Top 10 of Beginner Ski know-how
with Emma Wilson
Skiing is a fun sport. It is great to do with your kids as they grow and move beyond the time that they want to be seen kissing you goodbye at the school gate. You can ski in Australia, it's just a six hour car trip south of Sydney. If you get the taste for skiing, you can then take it to the next level of WOW and ski the resorts of Canada, the USA, Europe or Japan. However, where to start and where to go can be a mind boggling prospect if you’re new to skiing. Here’s ten tips to keep in mind as we head into the Australian ski season:
1.Thredbo or Perisher NSW
Both are excellent for beginners. Thredbo has a reputation for being the premiere resort, with 14 lifts and 16% of terrain designated to beginners. Friday Flat is the beginner ski area of Thredbo, and once skiers master this gentle terrain they can graduate to more difficult slopes. Perisher, is the more underrated of the two resorts, with 47 lifts and 22% of terrain designated to beginners. Smiggins and Front Valley, (Perisher) are two areas perfect to master the art of skiing down slopes, then skiers can move to other areas of Perisher, Guthega, Blue Cow or Smiggins, all linked by one ticket. If you enjoy Perisher and are inspired to buy a season pass you can use the pass to ski in many USA resorts such as Vail, Beaver Creek, Park City or the Canyons. If you adore Thredbo to the point you buy a season pass at that particular resort, you can also use it at Whistler, Aspen and Jackson Hole to name just a few.
For your first time on snow don’t buy your own equipment. Rental skis allow you to get accustomed to different lengths of skis and change equipment if there are any problems. As a beginner you’re also potentially going to batter equipment around a little, as you move over rocks or other impediments (other people’s skis) and you’ll be thanking The Big Man Above you’re able to hand them back at the end of the day. At both Perisher and Thredbo there are special ‘First Timer’ deals, such as lessons, lift passes and ski equipment hire, as these resorts know first timers are not going to be using the whole resort straight away, thus the great deals. Equipment wise you’ll need skis, poles, helmet and ski boots. These can all be hired at the resort once you turn up on your first morning.
Just as the minimum skiers need socks, ski jacket and pants, an under layer (thermal top or skivvy top), gloves and goggles. Australian conditions can vary so it’s best to check resort websites for Perisher and Thredbo before you go. At worst, the conditions can be windy, which means thermal pants or thick stockings and an extra layer under your thermal top as well. A neck warmer or scarf can mean the difference between freezing desperately on a chairlift or being utterly cosy and warm. Don’t be tempted to buy super-cheap gloves. If you’re not sure skiing is going to be for you borrow gloves from a friend who has better quality ones. A a beginner you can potentially be touching the snow quite a bit as you help yourself up from the ground. There are ski stores at all resorts, you can always pick up things you need, including hand warmers, lip balm and warmer gloves. Hickory Hill Home have great socks that tick the boxes of being warm (cashmere) and not too thick to fit in ski boots. Current thinking for socks errs on the thin side rather than pre-1990s thinking of super-thick socks.
An excellent place to base yourself as a beginner if you ski at Perisher resort is at Smiggins. There is a free shuttle bus that takes skiers around the hill to Perisher main terminal. As a lesser known accommodation mecca, there are plenty of chalets right at the base of the mountain, there are also rental ski shops, souvenir stores, coffee shops and a pub, all next to the car park. The pick of the bunch is the Smiggins Hotel, the ski school is in the bottom of the hotel, there is kids club at night, food, drinks, bands to listen to. And the car park clears out overnight so it feels like a self-contained hotel in the middle of nowhere, which makes star gazing after dinner a great bonus. If you’ve heard the phase ‘ski in ski out’, it’s the promised land of skiing, which means you can ski right to your accommodation door, snap your skis off and not have to worry about driving home.At Perisher’s main ski area The Perisher Valley Hotel ticks the box for ski in ski out, with a fine dining restaurant on premises, backing onto the shopping arcade and looking over the kids beginner area. At Thredbo the Lantern Apartments are self-contained apartments scattered all over the valley, near the learning area Friday Flat, or closer to the supermarket, bars or restaurants. There’s no need to freak out that Thredbo is so spread out as a village, there is a free shuttle bus that returns skiers to their accommodation that runs on a loop the duration of the snow season.
5. Lessons or No lessons
Always have lessons as a beginner. Unless you’re a backpacker eating last week’s sandwiches out of the back of a Kombi van, do it properly and set yourself up right the first time. There is a structure to the correct way of skiing, knee and arm position, stance and how to control yourself on the turns. Get instruction from an expert and you’ll have such a better time. Same goes for teaching your own children. You’ve gone to the trouble of purchasing lift passes, give yourself a break and get them taught by a professional. If you can’t afford it, give yourself one more year to save the money up and do it right. You’ll have a much better time. If you book ahead online at either resort there are quite substantial discounts to take advantage of.
6. Driving in the Snow
The key is not to panic and just enjoy it. Keep distractions to a minimum, like phones and radios and back seat drivers. You won’t need snow chains on car tyres unless you are not in a 4WD, even then you don’t put chains on automatically, just carry them in your car boot and wait for instructions from the RTA signs if conditions warrant chains. When you put chains on pull your vehicle over to a safe spot (generally a chain bay designated for that purpose), and stay warm with gloves and jacket on while fitting chains on the car. Get a car service before you leave home and make sure tyre tread depths are deep enough (check with mechanic). Relax, it is fun. Keep your speed low and don’t brake too suddenly, especially on the corners. Keep reasonable space between you and the vehicle in front of you.
7. Food in the Snow
When was the last time you exercised for between 3-8 hours? Skiing may seem breezy but it can be tiring, especially if you’re falling down repeatedly. Don’t forget to keep drinking water all day. Most bars keep water jugs on their counters. Pack water in your car for the trip home. Take healthy snacks, such as bliss balls, trail mixes or protein bars for during the day. Mini bars of twix, mars bars and cadburys are easy to keep in your pocket, and with all that exercise it’s not going to head straight for the hips. Buy food on the nourishing and warming side, like chilli con carne rather than straight french fries to give plenty of energy for the day. Don’t forget to eat a full breakfast before you hit the slopes. Choose mushrooms, eggs, bacon, bacon beans and tomato options rather than cold cereals. Keep alcohol to a minimum as it is dehydrating.
8. Great Eateries
At Perisher a popular spot for lunch is the Sundeck Hotel, particularly on a fair weather day. Meals there are reasonably priced and it’s beautiful to look out over the valley below. At night if you’re staying around Perisher the Eiger’s White Spider Restaurant can be a warm spot to be and fun to walk over the snow in apre boots (firm walking boots) to get there. At Thredbo the T-Bar Restaurant has warming wings, shanks and pizzas. At night the Knickerbocker is a winner for its French menu and the roaring Thredbo River waters out the window beyond.
9. Ski Tips
Be realistic, don’t get beyond yourself and think you can ski from the top of the mountain to the bottom in your very first morning. If you’ve finished your lessons practice what you’ve learnt on the ‘magic carpet’, the moving conveyor belt purpose purpose-built for beginners. Don’t hesitate to tell the lift operators that you need help getting on or off the magic carpet or any of the lifts, that’s what they’re there for. If you fall over, you can flip yourself on your belly to get your skis in a better position and use your arms or ski poles to push yourself back to a standing position. If you’re not confident to get yourself up if you lie there long enough someone is guaranteed to ski over and help you. If you’re single this could be a good way to meet someone, you never know. It’s either the serotonin of the exercising, or the friendly nature of the sport but someone will always lend a hand or stop to ask if you’re ok. Don’t ski out of sight alone. And above all - if you feel out of control never face down the hill and go into the tuck position.
10. Things a New Skier May Not Know
You will get sunburnt on the slopes, even if it is overcast. The snow will reflect the sun’s rays quickly and easily so take sunscreen or buy it there. Same goes for lip balm, it is amazing how chaffed your lips get in alpine conditions. If you’re dithering over whether or not to rent or buy a helmet, technology and social norms have shifted to the point where the only people who don’t wear a helmet are those who think they’re too cool for them and may have last skied in 1985. Don’t succumb, they will save your head. You are about to have the absolute time of your life. Remember to take someone along who you want to share the good times with, possibly not the time to take your ex-boyfriend or your mother in law.