Skiing for beginners: What you need to know

Always wanted to ski, but never knew where to start? Make this the winter you finally do it. Here are the essentials to get you started

Skiing for beginners: What you need to know

Source: Web exclusive: November 2009

Maybe you’re a summer sport kind of girl’you like to run and swim, but come late December, those sports can leave you a little…er, looking for something to do outdoors. Could this be the winter you finally decide to learn to ski? If so, ingénue skiers, here’s what you need to know about sliding down the slopes.

Skiing does a body good

Tackling the slopes is an all-over body strengthener. ‘Your arms are strong from pole planning and holding your arms up in the proper position, and constantly moving and working your shoulders and upper body,’ says Lauralee Bowie, owner of Vancouver-based Lauralee Bowie Ski Adventures. And while your upper body gets some muscular improvement, where you really feel it is in your core and your lower body. Maintaining your balance during skiing helps strengthen that core, and muscles such as your calves, build by maneuvering over the snow.

The costs

While the physical benefits are numerous, remember that skiing is not a cheap sport‘for example a two-day lift ticket to a Whistler, B.C. resort can cost as much as $140. (Or go as high as $182 for Christmas skiing.) Add to that the cost of skis ($130-$740), boots ($110-$820), bindings to attach your skis to your boots ($162-$485), goggles ($17-$100), gloves ($20-$100) and more and it adds up’so budget accordingly.

Be prepared

While you can jump right in and get started, most veteran skiers note it’s best if you have a moderate level of fitness already under your ski boots. ‘It’s a sport that’s going to tax muscles that you’ve never used before, like any sport. So if you’re going to try it, you’ll feel it in places you never knew existed,’ says Liisa Savijarvi, a former Olympian and now an instructor with Toronto-based Ski Escape. ‘So going in with some overall decent fitness level is great’but at the same time, you certainly don’t have to be an ironman to take up skiing!’ Some good cross-training sports to help you get ready for skiing include rollerblading, cycling and abdominal and back-strengthening exercises to work your core up to tackling skiing.

Suit up!

Good gear is critical to enjoying your time skiing, so here’s what Savijarvi recommends in outfitting yourself:

‘ Pile on the inner/outer wear: ‘Have a good base layer on that helps wick moisture away and it has to be something you can move freely in,’ she says. ‘Layers are better than going with one heavy jacket and no layers underneath because sometimes you’ll be sweating just getting to the lift maybe, other times you’ll be standing around and cooling off.’

‘ Go best on the boots: Properly fitting boots are much more important than skis. ‘You want to get fitted at a store for boots that fit comfortably and snugly,’ she says. ‘You don’t want to feel like your toes are getting pressured off the start. And does your foot slide forward and back? If so, it’s probably too big.’

‘ Save on skis: If you’re going to spend money on equipment but can’t do it all at once, Savijarvi recommends spending on boots and renting skis for now.

‘ Accessorize! While sunglasses are fine, they do tend to slide around on your face and don’t fit as comfortably under a helmet, she says. Instead, investing in a good pair of goggles can not only protect your eyes from the sun, but the cold as well in case your eyes water when the temperature drops. And while mittens or gloves are fine, look for a pair that are longer and that can tighten above the wrist. ‘Especially since you’ll be falling down and stretching into the snow and it’s easier for snow to get into your gloves if they’re shorter,’ she says.

‘ Help your head: Savijarvi recommends buying a helmet (also known as a ‘brain bucket’) along with your boots because you may not find one at ski rental shops.

And for your maiden ski voyage, picking a nice day might be a good idea to get you started on a positive note. ‘Winters are long in Canada so if you can take up skiing, it’s a fabulous way to spend winter,’ says Savijarvi.

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