I've never skied before, but I'd like to try it out.

  • What sort of gear should I buy (as opposed to renting) before hand?
  • What would be a good strategy to learn to ski?
  • Cross country or downhill skiing? They're drastically different in terms of style, location, gear, and a lot of other factors.
    – nhinkle
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 7:38
  • I wouldn't try changing this now, but this would have worked much better as two questions. Both parts are really quite different
    – Casebash
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 8:54
  • @nibot Assuming you mean downhill skiing, you need: water proof (Gortex) pants, warm gloves, and a warm coat. Rent your skis, boots, and poles until you know more about skiing. (Wool socks would be a plus.) Strategy: do NOT learn the "pizza and french fries" method, just learn to carve (turn regularly to slow your speed). Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 17:16

7 Answers 7


Skiing is a sport where taking lessons pays off very quickly. Skiing is not an inexpensive sport: a lift ticket, lessons and rentals will cost you several hundred, but if you set aside about 3-5 days, with half day lessons for at least 3 days you should be pretty satisfied that you've cover all of the basics and evolved beyond the basic snow-plow.

If you can afford the luxury of having a private instructor I'd recommend it, but you're just as well off with small groups of 2-3, and it gives you a chance to rest a bit more and compare your progress to others.

Buy a pair of goggles. If you wear glasses then get a pair that work with glasses. Wear proper snow pants/ski pants, anything else and you'll suffer for no good reason. You want pants with a bib (e.g. goes above your waist and uses shoulder straps) or else you'll get snow up your shirt and down your pants. Bring something to cover your face, preferable not a scarf. A turtleneck or mock turtleneck works in a pinch, but a neoprene face mask is considered the gold standard. If you wear a scarf be sure to tuck in the ends so they don't get caught in the chair lift. If it's going to be sunny put on some sunscreen, especially on your nose, cheeks and lips.

Avoid skiing if it's below -20c, snow starts to feel like styrofoam and loses it's glide, and you're more likely to catch frostbite or just be darn uncomfortable.

Understand that the first time you go skiing they will take you on the "bunny slope" a run mostly for 2-6 year olds. Don't be embarrassed, and don't be afraid. You won't get hurt and the instructor will teach you basic techniques like edging up ( a way to move uphill to retrieve your lost poles) and snow-plowing (a way to turn by applying friction to the edge of one ski, causing the other ski to advance and forcing the body to turn), how to stop, how to fall, how to get up, and how to get in and out of your skis.

Then you'll practice the same on longer and eventually steeper runs, and become familiar with the chair-lift/gondola, and eventually learn how to keep your skis parallel and learn how to turn by shifting your weight from the inside ski to the outside ski.

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    And don't buy skis and boots until you've rented and tried it a few times.
    – furtive
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 3:50
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    I would recommend a helmet too. Here in Canada pretty much everyone wears a helmet.
    – alanh
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 20:40

Every ski resort gives lessons, and that's how you should begin.

You can rent skis, and they will help you get them on, etc.

Dress in clothes you would wear to go sledding. Remember that you work hard, get wet, then sit still. Layers, of wool and acrylic will keep you warm when wet and let you adjust as needed. Cotton makes you cold when wet, so avoid that, especially on you innermost layer. If you have a waterproof outer layer, that helps.

Cover as much skin as possible: hat, gloves. Ski goggles are good but you can buy one after the first class if you like skiing.

Having strong legs helps.


Learn to inline skate/rollerblade. Seriously, learn to rollerblade first.

Many techniques that you apply to roller blading also apply to skiing, the two activities are very similar, all that varies really is the surface. I roller bladed for a number of years before I first learned to ski, and my ski instructor said that roller blading can help pick up skiing more quickly and easier.

This has a lot of advantages:

  • you can learn in warm weather
  • you can learn anywhere, not just where snow is
  • you can master the techniques needed for both inline skating and skiing in a more controlled environment, such as a parking lot or sidewalk
  • you can also see if it might be a sport that you would be interested in.

If you like inline skating, give skiing a try. It's a lot of fun! :)

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    This is sort of the way I improved my snowboarding - on ice/hard snow it feels very like skateboarding, and on powder it feels very like surfing, so during the summer months I could very cheaply improve my flow and feel for the movements before the expensive and short winter season
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 10:26
  • Inline skating is very similar to ice skating - traveling in a straight line is easy; sliding sideways is hard. Sills from one transfer well to the other. However, it's easy for skis to slide sideways, and it's an important part of the sport. Inline skating doesn't teach you to ski. (But the leg strength and balance are skill helpful.)
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 22:11
  • 4
    I'd say ice skating is more similar than rollerblading, since it teaches you how to use edges. I had a few years of hockey under my belt when I started learning how to ski and I picked it up very quickly. But both are great since they're less expensive ways to cross train and pick up the fundamentals. Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 5:49

It is so important to enjoy your first experience make sure you are warm, comfortable and confident.

What Gear? Skiing is unique in that it involves periods of warm sweaty exercise followed by periods of cold dormant lift rides, so its all about layering, waterproof and breathable. When you are starting out you don't need to buy loads of 'Ski Specific' clothing. A layered approach is useful and adaptable to all sorts of outdoor activities.

  • Get a good base layer like a merino wool, you can use these for all sort of sports. They're comfy, non scratch and wick away the moisture next to the skin to keep you warm. Many are now styled to look like tee shirts and polos so you don't look like you're wearing your pyjamas. Also odourless (apparently)
  • Get a good waterproof, breathable shell with vents. Again useful for all outdoor activities so not a one-off for skiing.
  • A warm second layer with full zip for easy ventilation control.
  • Ski trousers are one of the only clothing specifics but there are often ways around this. Some resorts will rent clothing, borrow from friends or buy cheap from auction sites and so on. Again look for similar features. Waterproof, breathable, with vents are ideal.
  • Ski Socks: Contrary to popular belief thick socks do not necessarily mean warm feet in skiing. Wear one pair of comfortable plain long socks, not too thick or ribbed. Ski socks are perfect and again we love the merino if you can justify the extra cost.

Eyewear: This depends on the weather, but we suggest ski goggles. Again you can pick these up fairly cheap on auction sites if necessary. With sunglasses a polarised lens is worthwhile due to reflected light bouncing off the snow. Sunburnt eyes feel like someone has tipped sand into your eyes. Not fun. So again good eyewear is important for all outdoor pursuits.

Hardwear: You're probably best renting for a start to see if you get the buzz. If you do then we suggest your first purchase is a professionally fitted pair of ski boots. Happy feet, happy skiing.

What Strategy? We recommend getting professional instruction when you are starting out. They should give you a safe, enjoyable introduction into the sport and set you off on the right path to progressing. Unlearning bad habits in the future can be difficult. Get the basics right from the start and everything else will fall into place much easier.

Skiing can be quite intimidating there are so many new experiences and sensations. So it's important to have a basic understanding before you even get on skis. That way you'll be safer, there'll be less surprises allowing you to be more confident and learn faster.

How to Ski beginner lessons on YouTube will give you a strong understanding of the concepts, movements and what to expect before you even get to the slopes. It starts at the very beginning and also includes simple tips like:

  • How to put ski boots on
  • How to walk on snow in ski boots
  • How to carry skis safely
  • An intro to the skis, brakes and more


They're designed to complement lessons with an instructor because there is nothing like hands on advice especially in the early days.

Make every effort to ensure your first experience is a good one and have a great trip.

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    Not sure why the downvotes here; this is a fairly thorough and well-organized answer.
    – requiem
    Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 3:26
  • +1, I would also specify having a helmet in the hardware section, either rented or bought, since one is likely to fall a lot during the first few times skiing.
    – Felix
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 21:07

The following is something which could help prevent a knee injury, though you shouldn't be put off trying skiing in spite of it.

In the case of alpine/downhill skis, once you have them in hand, rented or bought, the bindings will have been adjusted to release your boot(s) at a pre-determined torsional force, to save your legs from injury.

In Europe this is performed according to a published standard. Customers provide their age, height, weight, ability-level and the length of their ski boot, resulting in a calculated "DIN" or "Z" number. (Charts and calculators abound on the Internet for reference, eg: dinsetting.com.)

In the event of an incorrect fall, the store-set Z-number ensures that your boot will be released before your tibia breaks, but perhaps not before knee ligaments are injured. I and some recreational skiers I know choose to reduce our Z-numbers so that the boot is released well before this point, ideally before ligaments can be injured.

Eg: for a calculated Z-number of 6, one could reduce to perhaps 3.5 or 4 and be okay on medium-steepness slopes (much of the mountain). Too low and the boot will release when skiing normally, which is also undesirable. Never set above your correctly-calculated value.

To adjust the binding Z-number, without the boot engaged, turn each of the large screws at the front and rear of the bindings, and observe the Z-number indicator moving accordingly. Initially, set front and rear of both skis to a lower number. If you pop-out prematurely, increment front and rear of both skis by 0.5 (always set F&R of both skis to the same value). Many ski resorts provide sets of screwdrivers at bottom or top lift-stations.


Have a look to see if there's a dry slope skiing centre near you - that might be your best option (especially if, like here, the amount of snow you get on a regular basis varies from none to none!)

They'll be able to give you advise on lessons and you should be able to rent all your equipment to start with until you decide you definitely want to continue - from then on you can make informed choices based on what you've been using thus far.

  • What's a "dry slope skiing centre" ?
    – nibot
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 0:42
  • It's a centre that has a man-made synthetic ski slope - not the same as real snow but it's there all year round!
    – berry120
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 1:23
  • "synthetic ski slope" - but still made out of frozen water, I assume? Or not?
    – nibot
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 9:25
  • @nibot Nope, it's a synthetic nylon type material - no water / real snow involved. From what I've heard it's actually harder than real snow, so if you learn on there the real thing should seem like a breeze ;)
    – berry120
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 12:33
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    Or you could just use a real ski hill.
    – furtive
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 19:07

Skiing is a gear sport and it is expensive, but it doesn't have to be nearly as expensive to start as many of these posts suggest. If you're going to spend money, spend it on lessons first. If you've got the clothes to go for a walk on a winter day, you've got all the clothes you need for your first few ski days.

I'd suggest starting as late in the ski season as possible. The weather will be warm and the conditions will be soft. The snow will be wet, but you don't need to spend $300 on special ski pants. If it's nice and sunny, in the spring even just a fleece pullover will be fine.

You can often rent ski bibs where you rent the skis. Or you can just ski in jeans and long underwear. When you get wet and cold, go into the lodge. You are unlikely to have the ski specific strength anyway to last more than a few hours to start with. I'd also highly recommend renting a helmet as well. As a beginner you aren't going to be skiing fast enough to need googles unless it's snowing. Sunglasses will work just fine.

Keeping the hands warm and comfortable is important, but again you don't need to break the bank. Many professional ski patrollers use cheap winter work gloves. It's much better to have two pairs of gloves, than a single pair of expensive gloves.


There is definitely a time and place where all that expensive clothing makes a big difference, but it's not the first few times out. Get your feet wet, decide if you are willing to put in the work to learn to ski and then spending money makes sense.

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