First time skiing? Don’t know what to pack? Don’t worry, we’ve got everything you need to make sure you’re properly suited and booted and ready to hit those slopes! Here at ActivityBreaks.com we often get first time skiers asking what they should pack for their first ski break, so we put together this handy checklist for anyone who needs it:
Starting from the bottom layer and working outwards:
If you are going skiing in January and have never been before, invest in a pair of long johns to stop you freezing on the nursery slope. If you are going in the spring you can skip this layer as temperatures are generally above zero.
Ski socks keep your feet warm and provide some welcome padding against rigid ski boots, stick a couple of pairs in your luggage for the week.
T-shirt / under layer - always good to have lots of layers that you can peel off or add on according to the weather.
Mid layer - ideally something loose and comfortable for ease of movement, choose something fairly lightweight and not too bulky that wicks away moisture for comfort all day long, like a microfleece.
Ski jacket and trousers - every year we see a beginner on the slopes wearing jeans and looking very uncomfortable - big no-no! If you don't want to fork out for expensive ski wear on your first outing (and who could blame you), then try asking around to borrow some, or find out if it is available to hire in resort (many resorts now offer this service, but do double check before you go). Alternatively try heading to Decathlon for some cheap gear.
Time to think about the extremities...
Gloves - always take these, even if going in the spring, you never know when the weather may change. If you are someone who feels the cold invest in a good thick pair (mittens are supposed to be even warmer). You can also find glove liners for an extra layer. Don't wear wool gloves, make sure they are especially for skiing as they will keep you warm and dry. Cheap ski gloves are not hard to find but do be aware that you get what you pay for.
Hat vs helmet. Helmets are now a very common sight on the slopes and are generally compulsory for children under 14. Don't buy one, hire one when you pick up your gear. Stick a hat in your pocket for when you stop for a vin chaud or hot chocolate.
Goggles vs sunglasses. You will need one of the two to prevent the glare from the sun on the snow damaging your eyes. Goggles for cold, snowy conditions (and if like me your eyes water when you exceed walking pace), sunglasses for warm, sunny conditions. Orange lenses for low-light, mirrored lenses for sunny days.
Sun cream - Essential. The sun is so strong in the mountains and even more so in winter as it is reflected off the snow. Apply liberally before hitting the slopes and stick it in your pocket to reapply regularly during the day, even if its not that sunny. We see so many people wandering around with beetroot faces and sunglass/goggle marks for the rest of their holiday. Sunburn is unsightly and embarrassing, but also painful and dangerous, best to avoid.
Off the slopes
With all this to remember, it’s easy to forget about your clothing choice off the slopes. Just pack warm, casual clothes like jeans and jumpers (not too many, you'll only be wearing them in the evening!), but ensure you pack some sensible waterproof footwear, like boots with a good grip.
Hire this in resort, if you are booking a package holiday it is often included, or available as an optional extra.
Skis, boots and poles
Ski boots easily attach to skis via the binding mounted onto the skis. They release in case of fall to lessen the likelihood of injury, or you can easily press on to the back of your binding with your pole to release the binding when you want to remove your skis.
The ski technician will ask you your skill level (which determines the type of skis you will be given, don't tell them you are better than you are, you will have a harder time on skis meant for more experienced skiers).
They will then ask your height and weight; accuracy is important as they use this to determine your binding release setting for your boots, if this is set wrongly your binding might release too easily, or not at all, which is dangerous both to you and other skiers near you.
You will try on the boots to make sure they fit, don't hesitate to speak up if they don't, you'll only hobble back to the hire shop the next day to change them.
Skis usually come up to the tip of your nose when measured vertically against you, if they are longer they are harder to control, so make sure this is right. Poles will be measured with your arm bent at a right angle with your elbow by your side; too long and they are awkward and dangerous, too short and they are basically useless.
Snowboard and boots
As you may have seen, snowboard boots are like big soft trainers, much more comfortable looking (and feeling!) than ski rigid boots. See above regarding fit.
The snowboard should come up to your chin when measured against you. Make sure it is in reasonably good condition and that there are no deep gouges in the base from rocks and stones.
Without the pass you won’t be able to ride the ski lift up the mountain! Make sure to keep it safe and don't lose it otherwise you'll need to fork out for another one and they are rather expensive! Most ski resorts now use electronic key cards that you keep in your pocket, so you just need to leave it there and you shouldn't misplace it. To be on the safe side write down the long serial number on the card or take a photo of it on your phone, in which case you can head to the lift pass office, cancel the one you have lost and get a new one issued free of charge (minus the key card deposit).
You will need to pay a € 5 deposit when you pick up your ski pass, which you will get back when you return it to the lift pass office after your last run down.
Some resorts require photo id (especially for concessions like juniors), so you will either need to go to the lift pass office and have your photo taken at the counter, or else take everyone's passports to the counter so they can take photos of those.
Winter travel insurance
Make sure you have travel insurance that covers winter sports, as well as a valid EHIC (ex. E11 card) if travelling in Europe. If you need further info, we have put together a good guide to the basics. Some countries like Italy require all skiers to have personal liability insurance, so make sure this is included in your winter sports cover.
If the worst does happen and you are injured on the slopes, make sure that you are taken to a hospital that accepts the EHIC, otherwise you could be taken to a private medical centre and have to pay up front to claim back on your insurance later. Which brings us on to our last point...
Everyone has to start somewhere… Before heading out all guns blazing, we think it’s best to get some practice in first. There are loads of indoor ski slopes and dry slopes in the UK where qualified instructors can help you get to grips with the basic concepts. One or two lessons at an artificial slope should be enough to let you get the feel for it before booking a ski holiday, but don't leave it at that!
EVERYONE, not just beginners, should take lessons when they go on a ski holiday. It takes a lifetime to pick up good technique, especially if you are going just one week a year, and no time at all to settle in to bad habits. If you're going to spend all that money on skiing, it makes sense to spend just a little more and make sure you get the most out of your week on the slopes. Make sure to learn and maintain good form, your knees will thank you for it!
Make sure you find time for some pre-trip ski fitness preparation too. This will help enormously as skiing uses all sorts of muscles that don't usually get a workout.
So there you have it, our pretty exhaustive checklist for first time skiers. If you have any questions or comments, just leave a message below or drop us a line!