Warren Miller is a much quoted legend, he certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to skiing and for those just starting out these famous words could not be truer…
“Once you take your first ride up a lift your life will be changed forever”
So what are you waiting for?!
Here are my top tips for first time skiers booking their first mountain get away.
There may be some trepidation in going on your first skiing holiday. It may seem like a minefield of options & decisions so here is my run down on what you need to consider when booking your first trip to the slopes…
Before you come?
Why not have a go at skiing before you arrive – get to grips with the equipment, learn the basics and see if skiing is for you before you commit! There are plenty of indoor slopes in the UK now which can give you a fantastic grounding and a little head start before hitting the mountains, as well as take out some of the trepidation you may be feeling.
So you’ve decided to take the plunge…
What to book?
It is important to be organised for your ski trip and book in the essentials as soon as you have your holiday dates in order to avoid disappointment, especially if you are travelling in the school holidays.
2) Ski lessons. These really are not optional for beginners, both adults and children. They may seem pricey but I can assure you that by having lessons with a professional instructor you will get so much more out of your holiday. There are plenty of options in Val d’Isere for ski schools and independent instructors. The main decision you will need to make is whether you want group or private lessons. Private lessons are obviously more expensive BUT not only would you have more flexibility over days & timings but the lessons would be tailored to you, with more direct interaction with the instructor and so progress is likely to be quicker. Group lessons can be great for a sense of camaraderie and more friendly on the pocket. If you are the sole beginner in your party they may also offer a chance to find people to ski with outside of lessons.
Do contact me if you are interested in private lessons www.clareangus.co.uk
The following ski schools would be my recommendations if you are looking for fluent English speaking instructors (not necessarily native) and groups that are geared for British tourists Progression & New Generation
3) Lift passes – speak to your ski school/instructor before you buy anything. There are two beginner lifts at the bottom of the mountain that are free to use so it is unlikely that you will need a lift pass on your first day and the instructor will let you know when it is necessary to buy one and which one to go for. Have a look at options, including group/family offers here.
4) Equipment hire – it is advisable to book this in advance and then it will be ready & waiting for you on arrival. I would recommend Snowberry for equipment hire, and if you have any questions I am sure they will be happy to help. And if you book lessons with me I can provide you with a discount code! DO NOT SPLASH OUT ON EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR FIRST TRIP.
5) Winter sports insurance – make sure you are covered for your time on the slopes as rescue can be extremely expensive, even from the very bottom of the slopes. You can also buy Carré Neige insurance as an add on when buying your lift pass which will cover any help you might need getting off the mountain – I would say it is worth an extra couple of euros a day.
What to wear/pack?
Here is a summary of the essentials. For a more detailed rundown and information then take a look at my packing guide here.
- Suncream & lip protection – put them on every day whatever the weather.
- Eye protection. Googles or sunglasses. Every day come rain or shine. Goggles will cover all weather conditions. Sunglasses are only really useful on a beautiful day. I personally wear goggles all the time, but it can also be useful to have a pair of sunglasses in your pocket for sunny lunchtime breaks!
- Gloves or mittens – waterproof. I prefer mittens for myself and would definitely recommend mittens for children.
- Waterproof trousers and jacket. For younger children an all-in-one snow suit is better.
- Good socks – thick does not equal warmer and make sure you only wear one pair at a time.
- Layers – whatever time of year you come pack for all eventualities. It may snow your whole week in April or be beautiful sunshine for your New year holiday. Layers are best as you can then wear as many, or few, as you like on a given day. See below for more ideas on layering.
- Something to keep drafts out and faces warm. A buff style neck warmer or balaclava rather than a scarf.
- Hand warmers – not essential but can help on a cold day. I carry some in my pack in case of super cold/painful fingers.
- Helmets for skiing will likely be obligatory for kids in ski school. Although there are no laws for the slopes of Val d’Isere itself it is more than sensible and in some places there are laws about helmet use so check before you go. These can be rented with you ski equipment so no need to buy new, although it may be preferable to have your won in the long run so that you know it hasn’t been bumped/dented and you will also know exactly whose head it has been on!
- Après Ski wear – things in a ski resort are pretty relaxed and if you go out you won’t need to dress up smartly. You’ll be wearing your ski stuff all day and likely lounging at “home” in your thermals so will only require a couple of outfits if going out in public (or staying in a hotel I guess). Waterproof boots with a good tread & a woolly hat will be necessary for walking around town.
For more info on clothing take a look at my post here.
CLOTHING RENTAL – if this all looks a bit daunting and you are not sure about the initial investment, especially for kids who grow & grow, then you can look to borrow or rent clothing. In Val d’Isere you can find clothing rental with Oxygene here.
Where to ski (in Val d’Isere)?
Val d’Isere has a reputation for being best suited to intermediate & advanced skiers. It is true that some of the pistes are graded a little differently to other resorts but there are some fantastic areas for beginners to learn, and early intermediates to progress. Insider knowledge is key in Val d’Isere so I would 100% recommend hiring a professional to help. An instructor will know the area and be able to take you through the skiing progression, choosing slopes that are suitable for both your ability & confidence levels, and give advice on where to go next. They will have a better understanding of your level/capabilities than a well meaning friend who has been skiing for 20 years and has forgotten what it feels like to be nervous/hesitant!
There are two free beginner lifts at the bottom of the mountain – the Savonette button lift and the Village chairlift. For these you do not need to buy a lift pass. Moving on from here there are two beginner slopes at the top of the Solaise telecabine, serviced by magic carpets (Poum, Pim & Pam). The next step would then be the Madeleine green run. For these you will need to buy a Solaise only lift pass, which also gives access to a number of blue runs.
Up the Bellevarde side of the mountain (at the top of the funicular & Olympique bubble) you will find a number of green runs to help you build some confidence. For these you will need a Val d’Isere only ski pass. Be aware that the top section can be daunting but there are steps to take you down past the initially step part. You will also need to take the train or bubble lift back down to resort level.
Après ski & mountain lunches
Even if you are just starting out and not able to navigate around the whole mountain (yet) on skis, you do not need to miss out on some of the famous après ski venues or mountain restaurants. For example, the Folie Douce has pedestrian access via the la Daille telecabine. And Cocoricos is conveniently located at the bottom of the slopes. You can also get to La Fruitiere, Le Refuge de Solaise, L’Ouillette and Le Signal restaurants as a pedestrian. Remember that you might have to buy a pedestrian pass depending on what ski pass you have purchased (Access to La Fruitiere & Le Signal are not included on the Solaise only pass).
And remember you are on holiday! A ski holiday can seem quite full on, especially in the early stages. Make sure you take time to relax, soak up the stunning scenery and even take part in other activities that are on offer in resort. You do not have to become an Olympic class skier at the end of week one, it takes time and patience so go with the flow and give yourself a chance! Post about non-skiing activities both on & off the mountain COMING SOON.
If you have any other questions about skiing for the first time then do not hesitate to get in touch. There are no silly questions but a lot of information to navigate!