By Kathryn Robinson
There’s no right or wrong age to become a skier or snowboarder. No magic time period where you can learn with no effort, and no milestone at which you’re “too old” to get started. But for 20- and 30-somethings who are ready to take to the slopes for the first time, you might have a slightly different first-day experience than the 8-year-olds you’ll see in your beginner lesson. Here’s what you should know.
January is the best time to learn
Once you’re through the stress, travel and expenses of the holidays and settled back into your routine, you can turn your attention to your New Year’s resolution – learning to ski or ride. January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, which is your best bet for a smooth introduction to the sport. You’ll find amazing deals and discounts on lessons, lift tickets and rentals so you can start your season off on a high note. You can even find some lessons and professional instruction that are completely free, like Echo Mountain’s ambassador program that offers coaching, tips and suggestions free of charge in the beginner area.
For young adults who are strapping in for the first time, be sure to pick a lesson program meant for beginners. If you’ve got a few friends who are eager to learn with you, consider a private lesson, which usually accommodates up to four skiers or riders.
Packing for your first day on the slopes
Now that you’ve picked a ski area for your first trip and booked a lesson, you’ll be wondering what you need to bring with you. For an adult first-timer, I recommend renting your gear instead of purchasing before your first day. But if you’re determined to stick with the sport, consider a season rental – In addition to keeping your gear until the mountains close in the spring, it also includes swapping out gear mid-season if you want to try out different options.
Try to avoid the common mistake that I made – In my early twenties, before I’d ever stepped foot on a snowboard, I went ahead and bought a board, boots, bindings, goggles, helmet, ski clothing, and a ski pass – in total, more than $1,000 invested before I knew if I even enjoyed it. Luckily for me, I fell in love with snowboarding, but in hindsight, I would have rented some of that gear and learned more before I went all in.
In addition to the gear itself, you’ll need to bring winter clothing – water-resistant pants and jacket, plus a warm hat. If you don’t own these things, some mountains will let you rent them – be sure to call ahead to ask. They’re also available for purchase at the base of most ski areas. Don’t forget the sunscreen, chapstick, thick wool socks, lunch, and a few dollars for afternoon après ski at the bar in celebration of your triumph.
What to expect from your time on the mountain
You will be cold. You will be tired. You will be more exhilarated and feel more alive than you’ve felt in years. Learning to ski or snowboard is an amazing experience at any age, and you’ll feel a sense of adventure and accomplishment when you think back on your first-day skiing or riding.
You might find the learning curve requires a few days on the mountain before you get the hang of it, or you might be ready to tackle a green run before lunch on your first day. You will undoubtedly find that elementary-age children zoom past you while you master the basics. Any with any luck, you’ll also find a lifelong passion that will keep you active and happy for many years to come.
Kathryn Robinson is a native Floridian who transplanted to Colorado for graduate school and never looked back. She learned to ski for the first time in her early twenties and now she counts down the days until winter. When she’s not on the slopes, she’s working full-time in Denver, hiking, kayaking, or playing with her dog Riley.