Ready, Set … Ski!

SkierReady Set

If you need one reason to start skiing this winter, look no further than a quip from skiing filmmaking legend Warren Miller. “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

Learn the Lingo

Corduroy: When snowcats groom the runs overnight, their equipment creates parallel ridges in the snow (it looks like — you guessed it — corduroy fabric). Its smooth, consistent texture makes it good for learning, but you'll usually only find it early in the day.

Pow (Powder): Untouched, freshly fallen snow is prized by advanced skiers, especially the airy “champagne powder” found at higher elevations in Colorado and Utah. Most beginners will want to stick to packed powder, easier-to-ski snow that has been compacted by grooming equipment or other skiers.

Slush: This wet, soggy, snow condition is more common in spring and early winter, when warmer temperatures or rain cause water to pile up on the snow surface. This can slow you down and make turning difficult.

Snowplow: This skiing technique, also called a "wedge" or "pizza," is the first thing most skiers learn. By angling your skis into a "V" shape, you slow your descent and can manage a basic turn.

Parallel turns: As you improve, you'll learn to turn and stop while keeping your skis parallel, a skiing style that is faster and more efficient than snowplowing.

Moguls: These hard-to-ski snow bumps are caused by skiers following similar "S"-shaped paths down a steep, ungroomed section of the mountain.

Trail ratings: Ski resorts rank their trails to help you stay within your ability. From easiest to hardest: green circle, blue square, black diamond and double black diamond. Start off with the wide, gently sloping green trails, and work your way up.

Responsibility code: These "rules of the road" are designed to keep you safe by avoiding skier-on-skier collisions or runaway equipment. You can typically find them on your trail map or lift ticket.

Chocolate chips: Try to avoid these tiny rocks that litter the trail. Skiing over rocks can ding up equipment or knock you off balance.

The first few times you ski might feel clumsy, with days punctuated by bulky equipment, unfamiliar landscapes, layers upon layers of new clothing and several hours of slow-motion tumbles. But stick with the sport, take a few lessons and power through the occasional fall. Not only will a full day of skiing tone your core muscles and burn calories, but it’ll be hard to wipe the smile off your face after your first epic run.

Have a workout you can look forward to. There's a reason why people shell out upwards of $60 a day for lift tickets: Skiing is one of the most awesome and thrilling physical activities out there that doesn't involve a romantic dinner and a bottle of wine. Try to find another sport where in 10 minutes, you can ascend to a breathtaking summit, drop thousands of vertical feet, zoom through wooded trails and then pull off big air in the terrain park, all while getting a killer workout.

Sculpt your skiing muscles. Yes, there's a reason skiing can make you sore. That's because it's demanding on your muscles, specifically your quads, glutes, hamstring, calves and core. Keep at the sport long enough (or hit the gym in preparation for your ski vacation), and you'll get built like Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller.

Melt away calories. The average 180-pound man can burn about 490 calories per hour of moderate skiing. Those numbers aren't too shabby when you consider you might ski for six hours during a single day at a resort. Too bad waiting in line for the lift or standing around sipping hot chocolate does not count as “skiing time.”

It’s not as hard as you think. The basics are learned quickly, says Andrew Drake, a Level Three ski instructor who splits his time between Mount Hutt, New Zealand, and Mammoth Mountain, California. By the end of the first day, Drake says most people can handle the basics of turning and stopping.

Spend time outdoors. Picturesque ski towns, snow-covered forests, the muffled quiet of a snowstorm and breathtaking mountaintop views are just a sample of what skiing has to offer. For many skiers, the combination of the outdoors and the thrill of the sport is what keep them coming back year after year.

The better you get, the more fun it is. As you improve, you'll be able to ski whole new areas of the resort, escaping the crowds and finding your own secluded section of the mountain. "Even on an easy run, beginner skiers can really enjoy themselves," says Elsbeth Vaino, a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada, and a ski instructor at Camp Fortune ski resort in nearby Quebec. "As they get better, they can go to more advanced runs, which are much more fun."

Have fun with the family. Most fitness activities are oriented toward either parents or kids. Skiing lets the whole family participate at once, Vaino says. "If the parents are already avid skiers, they can drop the kids off at ski school and get that thrill, go for lunch with the kids and then ski together for the rest of the afternoon."

You’ll look cool. After nailing down the basics, you can move on to the real reason you wanted to ski: to zoom down the mountain and show up your buddies in the terrain park. So long as you’re skiing safely and staying in control, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of a competitive spirit.

Ski bunnies. Need we say more?

Next: The Game Plan
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