Are you excited to plan a ski trip? If this is your first time skiing? We have you covered!
This skiing for beginners guide will provide you with all the information you need to prepare for and plan a ski trip. As a bonus, you will get a packing-for-a-ski- trip checklist to help you know exactly what to bring. (keep reading)
The following information is designed for beginner skiers. Let’s explore all of your options and plan an amazing ski trip.
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Ski Gear you Need Before your Trip
There are a few things you may not think of to pack listed below, the rest of the packing list is available in my ski checklist that I will email to you.
- Hand/Foot Warmers
- Water Proof Phone Case
- Tall Socks
Make sure to get a copy of my compete ski checklist for packing. This list will help you make sure you do not forget anything!
I also have a “What to wear skiing post” this will help you know what you need.
Decide the Location of Your Ski Trip
Deciding the location is the first step to plan a ski trip. There are some amazing resorts in the USA. This post will exclusively focus on the US.
There are a lot of factors that play into deciding a ski trip location. For a first time ski trip, I would recommend going somewhere close to your home. If you live on or near the east coast, there are options in the northeast. Same goes for the Midwest.
If there is not a ski resort nearby then you might as well fly out to the Rocky Mountains and enjoy the best skiing in the United States. Colorado claims to be the #1 ski destination in North American, but Utah has the greatest snow on earth, so planning a Salt Lake City Ski Trip might be a better option. It is up to you!
How Long Should I Plan a Ski Trip For?
To make the best decision on location, determining the length of your trip is essential. If you are planning for a week or two of skiing, I definitely recommend going out west.
We live in Utah, and know individuals that have moved out to Utah specifically to ski the powder or groomed trails as a preference to the what are known as icier runs out east. And my husband being from northern Illinois and skiing in the Midwest, was blown away to see the mountains out west.
I think you can’t lose either way between Utah and Colorado, they both have great resorts. Wyoming, Montana, and Nevada have some great resorts as well. There are great “skiing for beginners” resorts in all these locations.
Utah Ski Resorts
In Utah, there are a number of resorts very close to Salt Lake City and the international airport. It is about 30 minutes to Park City from the airport.
There are plenty of lodging options in Park City if you want either a hotel or lodge experience. You can quickly access Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain.
If you are still in or near Salt Lake City, you can still access the Park City resorts quickly, and also can get to four other major ski areas quickly: Brighton, Solitude, Alta, and Snowbird. But just be aware that Alta is currently ski only.
Colorado Ski Resorts
Colorado also has 27 different resorts to choose from. I have skied at Cooper, Copper, Keystone, and Breckenridge. Most of the resorts are 1.5 to 2 hours away from Denver.
Vail is a primer ski resort in Colorado and has great lodging and shopping.
Once you have chosen your ski resort location the next step is to purchase your tickets.
There are a few options to choose when purchasing ski lift tickets. You can buy tickets ahead of time on the resort website, at the gate, or purchase through a 3rd party. Let’s explore these options.
Should I Buy Ski Lift Tickets on the Resort Website or at the Gate?
Buying ski lift tickets on the website ahead of time will usually save you quite a bit of money. At big resorts such a Park City Resort in Utah, it can save you up to $30-$40 per lift ticket.
Some resorts do not charge a huge fee to buy your tickets once you arrive but I have seen some resorts be almost $20-30 more at the gate.
I would check ahead on the resort’s website to see what option is best for you.
There are a few options for getting discounted ski lift tickets. Let’s explore some of your options.
Liftopia is a great option for getting discount tickets. If Liftopia sells tickets to the resort you want to go to, it will be a great option to save money. The earlier you buy your tickets the more you will save with Liftopia.
Most premier ski resorts are not included on Liftopia.
Regardless if you purchase your tickets on the website or somewhere else you will need to reserve your day as part of the COVID-19 measures put into place.
Costco seasonally sells discount lift tickets for ski resorts. These ticket will normally be multi-day tickets.
Local Ski Shops
Most local ski shops will have discount tickets available. Always check to make sure you are getting the best deal. Also, gas stations sometimes have 2-for-1 deals.
I know a lot more deals in Utah if you are interested join the Facebook Group and ask! (that is the easiest way to get in contact with me)
Discount Ski Tickets For Kids
If you have a 5th or 6th grader, you can buy a special discounted ticket which will allow them to visit every resort in Utah or Colorado 2 times that year. Plus, when you purchase the pass you are given a coupon book for amazing deals on gear and ski rentals. (this promotion is open for all US residents)
If you are a resident of Utah or Colorado, children, kindergarten through 5th grade, can apply for a Epic Kids Pass. This pass gives one free lesson and 5 days to ride. (You have to apply in the summer or early fall to get it.)
Here’s another kids’ perk. Brighton Ski Resort in Utah has a “kids ski free” with paying adult option. Brighton is a great place for to go and makes the “skiing for beginners” top choice in Utah.
There are a few options for ski rentals.
Onsite Ski Rentals
Ski resorts will have a ski rental facility on site. We have rented skis many times from the resorts themselves and it has been great.
Advantages: It is easy to pick up and drop off your skis.
Disadvantages: The lines tend to be long during busier times.
Off Site Ski Rentals
Another option is to visit a ski shop before hitting the mountain. This option has worked for us in the past.
Advantages: Shorter lines, cheaper prices
Disadvantages: Loading skis in car and dragging them to the resort.
Are Ski Rental Ski’s Good?
What I found is the ski resorts have pretty nice skis. Plus, as you rent your skis you will be measured and fitted so your skis will fit you properly. If your skis are not adjusted just right they can pop off easily or not come off if you fall and you could injure yourself.
How Much Time Should I Plan to Rent Skis?
I would plan an hour to get fitted for skis. Maybe you will get lucky and there will not be a line. Hopefully, you could get in and out fast. I always say plan for a wait and then you won’t be disappointed.
You might want to rent your skis ahead of time so you can be ready to hit the slopes on your first day. They only thing is it may cost you a little more money to do that if you have to pay for an extra day? (that just depends on the ski rental site)
The good thing is once you get the equipment, you can use it for your entire trip.
Should I Go to Ski School?
Yes, yes, and yes! If this is your first time skiing you need to take a lesson. Otherwise, you will not have fun your entire trip. Let’s go over the different types of lessons and I will recommend some options for you.
What Types of Ski Lessons are There?
- Full day
- Half day
Group lessons are perfect for kids and teens. They can range from full day or half day. The younger your kids, are the longer they will need lessons. I would say 9 and under could benefit from 3 days of ski school. If you are 10 and up one day is probably enough.
The key is to keep at it! There is a steep learning curve, but once you get the knack of skiing, it becomes so much more fun.
Please note: Because of Covid-19 group ski lesson’s are not being given to children under 7 in the 20202-2021 season at a lot of resorts in Utah. Private lessons are available.
If you have a little one or a child that needs more one-on-one attention, a private lesson is great. We did this for our 3 year old and it was perfect.
Lessons are not just for kids. Adult lessons are just as important as kid lessons. The benefit is that your coordination is developed so that should help you progress a little faster. I promise you will thank yourself later for including a lesson.
The instructors are amazing. They help you feel confident, and teach you how to balance, stop, and get on and off the lifts. It is well worth the investment.
For younger children all-day lessons are worth it. They give you your own time to master your skills before picking up the littles. Once you pick them up, you can do a few runs with them on the bunny hill. It’s good for them to know they can ski without the instructor right there.
It is important to remember that tipping ski instructors is expected. $20 for a group lesson and $50 for a private lesson. Or you could use a range of 10%-20%. This is the norm.
If this is your first time skiing, we need to add some new vocabulary words in your bank.
Green Slopes (often indicated by a green circle)
A green slope is an easy slope. This is probably the ones you need to stick with as a beginner skier.
Blue Slopes (often indicated by a blue square)
Blue runs have intermediate slopes. If you have been skiing a few days and start to feel confident, you can probably handle a blue slope.
These trails are hard! They are meant for people who have been skiing a long time. I have skied since I was 10 and still do not do very many black diamonds.
Double Black Diamond
These trails are for the professionals or daredevils.
My experience has been solely in the Rocky Mountains. With that said I have heard that east coast ski resorts are not as steep and the slopes are not as long so you may be able to do a harder trail out east.
Okay, word to the wise. Check to see what slopes each ski lift takes you to. My husband told me of a time growing up that his dad took him and his brother to Utah, and coaxed them to going on a ski lift that looked like it only led to black diamonds. Despite assurances from his dad that there must be other ways down, the runs were all black diamonds, and on some stretches they had to traverse double black diamonds.
A terrain park is a designated area of a ski resort for tricks. It looks like a skate board park on the slopes.
There are a few different options for ski lifts. Let’s learn all about them!
Tow Rope or Magic Carpet
2-8 Person Lift
A chair lift is what you probably imagine when you think of ski lifts. These lifts have you sit comfortably as you ride to the top of the mountain. Most lifts have a bar that comes down after you sit on the lift. The bar not only protects you but allows you to rest your skis.
Not all chair lifts are created equally. You will find that some are high powered and some are very slow. It might take you 10 minutes to reach your destination while others can take up to 45 minutes.
Gondola and Trams
A gondola or tram lift are enclosed compartments, which will keep you nice and warm. You usually don’t wear your skis on these. Usually these take you all the way to the top of the mountain; and cost extra money.
Is Riding a Ski Lift Scary?
Maybe you are a little afraid of heights. I know I am! But I do pretty well on ski lifts. I like the bar because it makes me feel safe.
As long as you don’t do anything stupid, you will be fine.
How Do I Get On and Off the Ski Lift?
This is one of the most important things you will learn at ski school.
Getting on the Lift
At nicer resorts, your ticket will have a electronic code that will allow a gate to open. If you are at an older resort you may have a ticket attached to you coat. The attendant will check it and allow you to go on.
Once you pass through the gate, there is a line that you enter. An attendant will have you move forward to a specific spot. You will look behind and wait for the ski lift to come to you, as it does you will sit down and pull the bar down.
Don’t rush. The operator can slow down the lift if needed.
Getting off the Lift!
Getting on is easy! Getting off is the more difficult part. As you approach the end. There will be a sign to let you know when to lift up your bar.
I always point my skis up at a slight diagonal, come to the edge of my chair and as my feet touch the ground push off . There is a small hill at the end of the lift that will allow you to use gravity to exit.
Balance is important and many people fall. But that is okay; this happens all the time, and the operator can slow or stop the lift as needed.
Tips for your Skiing For Beginners on Your First Ski Trip
Get a Map
Some resorts are so big you will want a trail map so that you can plan your way down the mountain.
Protect Your Phone
I have had trouble in the past with my phone getting so cold it just turned off. Newer phones may be better, but just be aware that this could happen.
Plan a Meeting Spot
If you are separated from your group make sure to set up a designated time to meet. Some resorts are so large you will want to have a dedicated place before you hit the slopes.
Be Prepared to Be Tired
Skiing is exercise! You will use muscle groups you never knew existed. You don’t even realize you are sweating because the weather is cold.
‘Make sure to bring granola bars or other treats you can put in your jacket. This will help give you the boost you need.
There should be one or more lodges to eat at but bringing snacks on the lifts can fuel your body so you are ready to ski.
Take a Break
The ski lodge is a great place to rest. When you get in a lodge grab something to eat and get warm. The yummy food and warm room may make you want to rest for longer than you plan. But make sure to get back out there!
You Will Fall
It is totally normal to fall. Most first time skiers will spend most of the day on the ground trying to get up! Don’t let this discourage you. It is part of the learning process!
Don’t be afraid to fall! This may surprise you, but it is actually really easy to go straight down the mountain without stopping. This especially happens to beginners that do not enroll in a ski lesson.
As you gain speed, you fear falling more and more, and then you gain even more speed. Just go slow! Nice wide turns and nice slow falls make a great combination.
Don’t Give Up
Look around and watch everyone ski down the hill. If they can do it so can you! The first couple of days are going to be hard. It really is on day 3 that your body will start to click and you will start to have fun.
Stay Warm Make sure you have layers. Warm socks, a warm jacket, and a nice hat and gloves are a must for winter skiing. Be prepared to have a face covering, and foot and hand warmers.
Be aware that the weather at the top of the mountain can be much colder than at the base.
Skiing is a lot of fun but it takes a lot of work. Most likely you will have to practice, practice, practice! Skiing is a skill that you can learn, but do not expect to know how to do everything all at once.
The Best tip in our “Skiing for Beginners” Guide is to plan to ski at least 3 days. It takes that long to get the hang of it.
Are you Ready for your First Ski Trip?
I hope this helps you feel a little more confident as you plan your first ski trip. You are going to have so much fun! Hopefully, this “skiing for beginners guide” will help you be prepared for your trip.
If you need help deciding where to ski I have a “Top Ski Resorts in the USA“ post.
If you have any question when planning your trip come join me in my private Facebook Group.
This group is a place where you can ask any question about your upcoming trip and help others plan their trips. It is also a place where I put travel deals.