At this beautiful time of year, many people are preparing to hit the slopes for the first time. Skiing and snowboarding are fun and exciting winter activities; gliding through the snowy mountains with your friends or loved ones. However, it is important to fully prepare yourself and research the right equipment in order to stay safe. We have a large wintersports department at Coes and we asked our experts to share some information and tips to help first time skiers and boarders have as much fun as safely as possible.
Take your time!
As a first-time skier or boarder it will take time to get the techniques right. If you push yourself too hard and too fast, it will knock your confidence so you will not get as much enjoyment out of the holiday and it could also result in serious injury. Take your time and enjoy yourself!
Part of skiing/boarding is falling over!
It will happen, especially if it is your first time. The hardest part about falling is getting back up. The problem is that your boots will be supporting your ankles to the point that you cannot flex them to help you stand. The best way to stand up is to face your feet downhill from you and tuck your knees up as close as you can and then push your weight up on to your feet so you are in a crouching position, you can then use the poles to steady yourself and stand up.
Making sure your body stays at the right temperature is key!
The best tip for keeping warm is to keep moving but at the same time you don’t want to sweat too much and overheat as the sweat will then cause you to be colder. When you are very cold, pushing yourself around flat areas for a minute or two will warm you up. Everyone’s experience of temperature during a skiing holiday will be different, and the number of layers you wear will be dependent on your personal factors such as how your body deals with heat as well as how windy it is, whether it is sunny or cloudy, wet or dry. There are ways of preparing for a range of temperatures such as layering up your clothing (more on this later) so you can add and remove as your temperature varies.
Protect your skin!
Both sun and wind can cause burns at high altitudes, so high factor sunscreen and lip balm are advisable. Oil based sun lotion is better as the cold can sometimes freeze the particles in water based solutions. It’s best to use a high factor as you are high up and closer to the sun and the reflection from the white snow intensifies UV rays.
Top it off!
A lot of heat is lost through the head, so having a hat to put on is a good idea. Our wintersports manager recommends Buff multifunctional headwear as they can be worn a variety of ways to keep either your head, neck or face warm and can then be folded up small to fit in a pocket when not in use. We also recommend taking a beanie hat with you for when you are not skiing.
Goggles are essential
You need a good pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the elements. Ensure that these are anti-fog and, if possible, choose a double lens goggle as this will increase protection and visibility. Different lenses are suited to different conditions. Always speak to an expert about your specific holiday to find out what lenses would be best suited to you. Our highly trained wintersports staff are available on the first floor of our Ipswich store or you can contact us here.
The biggest issue we hear about from skiers and boarders is cold feet and the problems that can come with them. Make sure the boots allow some slight movement such as wiggling your toes so you can keep up the circulation and prevent your feet getting too cold. At the same time the boots should not allow so much movement that you can move your whole foot inside the boot as this will impact your control over the skis. Be sure to try on a range of boots before you buy or hire. Not all boots marked the same size will be even if they are the same brand. If ski boots fit properly, they will keep your feet warm with the right socks.
Pick the right pair!
Do not wear socks too thick for your boots or more than one pair of socks. If your boots are too stuffed it will prevent you from being able to wiggle your toes for circulation. If you opt for rental boots, make sure you take high quality socks with you as lots of people will have worn them and they will not mould to the shape of your feet. A good quality pair of socks will stop you getting pressure sores in these circumstances. The best option would be calf length socks with a high wool content combined with synthetic fibres for warmth and moisture wicking. Although we do not recommend wearing multiple socks at one time be sure to take at least three pairs with you to allow time to wash and dry them between use.
If you have long hair, tie it up so that it doesn’t get in your face or get caught on anything. For the same reason, you should not wear a scarf. If you wear a scarf and it falls or gets caught on anything it could potentially be a serious safety hazard.
Always opt for several thinner layers, rather than one thick jacket. This will allow you to optimise your body temperature as you add and remove layers. For the base layer you want something thermal made with manmade fibres as they not only keep you warm, but they draw away the moisture from your body. Combine this with a breathable waterproof jacket to help wick moisture out. A waterproof, breathable jacket is a must, ideally one with a full-length zip for versatile ventilation that combines good wind and water resistance with insulation. A snow skirt in the jacket is a good idea as it not only stops the snow from getting in but also stops the warmth from escaping.
The last leg!
Jeans or jogging bottoms are not for the slopes. Ski pants are made from similar materials to ski jackets so they have similar water resistant and breathable properties. As we have already discussed, the chances are that you will fall over, and even on soft snow if you are wearing the wrong trousers this could result in bruising. Padded trousers will help prevent this and also keep you warm on the ski lift.
Protect those fingers!
Investing in a high-quality pair of gloves will improve your holiday experience. Gloves will keep your hands both warm and comfortable. You need a waterproof and warm pair. You may fall over a lot and be using your hands to stop your fall and help you up. Gloves will also give your hands another layer of protection as the edges of skis and boards can be sharp. If they are lightweight gloves you may need liners. Be careful that your gloves are not too tight as it will reduce circulation. The one piece of information our wintersports manager tells almost everyone is to shop the ‘size above perfect’ when buying ski gloves to allow a little bit of room for air to circulate. Make sure to take an additional pair of regular gloves with you. Ski gloves are large and not practical for much aside from skiing. When you are not on the slopes you will still want something to keep your hands warm, it’s good to choose gloves that are a little thinner so you can still pick things up and use your fingers.
Stay safe and have fun.