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Getting Off To A Good Start – Preparing For Your First Ski Trip

Written by: Sally James

Few people are in any doubt that skiing is an excellent way to spend a vacation. The apres ski alone makes it worthwhile, but there are also a multitude of health benefits. It’s been pointed out that skiers can burn “3,000 calories during six hours of skiing,” meaning that you can enjoy some post-slopes desserts without feeling at all guilty! It’s also great for your general health and state of mind. Plenty of people are therefore enthusiastic to strap on their skis and hit the slopes – but if you’re a ski virgin it can all seem a bit daunting. There seems to be an awful lot of equipment and technique involved, and it can be difficult to know where to start. With this in mind, here are a few hints to remember when preparing for your first ski trip, which may make the whole process seem a bit easier…

Spend Wisely

The skiing industry is very good at getting us to part with our money – and for good reason. Every dedicated ski enthusiast wants to keep up to date with the technology and equipment which can help them to make the most out of their skiing experience. However, if you’re a first-timer it’s probably a good idea to keep the pressure off your wallet until you have a better idea of your skiing style. Packing can admittedly be a tricky business when you’re heading for the slopes. Ski equipment is often more expensive in popular ski resorts, so you definitely don’t want to miss anything. However, you also don’t want to fork out for equipment that later turns out to be unsuitable. If you’re new to skiing then it’s best only to buy the essentials such as goggles and warm clothing which won’t affect your skiing performance, and borrow or rent things like skis and poles. When you’ve learned how you get on with the borrowed equipment and have a better idea of the setup you’ll need to suit your own skiing style, then you can have a great time heading round the stores in search of the perfect skis. In the meantime, just pack what you’ll need and borrow the rest. This does at least mean that you’ll get to avoid extortionate weight charges on the plane!

Pack Safely

Skiing is a strange game, safety-wise. Obviously you want to take all the necessary precautions to ensure that you don’t hurt yourself if you come off your skis, but the environmental dangers are a curious juxtaposition. You must simultaneously protect yourself against excessive cold and excessive sun. Temperatures in the mountains can get very cold. “Hypothermia and frostbite are very common” [2], incautious skiers are warned. Skiing may burn a lot of calories, but it’s still important to wrap up warm. Pay particular attention to your extremities – good quality gloves, socks and boots will protect fingers and toes from being nipped by the cold, and neck gaiters will protect your throat and possibly your nose as well. Pack plenty of layers – layering helps to keep you warm – and make sure that the outermost layer is waterproof. However, this done, you’ll also need to pack for the sun. Skin cancer organizations warn that “UV radiation exposure increases 4 to 5 per cent with every thousand feet above sea level” [3], putting those skiing in the exalted heights of the mountains at a much higher risk of developing sunburn than those lower down. Add this risk to the fact that the white snow reflects sunbeams back and you have a perfect sunburn storm. Skiers need to cover every exposed portion of skin in sun block, and make sure that their goggles have a UV filter to prevent eye-damage from the snow glare. Your lips are particularly vulnerable, as many people overlook them when it comes to rubbing in the sun block. According to dermatologists, 90% of all lip cancers occur on the lower lip, purely because the lower lip is less shielded from the sun than the upper lip. Were sun damage to be ruled out of the equation, incidences of lip cancer would be likely to drop by 90%. So grab a lip balm with a UV filter!

Take Professional Advice

If you’re travelling with friends and/or family, you’ll probably find that they want to help you out and share with you their own experiences of skiing. This can be a problem in many ways. They may either push you too far and send you down difficult slopes before you’re ready, or they may hold you back in an effort to protect you. If you really want to know how to ski well, you’re much better off paying attention to the advice of professional instructors, who are trained to assess your capabilities and go at just the right pace for you. They’ll also be much better able to let you know how you’re doing and teach you about the kind of things and techniques you’ll need to improve your personal skiing style and get the most out of your vacation.

[1] Naomi Coleman, “Why skiing is good for you”, Daily Mail

[4] Department of Otorhinolaryngology, “Lip Cancer”, University of Texas Medical School

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