/ learning to ski advice
Is a few lessons at tamworth snow dome sensible before booking a holiday? Thats the current plan.
Particular recommendations for resorts for a first weeks' trip? We'll want somehere cheap with reliable snow ideally, with a decent range of beginner slopes. Ive no idea what level you can expect to reach in a week?
What clothes do you really need and am I going to need to buy more stuff on top of ky scots winter and summer alpine monutaineering gear?
Anything else I should know?
Lessons before going would be good.
I don't think you will need to buy any more clothes.
Shouldn't you be on the beach rather than UKC!?
Never done it myself (skiing rather than lessons!) but have been told lessons beforehand are a good plan as it means you waste less of the holiday as a bumbling incompetent.
Its 2230 here...just on the (smart)phone while finishing some wine off after dinner...sad aint it, but weve just been talking about skiing so its topical! Beach again tomorrow!
Other questions include best time to go (feb/march?) and whether we should seriously consider instruction out there as well as over here beforehand...it would need to be cheap which I suspect it isnt..?
If you've done nothing then you'll spend the first hour or two being taught how to put your skis on.
I'd definitely recommend at least a few lessons in resort - if you're reasonably fit and physically active you'll probably find you pick it up fairly quickly, but without lessons you can develop bad habits that'll mean you will struggle when things get steeper or the snow gets bumpier.
As for resorts if you've no kids you could just decide where to go at the last minute and just follow the best conditions. For beginners Andorra's supposed to be pretty good, but you could probably have a good time in eastern europe if the conditions are ok - and it's much cheaper.
Time-wise January can be very cheap, but the snow's probably less reliable and it can be really cold - February outside school holidays is probably best, but March and even April can have some great conditions.
Go and have a look on the forum at snow heads.com - friendly bunch (on the whole - just don't mention helmets...).
I wouldn't call the lift passes in Andorra cheap. Last time we went up there it cost about 42€ for a day pass while here over the border in France at the really quite big resort of Ax-Bonascre it was only 28€. Admittedly the season is a bit longer in Andorra but in Jan/Feb that shouldn't be of much concern.
To the OP: I would recommend going at the coldest time of year (Jan/Feb) to one of the resorts that's a bit smaller (and probably also a bit lower) than the big name resorts. You won't then be paying for extensive pistes you can't use anyway. Something with 30-40km of piste, much of it green or blue - should be more than enough for a novice week.
Having said that we did spend a very enjoyable and cheap week in Courmayeur (Italy) a number of years ago when we were just getting back into skiing after a very long break. That would be a good place to go if you can get a good deal.
I'm sure you can mainly make do with your existing kit. I certainly mainly ski in mountaineering kit....
Yes, a lesson or two beforehand is probably worth it, and I'd definitely try and get some lessons in resort too unless you can tag onto some experienced friends able to give you some tips. Even then, unless they're used to teaching skiing, rather than just skiing, might be as well with some lessons. Not that I did any of that.....
Also agree that January is cheap - and cold - so a good option for adults on a budget. It's when we used to go before having small kids to consider. Always bargains to be had the week after New Year if you're able to take extra time off then. Snow tends to be more reliable then than at the end of the season - although if you're prepared to leave it to the last minute and only go if there's good snow left, end of season can also be cheap.
Andorra was my first thought for beginners. Lift passes might be a bit more than the French Pyrenees resorts (Ax-Bonascre brings back memories of learning to ski...:-) ), but you'll find cheap package deals to Andorra from the UK, whereas you won't find really find package deals to French Pyrenees. It's a long transfer - 4+ hours from airport - but that's probably bearable for adults!
But have a nose through one of the cheaper tour operators brochures (Crystal spring to mind) and it's pretty easy to tell which resorts are geared towards beginners. I'd reckon you'd want lots of green and blue, and a few reds to try - though they do vary a lot between resorts.
From experience of 4 total novices:
1 - took my sisters to Val Morel with 2 hours tuition at Bracknell 2 days before we went and then let my Uncle teach them, which probably wasn't the greatest start to anyone's ski career. They've never had a lesson at all and ski fine on anything - not technically brilliantly, but perfectly well for what they want to do.
2 - friend of mine came on ski trip to Les Houches/Chamonix. Never set foot in a ski boot before she got to the hire shop. First day was pretty painful, despite instruction from me and another experienced friend. Second day better, although we mucked up booking her a proper lesson. Private lesson on morning of 3rd day, followed by most of the afternoon on her own. By end of week, she was skiing reds confidently, off piste and a bit of black, but she was reasonable gung-ho about the whole thing.
3 - my fiancée had a lesson at Hemel snow dome before we went to Sestriere this year and then had 3 mornings of lessons and skiied with the rest of us in the afternoon. By the end of the week, she was doing reds fine and got down the women's world cup black with only 2 falls. She wasn't so confident about the whole thing as Gemma, being more worried about hurting herself, and it didn't help that we mis-calculated on the second day and took her down a red by accident, when we probably shouldn't have taken her up for a last run at all - we hadn't realised how tired she was. She did agree to marry me on that run, though, and got down it with no falls by the end of the week :-)
So, if you're both pretty confident and willing to persevere, you can probably work it out yourselves, but a couple of lessons will help. Unless you're going with someone experienced that can teach you, the best compromise is probably 3 half days in resort and then book more if you feel you need it.
The resorts I mentioned are fine for novices and high enough for decent snow.
You don't need anything flash to learn in - I did my first trip in old winter walking gear and several friends still do. Can pick passable stuff up pretty cheaply from the likes of Trespass at the outlet places/TK Maxx.
If you want to learn to ski on a budget, and are prepared to rough it a bit with dorm accommodation, check out the UCPA in france (www.ucpa.com). You need to sort out your own transport to the resort, but after that it's full board accommodation, ski hire, lift pass and lessons included - and very cheap. The instructors are first class, and you tend to meet a right good bunch of people on the courses.
I had an hour lesson when I first went skiing and then just tried my best. When quite soon after I swapped to telemark, I just had my flatmate yell at me for teaching. Perhaps not ideal, but I go happily ski mountaineering now and love it, so there's not a single way to learn to ski. I've been teaching my kids this past winter, and they're doing fine. A bit like placing trad gear, people who have never done seem to presume its a lot more complicated than it actually is. :)
On the other hand, I thought I was already a fairly OK skier, but probably improved more in the first week of fully instructed skiing than I had in the previous 6 weeks of trips to the alps teaching myself combined...
Clothing is a difficult one, but you need to be dry and warm, particularly if you go in January when it can be very cold, but cheaper. As beginners you are likely to be spending a lot of time hanging around and falling over, so you will get cold. Warm waterproof gloves are particularly important. Getting cold affects your morale which is not condusive to learning.
It doesn't really matter where you go as a beginner as you will be on nursery slopes and easy runs at first, so it's pointless paying high prices for top resorts with a large variety of runs you won't be skiing.
What is very important though is that your instructor speaks good English, enquire of the ski school in advance and don't accept being palmed off onto a poor English speaker.
For atmospheric apres ski Austria is a good choice and is generally a lot more fun than the more austere French resorts.
A few lessons at Tamworth would be money well spent as it gets you used to the feeling of your feet moving away from under you - something that usually comes as a shock to most first timers!
If one or both of you get disallusioned at first, perservere - you will probably find you start off day one in a large class, but as the week progresses people start to drop out from fatigue/hangovers*/disallusionment, and that's when you really start to learn as the class gets smaller and the instructor can concentrate on the keen ones including you.
You will hire boots. If on the first day they are uncomfortable/painful take them straight back and exchange them for another pair. Don't try and soldier on in painful boots or after a couple of days you won't be able to carry on at all.
Get really fit before you go. Skiing is tiring and uses leg muscles you're not used to in normal activities or sports. Ideally if your local gym holds pre ski exercise classes they are well worth attending for several months prior to your departure.
* Hangovers. I'm not being a kill joy, but if you are really keen to learn to ski, by all means enjoy the apres ski, but in moderation. Ski school normally starts pretty early and you need to allow time to get to ski school after breakfast. Getting p*ssed every night is something you can do at home for a fraction of the price of a skiing holiday, so uness you have an iron constitution, don't spoil it by too much over indulgence and alnighters. If partying is your main objective, then go somewhere renowned for that and save the money of a skiing holiday.
Borovets in Bulgaria is probably very cheap and I would recommend it. The tuition is good. But rather depends who you get.
I went as an experienced skier and it was much too limited. But for beginners it would be perfectly good.
Very good advice about the boots. Once your feet are sore you're stuffed. Go straight back to the shop at the first hint of trouble.
> If you want to learn to ski on a budget, and are prepared to rough it a bit with dorm accommodation, check out the UCPA in france (www.ucpa.com).
Would agree that UCPA are good value, but depending on the resort, they also offer double rooms (slightly more expensive than the shared rooms) and I'm sure you can get cheap(er) travel although maybe that's only for trains within France.
To the OP - I'm another more or less self taught skier, my first real lessons (with UCPA) were after I'd been skiing for something like 15 years. In retrospect a few lessons early on would have made a huge difference, but almost no one was offering telemark instruction in Scotland back in the 1980s. But no need for special clothes if you have gear suitable for Scottish winter conditions
Definately get lessons before you go. I got some at a snow dome. Booked as group lesson, but at 9am on monday mornings so no one else booked on at that time. So basically got private lessons more or less, for group prices :-)
Once on resort, although it's pricier, you should have a private lesson. You will get much more out of a 2 hour private lesson than you will out of a week of group lessons. I know in France, low season, you can get private lessons with ESF over lunch time for less than 100 euros for 2 of you. Don't know about other ski areas for prices, but I would imagine similar.
Go in the first week in Jan, quietest time on resort!
As far as clothing is concerned, dont spend too much, just not necessary.
I went with the family for my forst time recently. The rest of them had to go out and buy some new gear because they havent got the range of walking gear that I have but the first port of call should be TK Maxx. They have an astonishing range of ski wear during the season, mainly tier 2 brands but these are perfectly adequate for us novices and they didnt really care. If your luck is in, you can get some really good stuff - my wife dropped on some Marmot ski mittens and they are fantasic with a stupidly low price.
As far as i was concerned, i got myself a pair of trousers from TKM and wore my winter walking gear - thermal (plus base layer if it was cold - i went to Val Thorens over Xmas and it was freezing) plus fleece or Marmot softshell and then my Marmot Troll Wall jacket, which is fittet with a snow skirt anyway.
This layering also had the benefit of more flexibility when indoors or depending on the weather - I also didnt need to spend anything.
As someone else has said, dont scrimp on the gloves. Defo toasty warm waterproofs otherwise you will regret it.
Thanks all again. Re gloves, I have always found waterproof glove useless for winter climbing regardless of expense, and always used buffalo mitts. Am I better with gloves for skiing and how thixk should I go (to put it another way, how much dexterity do I need?)
Gortex or similar gloves are better, because you will need dexterity for manipulating ski boot adjustment clamps, clothing, goggles etc. The ski pole straps seem to fit better over gloves than mits and it's easier to hold the poles.
On the other hand mits are, as you say, much warmer, but more fidley if you need to adjust anything. Even then, I find I still have to remove a glove for very fidley things.
As with climbing carry a spare pair. A glove blowing away on a bleak mountainside would be nasty....
Also I'd consider hiring a helmet. The risk of collision on crowded slopes is relatively high.
Biggest tip would be to go for private lessons rather than group. If you do the same costs worth of private lessons you'll come on so much more than having the group lessons. This is even more true if you've had a few lessons before going abroad as if you go abroad after a couple of sessions at a snowdome they'll put you in an absolute beginners group probably. If you go with a private instructor they'll start from the standard you've turned up at.
Yep. I do a lot of my skiing in Marmot Basic work gloves http://marmot.com/products/basic_work_glove (in tan of course to look good!). 20 Euros, last forever, can do fiddly things in them without taking them off (life passes etc) and work fine for me down into the minus teens. Use my ice climbing gloves if its colder. Don't think I've ever need mitts skiing and that includes skiing at -25.
Be very careful: you are about to make a decision that, over the years, will cost you an awful lot of money! :-)
Echoing others comments, I started skiing this year. I did a group day beginner course at Tamworth Snowdome (£120) and when I got to the resort I found my legs for a morning then had 1 hour 1:1 (40 Euro…better value than group lessons). By this point I was parallel turning and steadily improved throughout the rest of the week until I was comfortable on Reds and doing the odd black without too much bother. I think as climbers we have a naturally high level of balance so can pick up sports like skiing relatively quickly.
> Biggest tip would be to go for private lessons rather than group. If you do the same costs worth of private lessons you'll come on so much more than having the group lessons.
I think that depends on the ski school - we pay a bit extra for our kids' ski school (5x3.5hrs for £250 each, which is more than ESF) because they're all English speaking instructors (and that's either native English or very, very fluent) and the class size is no bigger than 6. I think, conversely to your experience, they get far more out of 17.5 hours of instruction in a small group than they would out of 3x2.5hrs private lessons (which is what you'd get for £500) - and more importantly they have loads of fun doing it. I also get to spend some time skiing with grown-ups!
Not sure if it's different for adults though, as the learning pattern's very different, so maybe have your fridge lessons (well worthwhile, as that'll get you to snowplough on greenish blue runs) then a a couple of private lessons spread through the week to correct any faults you may have developed.
> Thanks all again. Re gloves, I have always found waterproof glove useless for winter climbing regardless of expense, and always used buffalo mitts. Am I better with gloves for skiing and how thixk should I go (to put it another way, how much dexterity do I need?)
I was once told by a very good skier that you should always wear mitts to lessen the likelyhood of breaking a finger.
100% agree with benefit of getting lessons and practice on artificial snow slope before you go, booking a couple of 1:1 lessons when you get there (starting day 2 after you find your feet) rather than group lessons, and the benefit of a climbers attitute to get you skiing reds and experimenting on blacks toward end of the week.
But don't rule out outdoor plastic slopes as a cheaper and longer alternative to big fridges - worked for me, Rossendale is great
Si - skiing is fundamentally expensive but people seem to do quite well with last minute deals and this also means you'll get good snow. Few of the guys at work seem to have found some reasonable catered chalet options which worked out similar to renting an apartment. Reliable snow in France etc is not really possible (you need the states for this) but basically the higher the better and in feb/march there will virtually always be enough for the pistes.
Clothing is mostly a total con devised to get money out of posers (500quid for a jacket wtf) - I ski in a pair of the cheapest available north face salopettes (about 100 quid), my walking waterproof, a pair of waterproof gloves I bought for 15 quid off ebay, and a fleece plus a decent thermal top. Never had a problem, you only get really cold on chair lifts and if its truly horrible you can always bail (and buy something better in the resort if things are desperate...). Scottish winter gear will be fine. Decent goggles help as well, you should also wear a helmet. Definitely try it before you go at an indoor slope. Not learned as adult but I suspect group lessons would be a good idea, especially if you and Ruth end up wanting to go at different paces (which could lead to arguments). It will also result in you learning to ski properly with the right technique. I imagine you'll probably get the hang of it fairly quickly if you don't mind falling.
Never personally seen the point in hitting the bars heavily in the evenings as they are stupidly expensive and a hang over is not going to help the next day. Skiing is great fun but it is expensive - be warned!
Not such a bad idea - snowboarding is easier to learn (took 2-3 days for me to be able to just about manage a red run properly) but hurts more when you fall over. Also needs good snow for it to be worth it.
We also had a go at a snow dome in tamworth, which was better but very tame indeed, still useful tho.
Strangely, me and helen have always gone to chamonix. Even as beginners. Le Tour is at the top of the valley and pretty reliable and has some nice easy pistes and a grand view down the valley - amazing place, i have some pictures if you want ?
At le Tour there is a beginners area where you pay per day and you dont need the ChamSki pass which makes it abit cheaper. For all the other areas i think you need ChamSki which is a bit more pricey.
The last thing is that i would suggest not skiing in bad weather on your first trip. Its how helen tore her cruciate ligament, and needed a knee operation. That was after our first holiday ! she's back skiing again and really keen but it was a truely horrible experience for us both (but mostly helen i expect).
It may take a few years but when you skiing the black runs down from the grand montet its totally f**king amazing !
Money spent on lessons is a small investment compared to to total cost of the holiday and is never money wasted as you get much more out of your skiing. Having nearly 40years experiance I always have at least 1 days lessons as no matter how good you are there is always something that you improve.
How good you get in a given time varies from person to person and on the quality of the ski instruction but as a guide to you an average total beginner will be be a competant skier with 1 weeks lessons.
Speaking from experiance the best instruction I have had over the years has been in Scotland, Canada, USA and Austria.
I would highly recomend having 4hrs a day for 5 days as the amount you will learn will be vastly more than just 2hrs a day.
For a first time skiing choosing a smaller resort will not limit you and should be much cheaper than the huge complex. Your primary concern should be to build a strong foundation from which you will reap decades of joy.
Over the years I have found the best way is to wait until late December or early January before booking to see where the snow is, unless you are heading to Canada or the USA. The most expensive times are the busiest where ever you choose and waiting till the last minute normally means a huge discount.
I would recomend Austria for the following reasons, but it all boils down to if there is sufficient snow.
1 Reasonably priced
2 Excellent instruction
3 Very pretty
Look for a resort that has beginner slopes just above the village rather than at the top of a mountain so that you can ski all the way down at the end of the day. There are 2 reasons for this, firstly it avoids having to wait for a cable car and secondly if the weather is poor the top slopes can be closed whilst the bottom ones are open. As you improve you will move higher on the mountains.
Check out the price of lift tickets, lessons and equiptment rental well in advance, it can be hundreds of pounds different from 1 resort to another and not any better. Be sure to compare like with like.
The last 2 weeks of January and 1st week of Feb is a good time. Later in Feb is busy and more expensive because of school hols. In March the snow can be icy in the morning and soft in the afternoon.
Winter mountaineering clothing is ok but be sure to have good Mitts or gloves and goggles. Take some Compeed in case of blisters.
Feel free to email me if you want to ask anything else.
Just invest in touring gear and then go somewhere where the nearest lift is a 100 miles away and it gets a lot a) cheaper, b) more scenic c) better for your health and d) way more rock-n-roll! http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=141526 http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=141324
For Romania get in touch with us here: firstname.lastname@example.org and will give you some ideas from just classes to full package.
Go somewhere reasonably high for decent snow reliability.
Lessons certainly help iron out any bad habits and group lessons are OK if the groups are reasonably small. If you find you are OK at skiing then you might find beginner groups frustrating though so I can see the benefits of private lessons.
Elsewhere on the site
I am Matthew Phillips, I'm nearly 14 and I was born without my right arm below the elbow. I started climbing at taster... Read more
Nick Livesey discovered the mountains of Snowdonia over a decade ago and finally moved there a year and a half ago, quitting a... Read more
2014 has been a bumper year for climbing publications. Here's a few of the ones that we have either read, or ones that we... Read more
WINTERFEST 2014 at Outside in Hathersage 6th and 7th December 2014 Outside's ever popular Winterfest event is back... Read more
A product review by James Turnbull. James Turnbull at Outside recently took the new Osprey Mutant 38 on a rigorous test in the... Read more