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College Students – It’s Time to Learn To Ski or Ride

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Purgatory Resort – Eric Berry 

Here’s the thing

There’s no right or wrong time to begin your ski adventures and try to start skiing or snowboarding. Sure, it may be easier to learn when you’re young, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a stab when you’re older. Some of this advice that I’ll be giving will apply to all ages, but this is specifically geared towards college students looking to get up on the mountain and have a good time.

Whether you need advice on how to save some money or just beginner tips when you’re actually on the mountain, I’ll do my best to cover both. After all, not every beginner is the same and thus have different areas of need.

Determining a Budget

This is the first step that is the foundation for your ski season. Skiing can a rather costly sport but if you’re smart about your spending you can save some money here and there. In determining your budget, it’s important you’re honest with yourself about how much you plan on going skiing. If you’ve never been or only been a handful of times and want to give it another shot, it might not make sense for you to invest in a season pass right away. Instead, you can spend some time researching what day pass works best for you depending on where you live. There are plenty of great deals out there depending on the time of year and there are always other options as well like going with a friend with a season pass and getting a discounted buddy ticket or just going for a half-day to lower the cost a bit. Colorado Ski Country also offers a variety of deals on their website including the GEMS card where if you go play on one of the lesser travelled GEMS resorts, you can get two 2-for-1 lift tickets or two 30% off lift tickets.

The cost of the ticket is just one factor you have to think about when determining a budget, however. You also have to consider the cost of gear and what your best options are for getting good stuff. This includes the essential ski/snowboard gear (skis/snowboard, boots, poles, etc.) but also the right clothing and attire to make sure you’re comfortable and warm on the mountain.  For many Coloradans, at least one of their family members has skied somewhere down the line and has hand-me-downs that you can borrow that are good quality and will save you the cost and hassle of having to rent or purchase gear.  If you can take advantage of this, you definitely should – I’ve gotten some great gear from hand-me-downs. Otherwise, if you think ahead of time, you can find highly discounted ski and snowboard gear in the summer. If you’re trying to take advantage of skiing or snowboarding this season, then your best bet might be to just rent gear from whatever resort you’re attending.


Actually getting to the mountain can be a big struggle for college students as many of them don’t have vehicles and if they do, they aren’t great vehicles for snowy conditions and potentially icy roads. If you’re in this boat, I’d highly encourage trying to coordinate a carpool with friends that have the right vehicle for the job. Everyone can split the cost of gas money and it’ll help relieve some ski traffic congestion as well. If you don’t have immediate friends that you know are going, often times your school’s ski and snowboarding clubs help organize carpools for students.

Another great option is finding a bus service that works for you. CU Boulder, CSU, and DU all offer their own unique bus transportation services on select dates that’ll give you a hassle-free day. There is also an RTD service for CU Boulder students that will get them to Eldora and back.

If none of these are ideal for your situation, there are other bus services offered in Denver like the Front Range Bus and the new Snowstang Bus service which I can attest to and say it was a great way to get to and from the mountain without worrying about driving.

Once You’re on the Mountain

My best advice for this section will be relatively generalized just because I can only speak from a skier’s perspective. I’ve gone snowboarding a few times but had my own share of struggles so I can’t give specific advice to beginner boarders.

One thing that I want to emphasize that a lot of beginner skiers and boarders make the mistake of is jumping into a run they’re not prepared for. Nothing will have you more frustrated and having a worse time than being on terrain you are not ready for and constantly taking a spill. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being honest with yourself and whoever you may be skiing with and just taking it easy to start. That means taking the well-groomed green runs and taking it slow.

When you approach your day with this mindset you can have a lot more time to focus on the fundamentals. One thing I always try to do each day I go up is improve and tighten my turns a little bit. Depending on your experience, this may mean different things. If you’re in the really early stages as a skier, this may mean working on your ‘french fry’ and ‘pizza’ as methods to get going and to stop. If you have a little more experience, this may mean working on carving your parallel turns. Whatever your situation may be, this is a good way to continue to feel more comfortable on the mountain.

If you are really new to skiing or snowboarding, it may be worth considering investing in lessons at the mountain. Sometimes they can be a little pricey but there are offers out there for 2-3 day lesson packages and they can be totally worth it when trying to master the basics. Also, it’s nice to have an experienced rider be patient with you and walk you through your strongpoints and weaknesses and help you improve in certain areas where you may be lacking.

Once you’ve gotten some experience and feel a little bit more comfortable with getting on chair lifts, getting down green runs and have your legs under you a bit, the next best advice I could give is to continue to push yourself. If you’re constantly hitting the same runs over and over you’re never going to see drastic improvement or feel like you’re getting significantly better. The old Einstein quote goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”, and that absolutely rings true when trying to improve your ski and snowboard abilities. Over time, if you incrementally try more difficult runs and continue to work on improving your turns, you’ll see results in no time.

Hopefully, this advice was helpful for those college students who didn’t even know where to get started but also for those who have had some past experience and wanted to get back into it. Just remember, it’s important to be honest with yourself in terms of both your budget and your abilities, that way you can have the most cost efficient and enjoyable time as you can on the mountain. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, worry about how you best can have a good experience while skiing or snowboarding.


Alec Stowell

Alec Stowell is a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is majoring in Journalism and minoring in Business with a focus in entrepreneurship. He was born in Glenwood Springs and grew up skiing in the roaring fork valley. Being active and exploring the outdoors has always been a huge priority to him – everything from skiing, basketball, mountain biking, hiking, and more have all been hobbies of his for as long as he can remember. Early in his education, he discovered a passion for writing and so when the opportunity came along to both ski and write, he was ecstatic. After graduation, he hopes to still be able to pursue a career in which he can combine his passion for writing and the outdoors, but is still figuring out what the future holds. For now, he is looking forward to making the most out of his ski season with Colorado Ski Country.