. And they weren’t nearly as expensive as I had feared they would be. Two weeks later, I had a three hour private lesson and loved it! Now I’m out in Colorado taking a series of lessons. So- #1 take lessons and #2 if you’re going to invest in anything, get your own ski boots!

    • Sarah Shumate
      January 23, 2018 at 7:18 PM

      I’m so glad you’re having much more fun skiing the second time around! The boots tip is great advice for those who plan to pick up the sport and ski regularly!

  • sup :)
    February 17, 2017 at 2:06 AM

    I am so glad I read this! I am having a ski trip soon I WILL use these tips thanks!!!!

  • Noddy Gowans
    January 6, 2017 at 10:29 AM

    Hi Sarah it’s great to hear some tips from a beginners perspective. Nice work. One more tip to add: Before you go check out our ‘how to ski’ tips and lessons for FREE on YouTube.

    Watching them before heading to the mountains helps get your head in the game before you even get to the slopes.
    Hope this helps someone out there because it’s such a great sport to get into.

  • feonicamartinez
    June 10, 2015 at 6:59 AM

    Awesome! Worth sharing! Thanks.

  • Mike
    March 9, 2015 at 7:31 AM

    By and large, good list. Just two points that need correcting. Ski socks should be thin, not thick. thick socks let your feet squish around inside your boots and make it harder to ski. Second, helmets are designed to be worn without a hat under them. wearing a hat under a helmet puts the helmet in the wrong position, which makes it less effective. Oh, and I don’t know who’s sharpening skis over there, but they’re really not that sharp. Most skis edge angle is around 87 or 88 degrees. Not finger slicing off material.

    From a 30 year skier and 12 year professional instructor.

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 9, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      I very much appreciate your input, Mike! That’s very helpful! As far as what Hans (my instructor in Austria) said about the sharpness of the skis, maybe he was joking and the joke got lost in translation? Or maybe Austrian skis can also double as weapons? :) I’m not really sure, but it is good to hear from someone else that finger-slicing is much more difficult than he made it seem!

  • Jo
    March 24, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    I’m saving this post! We have never gone skiing and I know we will need to review your list if we ever do.

  • taylor
    March 16, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    this is hysterical…partially because my first time skiing was a few weeks ago AND i thought I could handle a black diamond slope because all of my friends were doing it. ended up getting a concussion. but i laughed all the way down, and i am fine. :) these tips are SO true and good to know (for next time…which will be a loooong time for me).

    love your blog!

  • Alyx
    March 15, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    I’ve never been skiing, don’t know if I’ll ever get to go, but these are good tips for when and if the opportunity arises!

  • Emmymom
    March 14, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    By the way you are totally adorable in your ski gear and totally made me laugh about the selfie

  • Emmymom
    March 14, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Great tips!! skied a few times in high school and then my freshmen year of college, I had once class that the professor pretty much just read the power points that he put online- I skipped that class a lot and went skiing. :)

  • Laura
    March 14, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Ok missy…you spoke about the importance of helmets…i see you thought Lexie’s head was precious enough to protect but not you and Cory’s???…Or did you just remove yours before every picture because you thought it looked dorky? :) I sure hope the latter was the case. That’s right. Your younger sister is reprimanding you.

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 15, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      Shame on me, I know. But we didn’t realize until we were on the mountain that most adults wore helmets, too. Then we felt like idiots for not having them. Remember when we were in CO years ago? None of us wore helmets, even as kids. I guess times have changed! Def safer to wear the helmet now!

  • Connie Weiss
    March 14, 2014 at 1:07 AM

    Great tips!

    I’ve lived in Colorado 40 of my years and I lived 10 minutes from a ski resort in Utah and I have never skied. I’ve wanted to….but I think I like the idea of sitting in front of a fire in a lodge better.

  • Anna
    March 13, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    This is exactly what I need as I STILL haven’t been skiing. It’s terrible. It’s going to happen this year, or next year…soon anyway. But either way I’ll need some tips. I would definitely take a lesson and I already have my ski gear bought from TK Maxx. It just needs an outing.

  • Natalie
    March 13, 2014 at 2:43 AM

    These are great tips! I’ve only been twice but would love to be better!

  • Agness
    March 13, 2014 at 12:47 AM

    Great tips! I’m going skiing this winter somewhere in Europe. Perhaps Italy or France, so I need to buy some good equipment and take is slow! :)

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    March 12, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    I think I will print this guide off and keep it with me in Sweden ;) I went to the snow in Australia once (I know, shock horror we have snow there!) and I have never been so sunburned in my life! Sunscreen is a must!

    • Sarah Shumate
      March 13, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      Wow, I actually didn’t know that Australia could get snow! That’s kind of cool! Isn’t it weird that you can get just as sunburned on a ski slope as you can the beach?!

    • susannem
      March 14, 2014 at 4:11 AM

      This is a good reminder. Some of my worst sun burns have been skiing. The wind burn can be painful too.

  • rorybore
    March 13, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    alright, you’ve so made me want to start the kids skiing next year. My youngest is 4 and I was already skiing by her age. Odds are, they are going to be better than their old mama – ha! Gorgeous mountain shot you got! just beautiful.

  • Carly @ Let Us Wanderlust
    March 13, 2014 at 3:47 AM

    I love all these tips! And I agree 100% – staying hydrated, having a good night sleep and a good meal are all so important! And I love the selfie ;)

  • Katrin
    March 12, 2014 at 7:08 PM

    Love this post! I needed that when I went skiing for the first time. I totally got lost which freaked me out a lot. Your pictures are fantastic!

  • Irene @ Away from Tenerife
    March 12, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I’ve never skied before but if I ever plan a ski holiday I will take good note of all this advice.
    Fun photos in the slopes, seems like you had a greatastic ski holiday :)

  • Jenn
    March 12, 2014 at 7:13 PM

    I definitely agree with all of these

  • Nicole @ Treasure Tromp
    March 12, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    I wish that i knew this before I tried skiing! I went once, had a friend try to teach me, and spent the rest of the day nursing a hurt knee & hot chocolate :)

  • Sara Louise
    March 12, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Somehow I have avoided ever having to ski, it’s not something I feel drawn to, but if my arm is ever twisted enough to find my way to the slopes, I’ll be keeping you and your tips in mind :)

  • Michelle
    March 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    I love this post! I’ve always wanted to go skiing, but never have. Guess I’m just afraid of looking stupid haha

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    March 12, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    I think my two most important from your list would be to borrow your ski gear and definitely take a ski class! Great tips Sarah :)