The last time I went skiing was about three years ago with Cosmos Holidays. I was on a press trip at the time and I was one of two journalists who hadn't ever skied a black run.
All the others were pros. Well, semi-pros. How did I know this? Well, firstly they used terminology that I'd have to translate using some sort of ski dictionary, and secondly some of them paid extra to have extra long skis – to make them go faster apparently. Talk about feeling like an amateur…little old me with my bum bag and my mum's Salopettes!
But don't get me wrong. I knew how to ski; years of annual ski holidays as a kid meant that I was a pretty dab hand on the slopes, but I just couldn't tackle the black runs – not yet anyway. Plus – and the big factor here – I hadn't been skiing in years, so I didn't know how quickly I would pick it up again – if at all.
To cut a long story short, I needn't have worried. I discovered that skiing is very much like riding a bike; once you've learnt the skill it is ingrained somewhere deep within the grey matter – and I was delighted to be back on the slopes whizzing along as fast as my skis would carry me.
However, after a day's skiing and without falling over once, I got a bit too big for my boots and started showing off on the slopes by tackling a mini jump. I landed flat on my face and I couldn't even style out the fall!
As it was on a steep slope at the time it meant that I had to endure ‘snow face' (me face down in the snow sliding down the slope) for what seemed like minutes! It was probably just a few seconds, but it gave my fellow journalists a good old laugh. Good job the snow was cold enough to cool down my burning red face when I got to my feet, that's all I can say.
So not being entirely prepared for my ski trip got me thinking; there are other considerations to take into account too. Cue the idea for this post! So here's what to consider (apart from your après ski outfits) when going skiing:
Where to go skiing (and when!)
Get the resort wrong – and it could spoil the whole holiday, so make sure you do your research to find out the most suitable destination depending on what you're looking for.
As a rule of thumb, if it's hardcore skiing with access to the best slopes on and off piste, then you won't go far wrong looking at destinations such as the Austrian and French Alps – or even to Utah, Colorado, the South Island of New Zealand and Japan.
However, if you're seeking a more family-friendly experience – or more of a social scene to complement the skiing, then you'll find plenty to do in the large resorts in the Alps in Europe and the Rocky Mountains in states like Colorado in the USA. Do you research on the tour operator too, as many of them offer kids' clubs and activities, meaning that your time is freed up to concentrate on your own skiing.
And if you manage to escape the kids and want an adventure of your own, then it goes without saying to avoid the European ski resorts during the school holidays. Think about heading off in January and February – or before the spring and Easter holidays start. The same goes for the USA, while the ski season in New Zealand runs from June to August.
When I went skiing again a few years ago I wasn't in the best physical shape (I'm still not if I'm brutally honest!), but I reckon if I had worked on my fitness prior to the trip, I just might have been able to keep up with the group a bit more (I always seemed to be back of the group, with them having to wait for me!)
The other consideration is that because you'll be exercising at higher altitudes than what you are used to, there's less oxygen in the air, which means that your body is working harder than it normally would – and I wondered why I was out of breath so quickly when I went!
It's not a bad idea to also do some regular specific exercises to strengthen areas like your quadriceps and your outer and inner thighs. Trust me – after one day of skiing all day, you'll be feeling the burn big time the next day! Oh and did I mention day 2 of the burn is worst than day 1?
If you feel that you might be a bit rusty on the slopes (or if you've never been skiing before), it will help massively to squeeze in a few ski lessons before you go, as skiing incorrectly will lead to injury.
Get covered – and I don't mean in snow!
You'll also want to ensure you've got adequate travel and medical insurance. Amazingly, a recent study by Safe.co.uk revealed that 20% of Brits (and 50% of Londoners) go on holiday without insurance.
It makes complete sense to get travel insurance as it offers peace of mind. Not only that, but by taking out insurance before you go travelling, you are also likely to be covered if anything goes wrong before you travel – it might be an unexpected illness, a natural disaster in that part of the world you're travelling to – or even something unexpected like the Ryanair flight cuts that we've seen in the media recently, leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded.
Being covered will mean you are more likely to get your holiday woes sorted out quickly, before it ends up being a pain in the proverbial.
Double check that your insurance covers you adequately for all types of winter sports activities that you'll be taking part in! You never know when you'll be agreeing to a spot of naked night skiing if you've had one too many to drink. Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea!
If in doubt, it might be useful to go through an insurance broker who specialises in medical travel insurance such as medicaltravelinsurance.co.uk. It will keep your mind at rest and will allow you to get out and enjoy the skiing – and the après ski!
Get the right gear
You're probably wondering what gear you should take with you, so here's a quick check-list of all ski-related clothing and accessories you'll want to make sure you have.
- Sunglasses or goggles
- At least 2 pairs of gloves (they tend to get wet quickly!) so preferably waterproof!
- A hat!
- Thermal tops – a couple
- Thermal leggings – a couple
- A waterproof jacket
- A fleece
- A waterproof ski jacket
- Waterproof ski trousers
- A few pairs of warm ski socks
- A ski bag/bum bag to keep your valuables in – if it's waterproof even better!
You might find, like I did, that I would sweat quite a bit while skiing – and you're probably going to feel quite hot for most of the day.
However, when you stop for lunch or a well deserved drink, that's when you'll start to feel how cold it can be up a mountain. So the best advice that I can give you is to wear layers that you can remove/put on according to your temperature. Oh, and don't eat yellow snow 😉
Have you ever been skiing – and do you have any top tips to pass on? I think I'm going again in April (fingers crossed!)
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