4 Tips for Beginner Skiers and Snowboarders

It’s easy to identify a beginner skier or snowboarder on the slopes. You may look awkward carrying your skis from the bus to the chair lift because you haven’t quite figured out how to hold poles and skis while wearing thick mittens and walking over ice and pavement in the most uncomfortable plastic boots ever. You may walk on the snow dragging your board behind you attached to your knee by a rope. There is a large gap between your helmet and goggles and you don’t really know how the RFID ticket scanner works. Don’t worry – we’ve all been there. You don’t have to look like a newbie just because you are a beginner. Everyone has to learn somehow, so let us help you out. Here are our top tips for beginner skiers and snowboarders from a few local experts.

1. Seriously, Take a Lesson

Your more experienced friends might offer to show you around the slopes, but let’s be real—advanced skiers and snowboarders don’t enjoy standing around on the bunny slopes watching their friends struggle. You’ll be embarrassed trying to make pizza turns or the falling leaf while they stand by and laugh. The jokes are likely to last a lifetime. The quickest and most fun way to learn to ski or snowboard is in a lesson. Yes, it’ll cost you, and yes, it’ll be worth it. “You can spend so much time trying to learn by yourself,” says Debbie Nelson, a level 3 PSA Certified Ski Instructor and 40-year veteran of Mammoth Mountain Ski School. “Or you can skip ahead and take a lesson. Group lessons are wonderful, but private lessons will get you there even faster.”

2. Take it Easy in the Terrain Parks

You might want to ride the half pipe like local Olympian Kelly Clark, but since you are just learning that is probably not going to happen anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ride the park and have some fun. Mammoth Mountain is home to the UNBOUND terrain parks, which offer seven parks designed for varying levels of ability. Before you drop into the 22-foot superpipe and hit the biggest jumps at Main Park, hone your skills at one of the parks designed for beginners. “Start slow and work your way up,” says Gabe Taylor, a professional snowboarder and marketing manager for UNBOUND. “We have playgrounds that are beginner terrain parks to help you get your board under you. I know a lot of pros that ride a few laps at the Wonderland Park to warm up and get their socks wet.”

3. Dress for Success

You don’t need the latest and greatest winter gear to learn how to ski or snowboard—layering is the key to dressing for a day on the slopes. Beginners tend to fall and that’s okay, but you’ll be happier if your outer clothing is waterproof and you have warmer layers underneath. Need help packing for your ski and snowboard trip? We’ve got you covered. Check out our winter weekend packing guide. Once you have all the right gear, make sure you are utilizing it to the best of its ability. Forget the sunglasses, and wear goggles (your eyes will thank you.) Keep your head warm and minimize the gap between your helmet and the top of the goggles. Secure your gloves with the wrist strap so you don’t drop them off the chair lift if you remove them for any reason. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen on exposed skin, unless you want to look like a raccoon.

4. Get Inspired. Soak up the Scenery

One of the best things about Mammoth Mountain is the scenery and the beginner chair lifts are no exception. According to Nelson, Discovery Chair at Main Lodge is exceptional not only for the beginner friendly gentle slope but also because of its proximity to the top of the mountain. “When you are on the chair and looking up at people skiing (advanced terrain) you get to experience how big the mountain is,” Nelson said. “You realize what a life long pursuit skiing can be and how you can grow as you get better.” And that’s unique to Mammoth. At most other ski resorts beginner lifts are at the base of the mountain and tucked in forested regions where the views are trees, trees, and more trees. Everything is higher here at Mammoth, even the beginners.

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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