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You’ve learned how to ski—or at least get down the mountain in once piece—but there are a few things that you’ll spend years figuring out. And some things you never figure out at all. From getting the right gear to the actual skiing, these tips will help you ski better and have a more fun day.
5. The Wrong Gear
I know, I know. You just dropped a good chunk of change on the latest powder skis. Of course, they’re the right skis. Or, you bought a new pair of boots and they fit in the store so you’re good to go. You’re not.
I took a few lessons as a beginner and then not again until I spent a few years stuck at an intermediate level. When I finally took a class, the instructor told me to press my foot forward and I told him every time I did that my foot popped up. The following conversation ensued.
Instructor: Your boots are too small.
Me: No, my boots are so tight they hurt my toes.
Instructor: No, you’re boots are so big that your feet are jamming forward when they should stay in place. Your heel should not pop out.
I went to the boot fitting shop a day later and found out I’d been skiing in boots three sizes too big for years.
And I’ve bought more skis that I’ve had to promptly sell than I care to mention. A few years ago, I bought a pair of powder skis and found them too stiff for me and decided to sell them. A guy showed up with his girlfriend to buy them for her. When I found out she was a beginner skier, I actually tried to talk them out of it. I was an advanced skier at the time and found them stiff. But he was adamant, if his girlfriend was going to ski, she needed powder skis.
I’m not going to lie, I hope that relationship didn’t last and she eventually found a better fitting guy and skis.
You can’t ski in a wedge as a beginner on expert skis and expect to progress. You also can’t ski on beginner skis as an intermediate and expect to progress.
After several skis not working for me, I never buy until I try. Luckily, my resort has a few shops slopeside. I pay for rentals for the day but can take out as many different skis as I want. Last time, I took out four pair and knew immediately when I found the right ones.
4. The Wrong Boots
You ski from the foot up, meaning your boots matter more for a successful day than your skis. I talked above about skiing in the wrong boots but there’s more to it than the right size. Most people need some degree of fitting to get the right boot for you. My left foot is a size bigger than my right so I buy tight and then the boot fitter punches out the left to fit me. Custom footbeds molded to your feet make a world of difference in skiing.
Even if you can’t afford custom fitting, at least go to a boot fitter and make sure you’re in the right boot for you—size, flex, all make a difference. Your local ski shop may not have this ability and will throw you in whatever you say feels good. Also, always buckle your boots. It doesn’t matter if you’re skiing easy, walking up to the resort, or even have your boots off your feet. Keep them buckled! If you’re in your boot and it’s unbuckled, you are punching out your fitting. Your boots will wear out more quickly and you’ll be back to the shop to buy more.
3. Dealing with Flat Light
I hate skiing in flat light. You know when the sky matches the snow and you can’t see a bump two feet in front of you until you hit it. There a couple of tricks for dealing with that. One, which is the most obvious is to buy googles specifically rated for flat light. They come tinted, which adds texture to the snow. While these help, skiing in or near the trees helps a lot more. The trees help define the snow and add a degree of contrast.
2. Stay In the Trees or Bumps
Confession: I used to be terrified of trees and bumps. But do you know what isn’t in the trees and bumps? Everyone else. You know where the soft snow when the runs are iced over? In the trees.
I’m not going to pretend skiing either of those places are easy but make getting there a priority. If you ask around, you can find easy versions of off-piste terrain to help you learn. Of course, you can take a lesson and ask for those skills specifically. Here are a few tips to get you started:
When skiing the trees, look between the trees and not right at them. Our bodies naturally follow our eyes. If you stare at the tree, you hit the tree. I’ve felt my feet course correct, the second I forced my vision on the gap and not the tree.
When skiing the bumps, really pull your hips forward and up and rotate on the top of of the mogul edge and not down in the trench.
1. Take a Lesson
I can hear all your protestations. I’m a good skier. You could be better; take a lesson. They’re so expensive. They have group options; take a lesson. I don’t want to look dumb in front of other people. Everyone in your class will be at your level; take a lesson.
For an outdoor adventure without ever having to get outside, check out the Lost Gorge Mystery series!
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