It's never too late to try something new. Here, one writer explains why she changed her mind about skiing and shares helpful tips for those who've never braved the slopes.
Despite telling my husband for nearly 15 years that I would never go skiing, here I am about to conquer my fourth season.
"I hate the cold," I argued. And it was true. I'd lived my first 40 years on earth avoiding winter as much as possible—hibernating, depressed by the short days and whipping windchill.
But, turning 40 woke something inside me; I wanted to take charge of my health and be more active with my family. So, one December weekend, we road-tripped to Mont-Tremblant to become a ski family.
My kids didn't even know how to ice skate—and here we were attempting to take on a 3,000-foot mountain. But we did it together, and after day one, we were hooked. By the end of our four-day visit, I skied down a 6km downhill trail without falling. Did three-year-olds look like Olympians next to me? Sure they did. But it didn't matter—and my goofy, ear-to-ear grin all weekend proved it.
Turns out, I didn't hate winter. I just needed a winter sport to make me excited to get out there and play—and skiing can do the same for you, even if you're a newbie like I was. Here's what you need to know.
1. Get lessons and keep taking them.
Every bit of credit for that early success goes to our private instructor at Tremblant. Whether you want to dive in head-first like I did and do several intensive hours of private coaching in a single weekend, or start off slowly and enlist in weekly group lessons, they're the most important part of your ski journey when you start as an adult.
Lessons remove the guesswork—How do I stop? How do I get up if I fall down? What happens if I don't get off the chairlift in time?—and instructors teach new skiers the basics and build on skills at a progressive pace.
I still take lessons every year from women's-only ski clinics and programs for ungroomed powder and glade skiing. Lessons are where I continue to feel safe enough to try something new.
2. Wear the right getup.
When it comes to what to wear, the main goal is to stay warm and dry. If your skiwear isn't wind- and waterproof and you end up in less-than-perfect conditions, you'll be miserable.
Do your homework before you arrive on the slopes—every resort has rental equipment (including helmets) and some resorts even rent ski jackets and pants. For everything else, consider borrowing from a friend or invest in a few staples (like goggles and extra warm gloves).
Layer appropriately so you're comfortable all day: merino wool base layers, fleece mid-layers, warm socks designed for skiing (paired with disposable toe warmers) and a good pair of mitts. Avoid cotton at all costs and anything old—materials break down over time.
Once you unearth your inner ski goddess, invest in high-quality clothing and equipment so you don't have to replace it all in a few short years. I count brands like Peak Performance, Bollé, Icebreaker, Salomon and Elan among those that are built to last.
3. Know where to go.
Every resort has beginner runs, but some even have entire sections dedicated to newbies, including slower-than-average chairlifts to get the hang of things. Going midweek or off-peak will help you avoid crowds, which can be a confidence-booster early on.
My favourite resorts for beginners from west to east:
- Panorama Mountain Resort (Invermere, B.C.)—extra-wide runs with few people to manoeuvre around.
- Deer Valley Resort (Park City, Utah)—no snowboarders allowed and a limited number of tickets sold each day.
- Sunshine Village (Banff, Alberta)—consistently excellent conditions with beginner runs from the top of every chairlift.
- Hockley Valley (Mono, Ontario)—a quiet resort that even has intro terrain park obstacles.
- Brimacombe (Orono, Ontario)—$50 Discover Packages include a lift ticket, rental equipment and a lesson.
- Holiday Valley (Ellicottville, NY)—a huge beginner zone with a dedicated learner chairlift.
- Camp Fortune (Ottawa, Ontario)—off-piste beginner trails for those feeling a little brave.
- Titus Mountain Family Ski Center (Malone, NY)—some of the flattest beginner runs anywhere.
- Tremblant (Mont-Tremblant, Quebec)—two bunny hills and half a mountain face devoted to beginner trails.
- Smugglers' Notch Resort (Jeffersonville, Vermont)—outstanding learn-to-ski program that comes with a money-back guarantee.
Now—bring on the snow days!