So you’ve got a buddy who wants to try sliding down snowy hills, and you’ve agreed to show them the ropes of skiing or snowboarding. Now what? Well, first of all, get excited! Getting to share your love of skiing or riding presents a really special opportunity. The only reason you’re experienced and comfortable at a ski resort is that someone did this for you, someone helped to learn this sport. So relish the opportunity to do the same for someone else. More people learning to ski is good for everyone, and the industry as a whole. Once you’ve established that positive attitude, here are our tips to help someone new start skiing or snowboarding.
Help them through the whole process.
It’s tempting to just have your friend meet you at the bottom of the lift once they’ve got their rental gear sorted out so that you can snag a few quick laps before you ride with them. Don’t do it, they’ll benefit from your help through the whole process. And, by sticking with them as they gather gear, you’ll be able to make your life easier when you’re riding with them.
So hang out with them as they get their rental gear. Rental techs are often busy and don’t have time to help explain how to put on snowboard boots, or how ski boots should fit. But you can help your friend through this process and make sure all their gear is comfortable and appropriate. We’d also highly recommend using an off-hill ski rental from a ski or snowboard shop in town. They usually have a more relaxed atmosphere that translates to helping your friend find the gear that works better for them.
This also allows you to check over their gear before they’re committed to it. Make sure none of the buckles or laces on their boots are broken, check over their bindings, and even check their edges for burs. Most shops are happy to exchange rental gear or give it a quick ski sharpening if it’s beaten up. All the attention you pay now to making sure your friend is set with great gear will pay off on the hill.
Practice the fundamentals before you get in the lift line
Once you’re all geared up it’s tempting to hop on the chairlift and get riding. But just boarding and unloading the lift requires a basic understanding of your gear, and it sucks to start your day with a crash on an icy unload ramp. So find a flat snowy area to talk about the fundamentals.
Skiers can explain the difference between pizza and french fry, work to get weight forward into the front of their boots, and practice leaning onto edges. Snowboarders can practice weight transfer and twisting the board between toe and heelside edges. Don’t be afraid to take off your board or skis and tow your friend around a little as they get the feel of their gear. For a lot of people, even a green circle groomed run can be pretty intimidating to look down, so get them started somewhere they feel very comfortable.
Figure out their preferred learning style.
Everyone learns best in different ways. Some folks just need to watch something be done to understand it. Others need it explained, still, others need to experience the mechanics of it before they can replicate it. So talk to your friend, figure out how they’ve learned well in the past, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t just try to explain things by talking at them. Exaggerate movements, and even help stabilize them so they don’t fall down while they experiment with moving their weight around. Do whatever it takes to for the magic of making turns on snow to click for them.
One thing at a time
Once you’re riding it’s a good idea to focus on just one thing at a time. It’s tempting to just spew every skiing or riding tip you’ve ever heard all at once, but if you do that, nothing will stick and they’ll be overwhelmed with information. Focus on one skill at a time, practicing and perfecting it. Don’t move on with other info until they’re comfortable doing that skill consistently.
And once you build to other skills, make sure to keep coming back and practicing the ones you’ve already covered. Skiing and snowboarding are at their core very simple sports, so try to keep it simple.
Add “Why’s” to the “How”
Finally, this is where the magic happens. It’s easy to tell someone that they should be weighting the tips of their skis or keeping their hands level. What really makes it work though, is showing them why doing that makes skiing easier. Demonstrate how those fundamentals set a solid base for everything else you do on skis or a board. Explain how good technique might feel weird, but will pay off. Nobody wants to be ordered around without understanding the point of it all. Demonstrated that point and the rest will follow.
So don’t be intimidated when your friends ask you to introduce them to skiing or snowboarding. Instead, get excited to help them fall in love with this new pastime.