Skiing tips for beginners
FOR first-time skiers, expectations and reality can often diverge on the slopes. They imagine gracefully swishing down an Alpine mountain, but then spend their first day falling. After that, most give up.
According to the United States' National Ski Areas Association, 83 per cent of first-time skiers and snowboarders never return to the slopes for a second visit.
To combat this high attrition rate, Joe Hession, president and chief executive of Snow Operating, has worked with dozens of resorts to redesign their ski areas and programmes for beginners, making the learning process smoother and much less frustrating.
In lieu of bunny slopes, these resorts have hills with turns and banks shaped to let beginners really ski, even if they haven't mastered turning or stopping. With the terrain guiding you, Mr Hession explained, "you can make turns without a lot of skill, so it's fun." Fun is the objective here, he added.
Mr Hession offered tips to first-time skiers. The following are edited excerpts.
Q: What should a beginner keep in mind?
A: Taking a lesson is the biggest thing someone can do to have a fun time on the slopes. Skis and snowboards are not like an iPad, not intuitive to use at all.
Especially for this new generation, those younger than the millennials, with their need for constant stimulation and activity, they go up to the mountain and it's complicated, so they drop out. Skiing is not something that can just happen. Instruction is really important.
Other simple stuff can make a difference: eating breakfast, checking the weather, making sure you are dressed appropriately - snow pants, not jeans. If you are flying from New York to Colorado, going from sea level to 2,500m above, you need to drink water two or three days ahead.
You should be wearing one pair of synthetic sports socks that pull moisture away from your feet. A lot of times, people wear five cotton socks, which actually make their feet cold.
And don't learn on your friend's skis from the 1980s. Go to a rental shop with updated equipment. Learning is a lot easier with the right equipment.
Q: I guess people skimp on gear because it seems like a big investment upfront.
A: It is, but I'll say this: The rental, lift and lesson package is usually the cheapest option at most resorts. Killington in Vermont has a deal that if you take four lessons with it for US$299 (S$390), you get four days of rentals, four lift tickets and, at the end of the fourth lesson, it gives you a pair of skis. You can't even buy skis for that amount. Some of these deals are unreal.
As far as investing, the only thing they have to do is borrow a ski jacket and snow pants, and buy a pair of socks. Really, the socks are essential.
Q: Which resorts in the United States are doing a good job of teaching beginners?
A: Aside from the ones I work with, I say Liberty Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania is doing a fantastic job, everything from training its instructors to maintaining the slopes.
Wachusett Mountain near the Boston area and Okemo in Vermont are great resorts for families.
Out in Colorado, A-Basin just put up an amazing new building for its children's programme, and Steamboat put in a bunch of new magic carpets and lights for night skiing at its learning area. It's impressive.