A Beginners Guide to Hitting the Slopes
She Went Wild's Ambassador Sara Piper hits the Australian slopes. She shares a perfect beginners guide to staying upright on skies whilst cutting powder in the Aussie mountains in Perisher...
To me, skiing seemed to be one of those adventure sports that if you hadn’t grown up doing it, it was probably never going to happen.
But never shy of a challenge, I set out to Perisher, Kosciuszko National Park to see just what it takes to get out on the slopes.
How it went down
That initial glimpse of snow-capped mountains bathed in the day’s first light punches a child-like excitement right in the pit of my stomach.
That was Saturday morning. By Sunday evening, that child-like excitement still hadn’t waned.
“One more run! One more run!” as I got on the Village 8 chairlift for the sixth time...
Day 1: 7.30am
I arrive at Bullock’s Flat to pick-up ski rental gear and catch the Skitube to Perisher Resort.
Fluro onesies, over-sized colour-blocking jacket and pant combos for as far as the eye can see. There’s no fashion like snow fashion and I’m feeling a little out of my depths in the cool stakes.
I’m fitted and kitted within 15 minutes. Equipped with boots, skis and token bright yellow rental poles that scream, “avoid this person at all costs”.
It’s a lot to carry and in true beginner-style, I fumble my way through the platform gates.
After just minutes on the Skitube, I pop up into a winter wonderland; bright white snow on a backdrop of vibrant blue sky. The day is picture-perfect and it’s starting to make sense why everyone I’ve encountered is as happy as a penguin in a Pharrell Williams film clip.
Ski boots aren’t easy to walk in. Similar to wearing stilettos for the first time, tarantula-like, still fumbling with skis and poles, I make my way to the blue “LESSONS” flag and wait. Nervously.
There are five other women in my beginner’s class of which none have ever skied. Phew. I’m not alone.
Our instructor starts by explaining the parts of the skis and to my fumbling delight, how to slot them together with ski poles to carry them easily and conveniently.
We’re shown how to clip in and take baby steps, sliding our way horizontally across the gentle slope before learning the “snow plough”. For the absolute beginner (like me!) that is to make a V-shape with your skis as a means of slowing pace and keeping control.
Within the two-hour lesson I’ve gained the confidence to graduate to the big slopes and learned enough to abide by the number one alpine rule: ALWAYS BE IN CONTROL!
Lunch consists of a schnitzel burger and a calming pint of German ale – this is my kinda sport – then it’s time to hit the slopes.
I alight the chairlift. I got this!
But as quickly as I had filled with confidence the sight of the “real” ski terrain knocked it right out of me. It’s steep. Really steep.
“Deep breaths. Relax. Remember, your feet are in charge of your destiny.” My instructor’s words ring in my ears.
I position myself on an angle to the slope that I think will reduce the pace I go down at. I gently lean forward and … ppphhhhooooomp! I’m off! The sudden pace jolts me and like Dory on skis I forget all about snow ploughing and I’m on a diagonal crash coarse at speed. I’m breaking the number one alpine rule!
I come to sudden, anything-but-graceful stop when I bail out crashing to the side. All dignity lost but limbs still intact.
I repeat the process; knees over toes, hips over knees, look to where you’re going. Gradually things start to ‘click’.
And now I’m having fun!
Day 2: 9am
I opt for another two-hour lesson. It may seem a little excessive to be back on the magic carpet with pint-size grommets, but it is here that the lessons from the previous day start to take shape.
With a T-bar tutorial and instruction on Front Valley, by 11am I’m eager to shred! Ok, well maybe not quite shred but I’m feeling confident.
Post-lunch ale and schnity, combined with fresh air, skills and confidence to take on any beginners run has my exhilaration levels peaking. The afternoon is spent traversing the mountains and it’s impossible to wipe the smile from my face.
This is no holiday fling, I think. This feels like the start of something special.
So here are some extra tips:
Skiing V Snowboarding
The great debate. Last year I learned to snowboard and based of my experience, here’s the low-down:
I found skiing easier to pick up during the lessons but much harder on the slopes. However, once those key lessons started to ‘click’ the sense of reward and desire for more skiing out-weighed my desire to get back on the board.
And there’s no catching an edge and getting whiplashed like there is in snowboarding.
Of course, both have their pros and cons and each individual will find what works best for them, but when I head back to Perisher, I’ll be skiing.
What to take
- Waterproof pants and jacket (can be hired)
- Waterproof gloves or mittens
- Thermals or similar base layer – just not cotton as it doesn’t dry
- Buff (or similar neck warmer)
- Thick socks (I wore wool hiking socks)
- Fleece jumper
What to hire
- Skis and ski boots
- Helmet (optional)
You’ll also need lift passes and if you’re just starting out, I’d highly recommend lessons. Perisher does a nice little bundle to save you coin – see here.
What to say
Get some lingo under your belt!
Shredders: fellow skiers / boarders
Carving: a series of clean turns performed like a pro
Gnarly: skiing dangerously and making it cool
Après Ski: drinks after skiing
Watch Sara's YouTube Video documenting her day on the slopes:
Instagram | @pipersara