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Beginner Tips
Columbia Ski and Adventure Club

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P.O. Box 12481, Columbia SC 29211                                            HOTLINE: 803-345-0238

Beginner Tips

Getting there  At the mountain  Lift Ticket  Trail Map  Falling  Tips to avoid injury  Terminology  Binding Release  Chair lifts

Preparing for your first ski trip is easy and will give you extra hours on the slopes. A few bits of inside information will also make your first trip (and all those that follow) more enjoyable.

Start your preparations well before you leave, by getting y clothing, equipment and other necessities ready before you reach the mountain. Call the resort to find out whether they offer a discount "learn to ski" package that combines equipment rental, lift ticket, and lessons.

Getting there
Avoid the morning rush at the on-mountain rental shop by getting there half an hour before the lifts open. Rental shops can get jammed by midmorning and by avoiding the rush you're guaranteed an hour or so of extra snow time. Besides, the snow is usually best, and the lift lines shortest, early in the morning.

At the mountain
Head straight for the ski school desk to ask about a discount "learn to ski" package, that combines rental equipment, lift ticket, and lessons. Make sure to ask about weekend and multiple-day discount packages and check whether your lift ticket can be purchased with the rental package.

Lift ticket
A lift ticket allows you onto lifts and the snow for a day's worth of skiing. Also sold in "learn to ski" packages and multiple day passes.

Trail map
Shows a layout of the mountain, but unfortunately doesn't include a "You are here" flag--not yet anyway! Read the map carefully to ensure you don't wander onto terrain for intermediate or advanced skiers.

At U.S. resorts, beginner trails are marked with a green circle , intermediate with a blue square and advanced with a black "diamond" . At some bigger mountains you'll also find double black diamond slopes for experts. If you're not sure how to find a green trail, ask a ski patroller, ski instructor, lift attendant, or other area employee

Falling  - even good skiers fall

Falling is an inevitable part of skiing. There is no dishonor involved, and even good skiers fall over. It is one area in which beginners excel, because they have more practice than advanced skiers. Hurling yourself to the ground because you couldn't stop even used to be a recognized technique, known as the 'arrêt Briançon'!

There are times when you really don't want to fall, such as when the slope is extremely icy or dangerous. In normal conditions, however, a fall is nothing to worry about, it can even loosen you up and show you that skiing needn't hurt! Learning when to take risks and when to play safe is an important part of mountain craft.

Tips To Avoid Injury

bulletIf falling sideways, try to keep your knees from hitting the snow first as this will tend to twist them. Land instead on your seat.
bulletDon't fight the fall too hard. If you take a real high-speed crash, try to roll with it: swallow-diving into the snow can be harder than expected.
bulletStop sliding as quickly as possible. Bring your legs below you so you can use your feet, with or without skis, to brake to a halt. Don't wear slippery clothes.
bulletNever jam in your poles to stop. One of our most convincing childhood cautionary tales was about our mother who used her pole as a brake and broke her jaw on the handle. They reset it nicely though.


Falling is such an integral part of skiing that it has developed its own lore. It has also developed its own vocabulary of euphemisms and nicknames.

bulletFace plant (also head plant, shoulder plant, etc.): Driving of relevant piece of anatomy deep into the snow.
bulletThree point yard sale (or in extreme cases, five point, seven point, etc.): Generous distribution around the mountain of equipment - skis, poles, goggles, hat, scarf, gloves... with an end result resembling a back-yard jumble sale.
bulletSnow snakes. Malicious but rarely-seen reptiles living just below the surface of the snow. Responsible for many otherwise inexplicable falls.
bulletWipe out. Adopted from surfing. What happens when you get thrown off the frozen wave.
bulletPre-release. A binding set too loosely or obstructed with snow will occasionally eject you unexpectedly, particularly in bumps or powder. This is the best excuse for any fall in which you lose a ski - almost impossible to refute without video evidence.
bulletCatching an edge. Letting a downhill or outside edge catch in the snow usually results in instant catastrophe.

Binding Release

When you rent or buy skis, the shop is responsible for adjusting the bindings correctly. If, however, they persistently release unnecessarily or, even worse, do not release when they should, they probably need readjustment. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, take your skis back to the shop.

Making your own adjustments is risky, and instructors are often reluctant to help, in case you get injured and sue them (especially in the United States). If you do decide to try, many lift operators will be able to lend you a screwdriver. Failing that, a Swiss army pen-knife or a coin can be used. Only tighten or loosen the release setting by half a turn at a time, as the adjustment is sensitive. If the problem persists, get the binding checked professionally.

Chair Lifts

Chair lifts provide a civilized way of getting up the mountain, offering a few minutes rest and time to admire the scenery. Chairs, usually two, three or four-seaters, mounted on a cable, move continuously up the slopes. The limousine version, high-speed quads, cruise up the mountain, but slow down considerately to pick up skiers.

Chair Lifts - Getting On

bulletRemove straps from your wrist  and hold your poles in your hand which is toward the center of the chair.  Hold them forward and away from your companions. 
bulletSpot the chair over your shoulder (looking toward the outside rail of the chair) as it approaches. The unprincipled slide a few inches forward to let their companions' calves take the full impact of the chair.
bulletSit down as the chair reaches you. 
bulletAvoid hitting your companions in the face with your poles.
bulletOnce the chair has left the platform, lower the protective bar. Take care not to drop gloves, poles or litter. Should you lose something, note the number of the next pylon for orientation.

Chair Lifts - Getting Off

bulletWhen you see the sign warning of arrival, open the protective bar.  Raise the tips of your skis so they don't catch as you approach the platform.
bulletAs your skis touch the snow, stand up and push yourself off the chair with your free hand (or allow the front edge of the chair to push you on the back of your legs) until clear .
bulletSlide quickly out of the way to avoid being hit on the back of the head by the chair. 
bulletIt is highly recommended NOT to use your poles, since using them usually puts you in the way of your companions.  
bulletBrake once you are well clear of your companions and the chair.  
bulletDo NOT stop will still in front of the chair exit, since you may be in the way of the skiers on the next chair.