We’re heading into Spring and starting to think about the holidays we may be able to take during summer. But I’m still thinking about the holiday we didn’t take this month.
During February half-term, we were meant to go to Austria to ski with a large group of friends. Obviously that didn’t happen. This would have been my second ski holiday, having gone for the first time last year. Yes I decided to go on my first ski holiday when I was in my 40s.
As a note for people not in the UK — learning to ski on snow in the UK is not straight forward and requires a commitment. You have three options; have lessons in the Scottish mountains in winter, in one of the few snow domes or abroad.
Why did I decide to learn to ski as an adult
There are still times when I ‘m surprised I agreed to, and was excited about, going on a ski holiday as it was not something I ever wanted to do. Being brutally honest, there are many reasons why skiing hasn’t been a thing for me — I’m scared of heights and don’t like the cold, falling, sliding, losing control, speed. Putting it in to context, there are times I worry about going down stairs, and I’m that person who waits an extra step before getting on a down escalator
When I grew up, skiing was something people I knew did. I think the school offered ski trips but none of my friends went so it didn’t occur to me to go. The limit of previous ski experience was two pre-teen birthday parties both on dry ski slopes.
But then, an opportunity appeared that was enough to make me consider it, and ultimately decide yes I want to do this. It was going with a group of local friends to an Austrian hotel and ski resort. The family organising the holiday had been going for years so could tell us everything we needed to know. And most importantly reassure me that I’d be well looked after.
The reasons why I decided to go on my first skiing holiday in my 40s are
- skiing is an activity my husband loves, and he hasn’t done for years because I haven’t wanted to
- I was keen for our children to try it at a young age
- Nice to have an overseas holiday as we usually have our holidays in the UK
- Good for me to try something new and push myself out of my comfort zone
- Good to be outside exercising
- Nice to spend time in the mountains
- It felt low risk because if I didn’t enjoy the skiing I would still have fun with friends in the evenings
- Going on this group trip would be cheaper than on an individual trip, reducing the pressure of thinking I had to love it
- Everyone I spoke to said I’d love skiing.
What to expect on your first ski trip
Of course, what happen on your skiing holiday will depend on where you go, when you go and who you go with. However, there were things I noticed that will probably be the same.
- People are very serious about their skiing and want to maximise their time, which can come across as abrupt or rude, especially when you’re waiting for a lift.
- It will be very busy at lifts and you’ll wonder how you can ski with so many people there, but everyone spreads out so the slopes aren’t crowded
- People learn at different ways and speeds, especially children will learn quicker and with more confidence than adults
- There is likely to be some very very young child who whizzes past you
- You will ache from doing new exercise for a long time each day, wearing ski boots and possibly falling over
- You’ll feel amazing from the all the time outside in mountain air
- You’ll have a great sense of achievement from every new skill you learn.
You’ll probably experience a range of emotions as well. From nerves as you look at your first graded slope to achievement from every new skill you learn or slope you complete without falling. There might be humour, for example watching your children complete a hill in neat line behind their ski instructor, while your adult group either ends up in different directions or knocking in to each other.
Plus there could be tears and frustrations. I experience both. From having a tantrum on the side of a slope and throwing my poles away because I couldn’t stand up after falling (again) or almost crying every time someone asked me how I was doing.
Advice for learning to ski as an adult
Ask experienced people for advice on where to go. You want to be confident the resort has suitable slopes for beginners, including nursery slopes, and professional ski instructors who caters for adult beginners as well as children. We went to Wurzeralm resort and used the ski school based there Schischulen Wurzeralm.
Also get advice on what equipment to take with you sand what you should hire (ideally with recommendations on rental shops). Remember this is your first time, so you don’t want to buy lots of equipment, such as ski boots and helmet, just in case you decide it is not for you.
Prepare your body
A skiing holiday is going to include more physical activity than you are probably used to in a normal day. Therefore, anything you can do to improve your level of fitness will increase your enjoyment. From my experience leg strength is key as you’re going to be holding some unnatural positions for a long time. I was recommended to build up my muscles by doing lots of wall sitting, lunges and squats. I think it would have helped if I’d also improved my cardio fitness.
Arrange suitable lessons
For first time skiers I recommend getting ski lessons from a qualified instructor. Their knowledge and patience will help you learn skills and develop confidence quicker than you expect.
Individual lessons will be more expensive but match the pace to your ability. While group lessons are cheaper the instructor will be helping everyone in the group. I had adult group lessons and it worked well for the first few days. Seeing other people making progress gave me confidence because if they could do it, so could do I. It also motivated me to keep trying because if I skipped a lesson I’d slip behind. But towards the end I was aware of the difference in our abilities, and I was holding the rest of the group back.
Children and adults learn in different ways so you won’t be in a mixed group with children. However, knowing they were having lessons nearby kept me motivated, because I had to show them not to give up and to keep trying.
Remember, your ski instructor is an experienced skier and trained in teaching, so trust them. But also trust your body. Understand your limits and learn whether they are mental or physical. For the first four days mine were mostly mental so it was important for me to keep trying. However on the last day I found it harder and harder to turn because my legs were tired so it was a physical limit.
Give yourself time
It is unlikely you’ll get on skis for the first time and instantly love it. It is unlike anything you’ve done before so you can’t tell in one day whether you like it or not. As I mentioned before you’re probably going to go through a variety of emotions including frustration and wondering whether the experience is worth the cost. But after three days you’ll have a realistic view of how you feel about the sport.
Can you learn to ski when you’re adult
Absolutely. I am proof that learning to ski as an adult is possible. As are the other people in my ski group who ranged in aged from 40 – 50.
Yes I did not find it easy. There were many falls and some tears, but there were also achievements I never expected, such as getting down a graded run without falling. I learnt that I’m capable of learning new things and to trust my body more – so basically I shouldn’t let my head hold be back.
I’ve gone from wanting to get to the bottom of a slope, getting my skis off to never do it again, to arranging to go skiing in Austria for a second time. I know I’ve still got lots to learn, and lots of fears to deal with. I’m scared about chairlifts as I’ve been scared of them after getting stuck in a thunder storm aged 3. I’m also worried that after a 2 year gap I’ll be back to square one.