Sharing equipment experiences with beginner skiers.

Continuing on from the last post, while I’m an advocate of intermediate/ advanced skiers not teaching beginners how to ski, there are experiences you can share with them regarding equipment. Skiing is a fairly equipment intensive sport and all of it can seem rather daunting to a novice. Guide them with the use and care of the equipment so they see them as they were meant, as utilities and not hindrances. 

 


Slow them down.

Urbanites are always in a rush. You can spot them as they try to deal with all the gear and clothing WHILE trying to walk and talk. Instead show them how to sort out their clothing first, making sure they do it indoors. Zip jackets up, tuck loose chords in, open vents if required, put on face masks/ neck warmers, beanies /helmets before you head out into the cold. It goes without saying that it’s a lot easier to do all those without gloves. Gloves go on last. Always. They will then feel more comfortable out in the snow and less flustered. If they are expending a lot of effort just carrying gear they will start to overheat and will feel cold soon because of wet thermals from sweat soaking into them.

Seasoned skiers carry the additional weight,
which can amount up to 15kg, with apparent ease
because they slow down their movements.

Having said that, beginners aren’t used to carrying around that amount of additional weight for extended periods of time. They subconsciously revert to their daily urban experiences where the only time they are carrying that amount of extra weight is in the brief transportation of heavy goods. So they rush, with the notion that the faster the job is done the quicker they can revert to a normal state. Ski gear is on to stay for the duration of the day. It’s not going anywhere in a hurry and them hustling isn’t going to make the weight disappear. So try slowing down their pace of walking as well when in ski boots. Picture astronauts walking on the moon. Warning: They will quite possibly be frustrated with you initially for walking that slow thinking that you are prolonging their discomfort with the weight. Best to attempt to explain yourself. 


Experienced skiers can inadvertently make beginners feel rushed. Your familiarity with all the equipment will always made you ready faster. They will tend to feel as if they are holding you back because you always seem to be waiting for them. So maybe once in a while, consciously let them get ready first and and then make them wait for you. It gives them time to catch their breath they didn’t even know they were short of. 

With all gear that you wear, always
dry them out for the next day. 

Goggle intricacies
Show them how to avoid fogged up goggles by cautioning them against putting goggles on wet beanies or helmets. If they do fog (cheaper goggles can despite your best efforts), head to the nearest toilet and put it under a hand dryer to get the moisture out. It usually works for most goggle fogging. Also put goggles on indoors and make them aware of the dreaded ‘punter gap’ with beanies. 

Gloves
Don’t worry about getting them an expensive pair yet at this stage. Just make sure they are thoroughly dried by the next day. Even slightly damp gloves will make one incredibly cold very fast. 


Sunscreen
Carry some with you and offer it to them. The area under the chin and neck can get burnt on a sunny day because of the reflection of the sun off the snow. 

Boots
Check that their boots are a good fit when they are sorting out their rentals. It should be a snug fit but toes should be able to wiggle and there aren’t any pressure points. Any light pressure point at the fitting stage can become excruciatingly painful after several hours of skiing. Remind them that it’s not meant to be as comfortably loose as normal shoes but in no way should it be painfully uncomfortable. NOTHING should be inside the ski boot except for one pair of good socks which reach above the boot. Not thermals, not compression wear, not ski pants liners and definitely not jeans. Any seams of clothing in the boots will cause discomfort leading to numbing pain. 

Good boot fitting is arguably the most
crucial ingredient for a successful first time
ski experience.

Don’t let them walk around with their buckles undone and there are good reasons beyond it looking extremely bad. If they protest discomfort in walking with buckles done up, it’s a good sign those boots aren’t a good fit. Go back to the rentals and sort out another pair before you go any further. Swollen feet take a pretty long time to subside. If they are swollen by the first day of skiing, it’s quite likely to remain that way the rest of the trip even after swapping for better fitting boots. 


Because of the added weight and length of ski boots and their uncertainty of their footing in them, beginner skiers have a tendency to walk flat footed with ski boots. Walking in ski boots require an exaggerated movement of heel then toe when walking. Teach them to walk this way by showing them that they can balance quite easily on just their boot toe or heel. This is even more important when walking down steps. Walking flat footed down steps is slow, uncomfortable and surprisingly unstable.

 

Skis
Carrying skis is one of the more difficult things for a beginner to grasp initially. Once they’ve sorted their clothing, go through how you put skis together and separate them. Bases facing, one up, one down  then push to lock the brakes. Do the reverse to unlock. Avoid letting them pull the tips apart to separate skis.

Incorrect. Bindings are ON the
 shoulder and hand is not at the tip.
Easiest way for kids
to carry skis.

Show them how to carry it with the bindings resting behind their shoulder. Make them aware which ski needs to be above by the alignment of the ski brakes. Ensure that the hand is all the way at the front of the ski and is tipping the whole ski forward. This balances out the weight of the ski more evenly and makes it easier to carry.. However, this doesn’t work for beginner kid skis. Carrying it in their hands is usually the easiest way. They therefore can’t travel for long distances while carrying skis so plan for this. Oh and always handle skis with gloves. Even a dull metal edge can cause damage to skin especially when two edges are ‘pinching’.

Correct. Bindings are BEHIND the shoulder and the ski brakes
 are arranged to prevent the top ski from sliding down.

Lifts
Getting off any lift with skis is not a simple task for a beginner. My experience as a liftie has showed me that all that metal and cables can cause serious bodily harm if used incorrectly. So please don’t let them get on a chair or a drag lift before their first lesson. Instructors should show them how to safely load and unload onto lifts during their lesson. Gondolas are fine though and some resorts use detachable chairs to allow uploading without skis on. 

Riding a chair or drag lift for the first time should be under 
professional guidance, especially when it is busy.

Familiarising themselves with the equipment is a big step in learning to appreciate the alpine environment and growing a love for the sport. I sometimes imagine it’s like being thrown into a bustling city for the first time; being assaulted by crowds, escalators,  traffic lights and even parking zones and times. Things that we take in our stride without even blinking. Yet it can all be overwhelming for the rookie. A helpful guiding hand can make that induction not only painless but fun and fulfilling. 


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One thought on “Sharing equipment experiences with beginner skiers.

  1. Very true Jason. Sometimes taking a little bit of time explaining the equipment and how it works at the start of the lesson can really make all the difference to our students' enjoyment of the sport. It's not just a race to get up the chairlift!
    Dan

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