Are you about to embark on your first ever ski or snowboarding holiday? Perhaps you’re considering a snow holiday for the first time? Read on!
I’ve been snowboarding for 15 years now, racking up some 17 snow holidays in the process, despite coming to it relatively late in my early twenties. I absolutely love the mountains; strapping a plank of wood to my feet and hurtling down a slope never fails to put a smile on my face, and it can make for a brilliant holiday.
Some find it an odd holiday choice, as many equate holidays with relaxation; lying around and doing nothing, rather than taking part in a dangerous, exhausting, high impact sport, 7 (or more!) days in a row. They have a point 🤔
But if you are considering swapping the sun lounger for skis, or the suntan lotion for a snowboard for the very first time, this is what you need to know…
16 Facts You Need To Know Before Hitting The Slopes For The First Time
1. You’ll fall over
If you are snowboarding for the first time, expect to fall over. A lot. If you’re learning to ski however, whilst falling over isn’t a given, when you do fall, expect to look like a massive flailing idiot.
Also, you’ll probably do it right at the end of the run where there will be crowds to see you, or directly under a chairlift.
2. You need to choose your side
Skiers hate snowboarders because we get much cooler jackets and pants than they do, we don’t have to wear ugly clompy-torture-boots, and we are in our element on powder days.
On the other hand, snowboarders hate skiers for their speed, ease in getting on and off chairlifts, and their ability to tackle icy runs without hesitation.
Nah, we love each other really, but even now there is still some rivalry between skiiers and boarders!
3. Ready to hit the slopes… at 4am
Flying long-haul and hitting the slopes further afield? Thanks to jet lag, if you’re skiing or boarding in North America, after a 26 hour or so door to door journey you’ll feel like you are dying.
3 hours after you go to bed however, you’ll be wide awake, your body convinced it’s morning, raring to hit the slopes.
4. You’ll hear explosions in the night
You’ll hear huge crashing bangs and explosions in the middle of the night. The first time I heard these explosions in my sleep addled state, I thought perhaps War of The Worlds was happening for real. I jumped out of bed expecting to come face to face with our new alien overlords only to see bugger all.
Of course I later found out that explosions are quite normal and nothing sinister, it’s those clever avalanche experts setting off charges to help ensure you can ski safely on piste that day.
5. Strange lights appearing in the early hours
You look out of your chalet window at night and gaze wistfully up at the mountain – what the hell are those flashing lights? Don’t freak out. It’s not an alien crash landing, it’s just the piste groomers pootling back and forth, making the slopes look all lovely for you in the morning. Hurtling down freshly groomed corduroy is such a joy!
6. Serious injuries really do happen
Park rats that slid out of the womb attached to a snowboard, make it look effortless. It’s not.
If you are over 40 and see a tiny little kicker you’re tempted to try your first jump on, or fancy riding your first box, remember than even the smallest of jumps or falls can result in serious injuries.
I should know. I’ve broken ribs on 3 different snowboarding holidays and fractured my spine on another. So wear a helmet and don’t be a dick yeah?
7. You probably don’t need a GoPro
An absolute beginner wearing a GoPro looks like a twat. Fact.
Seriously, stop fretting about capturing every second of your holiday on video, and concentrate on getting your technique down and living in the moment!
8. Big Lumpy Buggers lurk everywhere
Moguls suck (or BLB’s as we call them – Big Lumpy Buggers). Especially for snowboarders. AVOID.
9. Early to bed means early to rise
If you’re heading further afield than Europe, you’ll get up earlier than you get up for work, thanks to the effects of jet lag, altitude and sheer excitement. Conversely, this means that by 9pm you’ll be physically exhausted and ready for bed.
Your evening may not be quite as rock n’ roll as you’re used to when on holiday.
10. Massive mountain strops
There will be times, or even whole days when you HATE STUPID SKIING/BOARDING AND YOU ARE NEVER DOING IT AGAIN!!
Your legs hurt, you’re bruised, your’e cold, you’re physically tired and you just can’t seem to find your mountain mojo.
We all have at least one epic mountain strop as beginners. In fact, after 17 years of snowbaording, I still always have at least one afternoon where I’ll come off early in a bit of a strop because I’m just not feeling it/can’t be arsed/ache all over/wish I was at the beach.
Don’t sweat it though. The next morning you’ll be raring to go again!
11. Whiteouts can be hella scary
Seeing a dark, snow-heavy sky is great, but skiing or boarding in a full on whiteout is like trying to ski or snowboard inside a giant washing machine on a spin cycle.
Whiteouts are hugely disorientating and you’ll be constantly terrified you’re about to fall off the side of the mountain. I veered off piste accidentally in Italy and ended up trapped in snow up to the top of my thighs, getting out was exhausting and it was a very scary, sobering experience.
Take whiteouts seriously and be careful.
12. You’ll experience a perfect bluebird that makes you happy to be alive
After experiencing a whiteout you’ll be praying for a bluebird. When you experience one; a day so bright and perfect you feel overjoyed, you’ll convince yourself that quitting your job and selling the house so you can spend a full season in the mountains is a reasonable life plan.
It’s probably not though.
13. Experience the sheer joy of stuffing your face, guilt free
Spending even just a few hours on the mountain burns at least 12 million calories (fact), so yes you can have 6 cocktails, an entire basket of bread, a massive pizza and a stodgy dessert without feeling even a blip of remorse.
Embrace those carbs!!
14. You’ll feel a buzz of accomplishment after sheer terror
At some point you’ll mess up mountain navigation, and will end up on a run that you shouldn’t really be on (don’t be an idiot, stick with greens and reds if you’re a beginner), or you’ll come up against a steep, challenging section on an otherwise tame run.
When you do end up on a run that’s a bit tricksy, there’s not much you can do but get on with it.
You’ll be freaking out, but take it slow and steady and when you get to the bottom, look back up at the gradient for an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
15. Discover the best cure for a hangover
In Europe especially, there’s a big Après culture which means drinking and partying into the night. Doing this is a great idea as mountains are magical hangover cures.
Doing this is also a bad idea however, as skiing or boarding when seriously tired and hungover can lead to injuries, and that’s really not big or clever.
Let’s face it, you can get drunk anywhere, so why waste precious mountain time or ruin it by making yourself feel rough?
Great advice. I’m sure one day I’ll take it myself.
16. You’ll experience a whole new level of cold: Chairlift Cold
To be fair, with temperatures rarely dropping lower than about minus 10 with windchill, the European Alps are positively toasty (I always come home from Morzine or La Plagne in France with a sun tan).
When it comes to some resorts across the pond however, where minus 30 with windchill isn’t uncommon (it was -35 in Fernie in British Columbia when I was there), you’ll learn what cold really is!
After picking your way down a long northerly run, you hop back on the chairlift. The wind is howling and suddenly the lift stops.
Your legs dangle as the chairlift bobs around before finally stilling, and suddenly it feels like the temperature has dropped by 10 degrees. You shiver and pull your head inside the neck of your jacket as the wind continues to howl around you, as you begin to believe you must have been transported naked, into the middle of an arctic ice storm.
You are experiencing a special level of coldness which we call “Chairlift Cold” and no matter how many layers you’re wearing, or that fancy The North Face windproof jacket you spent a fortune on, you’ll still feel it. Be prepared, because you’ve honestly never known cold quite like this!
So there you have it, you’re now fully prepared to hit the slopes for your first ever ski or snowboarding holiday!
As as a final point though, whilst an active winter sports holiday is an incredible experience, and I urge you to try it, always remember that you’re taking part in a pretty full-on sporting activity, in an environment that can throw up some nasty surprises from time to time.
Never take anything for granted, take yours and the safety of other slope users seriously, and have an epic time!