First Time Skiing Experience: What To Expect

first time skiing

Everyone’s first time skiing experience seems slightly different, but with one thing in common – they all fall head over heels with this addictive, wonderful sport! If you’re reading this post it’s probably because you’re about to head off on your first ever ski holiday, and if you are I’m incredibly jealous! There’s nothing like being on the snow for the first time ever and feeling the rush as you (wobble) down the mountain side on your first ever lesson.

A girl on her first time skiing experience looking out at mountain slopes
First time skiing experience in the Austrian mountains – This post contains affiliate links

Before I left I had no idea what to expect from my first time skiing experience. Telling people you’re going skiing for the first time is met with a very similar response.

First, a look of pure envy (I could only assume from this that I was in for a good time). 

Next, a wistful sigh ‘I remember my first time skiing’, ‘I wish I had time to ski this year’, ‘You’re so lucky’.

Finally, a word of warning. It seems that no relationship is safe from the first time ski experience. Was I ready to argue non-stop with the man of my dreams?

First Time Skiing Experience

After an incredible first week of skiing in the Austrian mountains I can share what a first time skiing experience is really like – the terror, the wonder and the excitement. I’ve also got a few tips, so you can learn from my mistakes!

How To Prepare For Your First Time Skiing Experience

Mayrhofen ski slopes in the winter
Mayhofen ski slopes, the first I had ever seen

What To Buy Before You Go

I wanted to look good. In fact, I was so worried about looking the part that I didn’t give the actual skiing experience a second thought until I was actually out there. I guess I thought that if I was going to look like a fool, I might as well look like a stylish fool.

I had visions of me in fitted white jackets and a cute bobble hat, looking slim and sporty (because obviously if I had the right clothes my body shape would miraculously transform).

Then Adam informed me I would need a helmet, and that white would be a really stupid choice since it would get dirty on the first day.  So instead I took my usual approach, practical over fashionable.  I might not LOOK good, but I would FEEL good.  It’s what’s on the inside that counts anyway, right?  

I decided to buy the minimum, as I wasn’t sure that after this holiday I would ever ski again. I spent a good month trawling the internet and ordering every ski jacket I could find to see what I liked (and didn’t like). Amazon and Surf Dome (this is a great online store for cheap named brand ski gear!) turned out to be life savers – I’ve listed what I bought before I went below and added a few extras that I wish I’d had with me for my first time skiing!

Get A Ski Jacket And Trousers For Your First Time Skiing

After trying out lots of different jackets I decided I wanted one with a pocket in the arm for my ski pass, a hood for feeling cosy and I wanted something longish so I wasn’t constantly pulling it down and it would cover me for those inevitable falls. I also loved the built in half glove things that kept me super warm.

You’ll also want some decent waterproof trousers – you’ll spend more time than you want to on your bottom as a first time skier!

A Helmet Is A Must For Your First Time Skiing

I would suggest to all newbies – try on the helmets and make sure your hair is how you’ll be wearing it when you ski. They’re all so different. I wore one for 10 minutes in store and had the worst headache after. There’s a whole science around helmets that you might want to read up on, or if that sort of thing doesn’t interest you then just get one from a reputable ski wear provider like Surfdome who sell helmets made by known ski brands such as Anon or Oakley.

Base Layers Were Great

I get cold really easily so I bought loads of base layers. It turns out that all that exercise (and mulled wine!) keeps you pretty warm so I only wore a strappy top, a long sleeved base layer, leggings and ski socks (bought super cheap from decathlon but I’d reconsider this next time, see below for details!).

The base layers I bought were just inoffensive black tops which I was pleased about when I realised most people don’t go home to change before hitting the bars.

If you’re heading somewhere with really cold temperatures or for a longer trip where you’re more likely to get caught out in storms, then consider getting a merino wool base layer. They’re more expensive but worth it for the comfort.

Goggles, Gloves And A Buff

I also bought my own goggles and gloves for my first time skiing as they’re smaller items that will last for ages. I considered them a worth while investment! I didn’t buy a decent buff and really regretted it. It’s such a cheap and easy item to pick up before you go and you’ll really need it if the wind picks up!

Don’t Forget Ski Travel Insurance

Whatever you do make sure you get decent ski travel insurance before you go. Adam worked several years as a ski guide and has some horrific stories to tell – not just about the accidents but about the cost of the accidents.

No one likes to think about all the things that could go wrong on a holiday, so pay up for that insurance and let them worry about that so you don’t have to. World Nomads have the perfect insurance for skiers as it’s designed for adventurous types and includes cover that normal travel insurance usually won’t. You can find out more about it here or get a quote below.

Hopefully that’s helped you out with the basics before you go, but for a more detailed guide to what to wear skiing check out this post.

The rest of the ski equipment you’ll need for your first time skiing will be easier to hire. In every ski resort there are several rental equipment shops, and they usually have a policy where you can change your rental equipment at any time if it isn’t working for you. This is perfect for beginner skiers, as you can change uncomfortable ski boots or upgrade your skis as you get better through the week.

My First Time Skiing Experience

Moody mountains on a ski slope in Mayrhofen
Getting to the ski slopes for the first time on my skiing adventure

Arriving For Your First Time Skiing Experience

I arrived in Austria nervous and excited. If you’re booked onto a ski holiday through a tour company then you’ll probably have transfers included, which is great for a first time ski experience. Your tour guide will fill you in on things like where the nearest ski lift, how to get there, where the hire shops are and where the supermarkets are. All this information is really helpful!

One of the first things I noticed that I hadn’t really thought through is that ski resorts are usually snowy! Or at least you hope they are, because that’s a sure sign there’s snow higher up! Make sure you bring a decent pair of walking boots or snow shoes for getting around the town.

The first thing we did was head for the rental shop. They’ll need your weight (horror!) to calculate the release mechanism on the skis (the DIN). Wear the ski socks you’ll be wearing on the slopes so they can fit your ski boots properly and make sure you tell them you’re a beginner so they can give you the right level of equipment. You’ll find it much easier to learn on the right gear!

Now We Get To The Actual Skiing

Before even reaching the ski slopes I ran into trouble. No one told me that I would have to walk through the pretty Austrian village like some sort of robot. Forget looking cool and stylish. Padded to the nines, trying desperately not to drop my skis as they slipped and slided their way off my shoulders and out of my hands was the least of my worries.

Ski boots are designed to torture.

Alongside being insanely uncomfortable, they also prevent you from walking without looking like a complete idiot. I watched people who looked like they knew what they doing and tried my hardest to copy their gait.

Next to tackle the ski lift. I managed to get through the turn style without drama, the handy sleeve in the arm of my jacket for my ski pass outdid itself and no one was whacked over the head with my skis (which seemed to have a life of their own). But as I watched the crowd of people slip gracefully into the lifts, that looked to me to be moving faster than was safe, I started to sweat. How was I meant to get into that!? I was having trouble walking across the concrete pavement, I didn’t have a clue how I was going to step into a moving object.

As I fumbled about trying to get my skis into the little pocket everyone around me seemed to be in and seated already, without a care in the world. Adam ordered me in while he sorted my skis and I hobbled in ashamed. Not quite the capable and elegant image I had in mind.

White mountain peaks and ski tracks in a ski resort
A whole new world out on the ski slopes

But still, we were in the gondola and we were on our way to the slopes! The views were incredible. As people chatted around us, seemingly oblivious to the outside world, I stared in wonder as the splatterings of snow became denser and the mountain disappeared under a white cape.

Getting out was a little easier, and walking in the snow was actually much easier with those silly boots on. Maybe I would be alright after all. The bottom on the ski slopes were a melting pot of people, and bars, and ski schools and ski lifts. It was a lot to take in, and fascinating for a first time skier like me! It was like walking into a different world.

The Ski Lift Incident

There was a little time before my ski lesson started, so Adam took me to the tiny beginner slope so I could find my ski legs. He showed me how to put my skis into snow plough and gently ski (fall) down the slope. It seemed I could just put my skis in the right position, bend my knees and shut my eyes and I would end up at the bottom. Easy.

Until I realised I’d have to get back up.

Mountain views in the snow in Mayrhofen ski resort
Mountain views

There was a pully type contraction, with some ropes going round on a conveyor belt. You were somehow meant to grab hold of one of them and keep your skis in parallel as it dragged you up really fast. Adam went first to show me how it was done, and after missing several of these flying ropes I eventually grabbed hold of one. It pulled me at speed, my skis wrapped round each other and I fell face first into the snow.

As I sat there, getting walloped on the head by every passing rope, all I could think of was Bridget Jones. I was Bridget Jones. Sat on the floor in my bright pink helmet with my skis in a tangled mess on the floor and my boyfriend smiling sympathetically at what a mess I was.

After about five attempts to stand up I was finally back in the game. With no choice but to grab another rope, I tried to ignore the frustrated stares of the skiers below me, waiting for me to get out of their way.

First Time Ski Lesson

Watching the sunset from a ski mountain chalet
Watching the sunset from a mountain ski chalet

Adam’s advice was to take a one day private lesson rather than the full time half day group lessons that seemed more popular. It cost less money and I received a lesson tailored entirely to my needs.

Adam was very happy to spend his ski holiday pottering around the easier slopes with me, and occasionally going off on his own to do something more challenging. If you are with a more experienced skier that is keen to get the most from the runs available, then you’ll probably be better off taking morning lessons and skiing together in the afternoon.

Having my lesson on day 1 of my first time skiing experience meant that Adam could go off and explore the slopes alone-ticking off any black runs that he fancied and checking out some easier slopes that he thought I’d be able to manage.

We met my instructor for the day, a lovely Austrian boy who looked about 12, but radiated a laid back vibe that made me feel at ease. Adam told him to go easy on me, explaining it was my first time, before he disappeared into the crowds of skiers promising me he would be back to join me for lunch to find out how I was getting on.

Once Adam left I informed my instructor that I wanted to do a red run by the end of the day, to which he laughed, and then looked a little nervous. I was determined that I would be good at skiing as I knew it was a sport Adam loved. If I was going to have to do a lot of it, then I was going to have to get good fast.

My instructor patiently explained that red runs may be a little ambitious, but he would certainly see how I got on. We started on the beginner runs. My instructor taught me how to stop, how to ski down in snow plough and how to turn. He was patient and very understanding, and I didn’t feel any embarrassment at being an adult beginner. In fact, there were more adults on the beginner run than children (I soon learnt that children seemingly don’t need to learn to ski, they just whizz down fearless regardless of their ability!)

After an hour of wrestling with the weird ski lift, I was starting to feel a little more confident, and my instructor was obviously pleased with my progress too as he announced that we could move on to a blue run.

We spent the rest of the morning going down a long but fairly easy blue run over and over again. I got to know the tighter bends and the steeper sections and could navigate them with control. I was feeling pretty pleased with my progress, and shared my success with Adam over lunch.

In the afternoon my instructor took me on a more challenging blue run. There was a very steep section that terrified me, but we took it slowly and he reminded me that I could easily stop anytime I wanted. Which I did. Regularly.

On a big, open slope that was fairly quiet, he started to teach me to ski in parallel. I still have a long way to go, but it was great to have knowledge of the technique so that I could practice on the rest of my holiday.

It was nearing the end of the day. There was just enough time for a final run. A red run.

I was thrilled. My instructor was going to take me on a red run. And then I saw it. And I wasn’t thrilled at all. What on Earth had I done. It was too late to back out, as it would have meant going down the chair lift. I had to do it.

Sunset over the mountains of a ski resort
Final run of the day-I made it through my first time skiing experience

I stood at the top trying to suss out my plan of attack, as happy, careless people whizzed past me, zig zagging across the slope at ridiculous speeds. My instructor encouraged me onto the slope, and I quickly realised it wasn’t as steep as it looked. I could do this. I started to build up a little speed, trying out my parallel technique and growing ever more confident.

Until I came to a complete stop. The end of the run looked like a straight drop down. There was no way I could get down it! My instructor was ahead of me, and had stopped just below me when he realised I had lost my nerve. I contemplated going down on my bum. Then decided I would just have to go for it, and lose my dignity, and possibly a leg.

It must have been funny to watch, as I kind of half skied, half fell and half shuffled down the dreaded section, but I made it! And my leg made it too!

A beer was definitely deserved, and I had two for good measure. My first day skiing and I had learnt to ski in parallel (kind of) and tackled my first red run. It could only be up from here (or down, hopefully).

A Successful First Time Skiing Experience!

Now that I had mastered the gondola dance and could make it down a slope without falling over, the rest of the week only got easier. I had some incredible experiences, skiing in a white out where I couldn’t see the front of my skis, skiing into the sunset with the mountains forming the most amazing backdrop, watching snowboarders do tricks in the snow park and stopping at many little cabins for wine and cheese.

There were a few tense moments, when I got a little over ambitious with the red runs and had a few mid run panics, but luckily Adam was patient and talked me through how to get down safely.

The only time I had an actual full on embarrassing melt down was on the last day. I was exhausted from using strange muscles all week, from the pain in my feet and from countless bruises. We decided on some gentle, scenic blue runs that weaved in and out of the countryside and took us slowly back to resort. It was idyllic.

But then we reached a full stop. The blue run marker signs just disappeared and were replaced with red and back. There was no chair lift, and no other way down than to take a very steep looking red run. I was tired and out of confidence.

A snowboarder getting some rest on the mountains before tackling another ski run on my first time skiing experience
Taking a breather at the top of the ski slopes

I started out ok, snow ploughing my way down very slowly and trying not to think about the experienced skiers diving past me. Then we hit a patch of really bumpy and uneven snow, that I later found out are called moguls. Every time I tried to turn my skis ploughed right into them, got stuck and I was thrown forward.

After a particularly painful fall I refused to stand up and just sat and cried. We weren’t even half way down the slope and I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Adam gave me a hug and dusted me off. He bum shuffled with me to the side of the slopes and bum shuffled down with me to the bottom. I had a few bruises (most of them being my pride) but other than that I was fine, and managed to enjoy the rest of the blue run into the sunset.

Apres Ski

The actual reason everyone loves skiing. The bars that become sweaty, heaving messes after the ski slopes close. Many people don’t seem to make it back to their hotels to change, and that seems to be absolutely fine by the staff. There is no dress code here! I can only think that people drink enough to help them forget about the pain from their ski boots!

Everyone has a shared interest, as everyone is there for a ski holiday, so it’s easy to strike up conversation and after a good day on the slopes everyone is in a great mood. There is an atmosphere like no other I have experienced, so for your first time ski experience you should definitely try and gather the energy to make it out of the hotel spa for evening drinks.

What If You Don’t Drink?

You don’t need to be out partying every night, in a ski resort there are plenty of other things to do in the evening.

For starters (and main, and desert), the food in the mountains is incredible. Our budget hotel included dinner, and every night we were served a five course meal or treated to a delicious buffet. Dinner time took hours!

Most hotels come with their own spa, and if they don’t there is often spa access included in your ski pass, or offered at a reduced rate. There is nothing better than unwinding in a sauna after a day out skiing, and we made full use of the spa attached to our hotel.

The shops stayed open till late, so if you haven’t spent enough money already then you could treat yourself to a shopping spree. There was also live music and various different ‘shows’ being advertised around town. It really is a hub of evening activity and there is no way you could be bored in a ski town.

Did My First Time Skiing Experience Put Me Off For Life?

All smiles from a couple on their first time skiing experience in the mountains
All smiles for my first time skiing experience

So with our relationship still intact, a new skill learnt and many incredible memories, I can honestly say I am hooked. My first time skiing experience was one of the best experiences I have ever had and I cannot wait to get back on the slopes. Maybe one day I’ll even make it down a black run! But first, I’m getting some fitted ski boots so I can feel my feet while I ski!

Two years later and we’re back on the slopes. Find out more about our skiing adventures in some of our articles below, and let us know about your first time skiing experience in the comments (don’t make me feel too useless with stories of how you picked it up first time!)

skiing on a budget
living in the mountains
ski trip packing list

2 thoughts on “First Time Skiing Experience: What To Expect”

  1. Pingback: Living In The Mountains - The Highs And The Lows | Two Get Lost

  2. Pingback: Best Ski Resorts in Austria – Holidays to Europe

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