Learn How to Ski: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Ski instructor displays correct technique to carry skis

Join two-time Italian national ski champion and Val d’Isere-based SkiBro instructor, Danilo R, as he shows you how to get to grips with the mountain.

The Top Ten Ski Tips You Need to Know BEFORE You Hit the Slopes

There are tons of reasons to take up skiing: it’s fantastic exercise, a great way to bond with your family and friends, meet new people, enjoy the majesty of nature, and – most importantly – have a lot of fun.

We know that learning to ski can seem daunting but there’s no reason to be afraid of skiing – there are a lot of skills you can start to pick up before you even get to the mountains.

In this video of the top ten tips for beginner skiers we’ll cover: how to put on ski boots, how to walk in ski boots, how to use a lift pass, how to read a piste map, parts of the ski, how to carry skis, how to clip in and out of skis, how to move around on skis, how to stop on skis, and how to use the different types of chairlifts.

In just a few short minutes you’ll have all the knowledge you need to confidently take your first steps as a skier.


How to Put on Ski Boots

A lot of people – not just beginners – struggle putting their ski boots on, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

To put your ski boots on, start sliding your foot into the boot, stretching out the plastic cuff and moving the boot liner’s tongue forward as necessary to make yourself some space. Tap your heel to make sure your foot is locked back in the heel pocket.

You can then begin to buckle your boots. The correct ski-boot buckling sequence is to tighten the toe buckle first, then to move up the boot. There’s no need to tighten the buckles too much at this point.

Next, tighten your power strap around your shin, before tightening the top two buckles so that the cuff of the boot fits nice and snug.

When your boots are done up you can place the waterproof gaiter on your salopettes over the top of your boots – this will help keep your feet dry for your entire ski day.

Make sure that when you bend your knees your toes come away from the front of the boot. Being in rigid boots feels strange for some, but your ski boots shouldn’t hurt.

Whether you’ve decided to dive right in and buy boots, or you’ve hired them from a ski shop, remember that ski boots are supposed to be stiff and have a snug fit, your boot-fitter will let you know how tight your ski boots should be.

For advanced skiers, or to get perfect fitting boots, you’ll likely need to visit a speciality ski-boot fitting shop and have them custom fit to your feet, but for the average skier – including almost all beginners – any good quality ski hire shop will have what you need.


How to Walk in Ski Boots

A lot of skiers have trouble walking in ski boots but trust us, it’s 90% mental.

Simply plant your heel, roll forwards on to your toe and repeat. Heel-toe, heel-toe.

You might find it more comfortable to loosen your boots by flipping up all your buckles when you won’t be skiing for a while like at lunch times or apres-ski.


How to Walk Up Stairs in Ski Boots

Walking up and down stairs in ski boots can be a bit trickier, but it’s still pretty simple.

When going up stairs, plant your foot flat on each step.

When coming down stairs, use the same heel-toe movement that you use on flat ground.

If neither of these methods is comfortable for you, try turning your body to one side and going up/down slightly sideways.


How to Use a Lift Pass

Lift pass, lift ticket, ski pass – whatever you call it, to enjoy your ski holiday, you’ll need to know how to use it!

Whether skiing or snowboarding, with the exception of a few free beginners lifts (usually found in a zone referred to as the ‘nursery slope’ or the ‘bunny hill’), your lift pass is your ticket to ride the ski lift system that allow you to access all the slopes in your chosen ski resort.

Lift passes can be purchased from lift pass offices, or reserved online.

They’re usually sold for half-day, full-day, and multi-day increments and can be purchased for different amounts of terrain on the mountain. As a beginner you’ll rarely need to buy the biggest pass on offer, so ask the staff at the gate which pass is right for you.

Because modern ski passes are hands-free scanners, It’s important to know where to put your lift ticket. Any pocket on the left side of your body from the chest pocket in your ski jacket to the hip pocket in your salopettes is fine, as long as there’s nothing else metallic in that pocket or nearby.

While you’re at the lift pass office, don’t forget to pick up a piste map.

When you arrive at the lift station simply walk slowly by the scanner and the turnstile should open right up for you.


How to Read a Piste Map

A piste map (also known as a ski map or a trail map) shows you how to navigate different ski areas. Don’t worry if it’s a bit daunting at first, most resorts – whether in Europe, North America, Asia or Australia and New Zealand, use similar systems.

Ski trails or slopes, usually known in Europe by their French name – pistes – are broken down into four different difficulty ratings, each represented by a different colour.

Green runs are easy, beginner slopes, blue runs are intermediate slopes, red runs are advanced slopes and black runs are expert slopes. Austria and parts of Switzerland do away with green slopes and start with blue as the easiest trail rating.

In addition to the different ski runs, a piste map will also give you important information like the location of ski patrol huts, mountain restaurants, and toilets; as well as the different types of ski lifts linking all the slopes.

Larger resorts will also have big maps dotted around the ski area which show you – in real time – which ski slopes and lifts are currently open.


Parts of the Ski

There’s a lot of technology going on inside your skis, but as a beginner, you really only need to be familiar with a few basic parts. The tip, the front of the binding – aka the toe piece, the back of the binding – aka the heel piece, the edges and the brake.


How to Carry Skis

Lots of new (and not so new) skiers struggle carrying their skis, but with our tips it’s pretty easy.

To carry your skis, put the skis together base to base with the brakes overlapping. Place the skis over one shoulder with the brake of the higher ski inside the break of the lower one. This will keep them from slipping apart.

Hold the skis on a slight upward angle with the front of the binding behind your shoulder and the tips pointing downwards. Grab both of your ski poles with your free hand.

Let’s see that again.

If you find this method difficult or uncomfortable, another way to carry your skis is to lock them together with the brakes, keep them vertical, and lift them by the toe piece of the ski with the lower brake.


How to get in and out of skis

Put your skis down on the snow at a right angle to the fall line – that is to say pointing across the hill, not down the slope.

Take a ski pole in each hand and use them for balance as you make sure there is no snow stuck to the bottom of your ski boot.

Always starting with the downhill ski, slide the front ledge of your boot (known as the toe welt) underneath the toe piece of your binding.

Make sure your heel is lined up with the cup of the binding’s heel piece and press down firmly. This will cause the binding release lever to pop up with a snap.

Repeat the process with your uphill ski.

Although it feels like you are locked to your skis, your boots and bindings are designed to release the boot from the ski in the event of a fall.

To unclip from your bindings simply apply downward pressure to the binding release lever with your ski pole as you lift your heel.


How to Move Around on Skis

It’s important to get used to the gliding feeling underneath your feet, and the best place to start is on flat ground.

Start out by lifting your feet up and down and sliding them back and forth just to get used to the new sensation.

To start moving forward on the flat, simply keep your skis parallel, dig in to the snow with both of your ski poles and push yourself forward.

To move more quickly or if you need to go slightly uphill you’ll want to use a motion similar to ice skating, with your weight on the inside edge of your skis.


How to Stop on Skis

When learning to ski, knowing how to control your speed is very important. Stopping by doing a snowplough on your skis is the basic foundation of braking and turning.

Keeping your upper body straight, apply pressure to the insides of your feet whilst moving your heels outwards so the tips of your skis point towards each other, this will allow you to come to a complete stop.

Officially known as the snowplough position, this is sometimes called a “Pizza” due to the shape your skis make.

During your first ski lessons your ski instructor will teach you this method which will also allow you to perform a snowplough, or wedged, turn.


How to Use a Ski Lift

Knowing how to use different types of lifts is a very fundamental part of skiing.


How to Use a Drag Lift

Drag lifts, also known as button lifts, poma lifts or t-bar lifts, are very common in the beginner areas of ski resorts.

To begin, put both your ski poles in one hand. The lift attendant will hand you a drag pole, grab it with your free hand, bend your knees and place it between your legs.

Common mistakes are sitting too far back, or not being prepared for the ‘pull’ of the lift. Like Goldilocks, you’ve got to be somewhere in the middle.


How to Use a Chairlift

Many chairlifts will have information panels telling you how many people the lift carries, or how tall you need to be to ride the lift alone.

Push yourself up to the stop barriers and wait for them to open before advancing.

Say hello to the lift attendant (also known as a ‘lifty’), stop in the marked area, grab both of your poles in one hand and wait for the chair to come around.

When the chair gets close, bend your legs and get ready to sit down.

As you pull away from the lift station, close the safety bar, then sit back and enjoy the view.

When you approach the top of the lift, raise the safety bar and begin to shimmy forward slightly toward the edge of the chair.

Keep your skis parallel, stand up once they’re firmly in contact with the snow and continue on in a straight line.

Don’t worry about falling. Should you happen to fall, the lift attendant will stop the lift so the skiers behind you won’t run in to you.


How to Use a Gondola

The easiest type of ski lift, gondolas have racks outside to take skis or snowboards. Once you’ve placed your skis in the rack, simply walk in and sit down!

We hope that you’ve enjoyed these tips and that you’re looking forward to your time in the mountains, we can’t wait for you to fall in love with our favourite sport.

To properly lay the foundations for a lifetime of fun in the snow, book yourself some professional ski lessons.

To make things easy head to skibro.com where you’ll find the best independent ski instructors and ski schools across the Alps from Avoriaz to Zermatt and everywhere in between.

Choosing the right resort can make or break your first ski experience. SkiBro staffer Peter T has written a great guide to the best beginner ski resorts in the Alps.

For a great guide to the best ski resorts across the US, check out bluehouseskis.com and to bring the power of mindfulness to your skiing have a look at this fantastic guest post by our ski instructor and life coach Bernie.