If you're considering learning how to ski or snowboard, it can all seem a little daunting: are you a skier or snowboarder? goofy or regular? How do you find your edge - what's more, what is your edge?
We've asked Aidan Harington, snow school manager at Snozone Castleford, to help explain the basics to stand you in good sted before your first lesson.
OTS: Should beginners choose skiing or snowboarding?
Aidan: They are different sports so it's a bit like deciding between football and rugby. Both are huge amounts of fun and give the same sense of achievement as each other. Learning how to ski is a bit easier initially so is perhaps more accessible. There is less chance of falling over so suits those who might be a bit apprehensive about snowsports. Snowboarding is easier to get good at and get to a stage where you can tackle more challenging terrain and jumps etc. There is less kit to carry around and the boots are easier to walk around in which makes that first holiday a bit easier. It also still seems to have a 'cooler' image, although that's up for debate!
OTS: What should a beginner expect to learn during their first lesson?
Aidan: Your first ski lesson would introduce you to the kit, how to stand over the skis to aid your balance and how to slide in a straight line. Here at Snozone we also introduce you to the 'snowplough'. This is the standard learning platform which aids learning to turn and initially helps to control your speed. Subsequent lessons guide you through turning (to change direction AND control your speed) and then using lifts and coping with steeper gradients. Everything is broken down into easy-to-follow steps and you are only moved to more challenging terrain when you are deemed ready!
OTS: What are your top tips for beginners?
Aidan: Here are my top five tips for learning how to ski or snowboard:
1) Relax - if you tense up it makes it hard to move so you get tired quicker and your balance is not as good.
2) Look ahead - useful to see where you are going! But also helps balance.
3) Bend your ankles - this puts you in the correct position as it makes your knees and hips bend, whereas just bending the knees can make you sit too far back.
4) Smile! - you're doing it to have fun so make sure you do.
5) Come back soon - especially in the early stages the longer you leave it between sessions the more likely you are to forget and therefore not progress as quick. Think about when learning to drive and try to get a lesson a week until you feel confident.
OTS: What should beginners consider before booking a ski holiday?
Aidan: Before you go to a ski resort, take lessons at an indoor UK ski centre - the more lessons you have, the more you'll get out of your holiday. You can get to see more of the mountain, with less effort and more fun because you know what you are doing. I would still recommend having lessons when you get there too because you can always improve on your ski and snowboard technique (I know I can and I've been doing both for about 20 years). Being in a lesson will also show you around the mountain and give you ideas about which runs to try.
OTS: Can you recommend any good beginner resorts for skiers?
Aiden: When learning how to ski or snowboard, Mayrhofen, with its two separate mountains: the Penken and Ahorn, is a good choice for your first time on snow. The instructors are some of the most patient I've ever encountered and the runs are long, wide and easily accessible by state-of-the-art chairlifts. I learned how to snowboard on the Ahorn Mountain as it has wide, gentle runs and not too many people to collide into. The fact that you don't have to contend with button-lifts (a painful and daunting experience on a snowboard) is an added bonus as the Austrian T-bar lifts seem almost made for snowboarders. The instructors on the Penken Mountain can start and finish their lessons at the top of the cable car so it's so much easier to meet up with your more advanced friends, enjoy the views and exchange amusing stories at lunch time.
Another good destination for those learning how to ski is the very picturesque resort of Grindelwald in the Swiss Alps. Access to the top of the mountain is either by cable car or a gentle train. Once you're at the Kleine Scheidegg area at the top, you have a multitude of long, gentle runs to practise your turns before or after your lessons. By the end of the week you'll be racing the train all the way down to the resort.
Next article: One plank or two: To ski or to snowboard?
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