How to Ski: A Guide for Beginners

During the winter season, and sometimes even during Spring, thousands of people will flock to their nearest ski resort in order to enjoy the snow through that particularly adventurous sport.

Getting to the top of the mountain in order to gracefully slide down, enjoying the adrenaline of speed. And honestly? It’s a lot of fun!

Skiing is a well-loved activity and a great way of experiencing the snow in an active way. Plus, you get to chill in the warm cafe afterward, with a warm drink and the satisfaction of a successful ski day.

If you’ve never gone skiing before, and you’re planning your first-ever trip, you’re probably full of excitement.

However, that excitement is probably also paired with nervousness, because if you don’t know how to ski, then how are you supposed to do it? What if you fall? What if you lose control? What if you end up not enjoying it?

Don’t worry. It can be scary the first time, but it’s all about picking up the little tricks and the basic knowledge, and then you’re off. Not to mention that ski resorts have beginner-friendly slopes to make it easier on you!

That being said, in order to help you out and set you up for success, we’ve created this simple guide for beginners that will tell you all the basics of how to ski. Read through it, and then all you’ll have to do is put it into practice!

How to Ski A Guide for Beginners

Before You Start Skiing

Before you start skiing, it is important that you prepare all of the necessary things beforehand, so that you are ready, and can actually focus on enjoying the experience on your first day.

There are many things to plan, such as the ski resort you are going to, the ski passes and fees, the times, the logistics of it all, and of course, all of the essential skiing equipment.

Let’s talk a little more about each thing!

The Ski Resort

One of the first things that you will have to plan for your first-ever ski trip is the ski resort where you are going. Usually, people will simply choose the one closest to them, and even then that can be a way off.

But essentially, you will have to plan when you are going there, for how long, the accommodation where you will stay at, and more.

Something that we always recommend for beginners, is looking up some information on the ski resort beforehand so that they already know where the beginner slopes are and have an idea of the amenities and layout.

That way you will waste less time trying to figure out where to go and what to do, and can focus on actually skiing and enjoying yourself!

Ski Passes And Fees

Skiing is not free, and it also isn’t cheap (unless you find a good deal, or go to a more affordable ski resort). So make sure you look up the price for the ski passes, and what all the fees are, and whether you can get any deals or discounts.

Usually, going with a group of people will be cheaper than going by yourself or with just one other, so try and convince your friends to join in on the adventure!

Opening Times

Whenever you go somewhere it’s important to be aware of the opening items, but with skiing, it becomes even more important. As it is such a popular sport, there will be plenty of people, and as a beginner, you want to avoid feeling crowded.

We recommend getting there a little before opening time so that you can get ready and be on the go as soon as the slope is open to the public. Earlier starts and earlier finishes are the best way to go.

Not to mention that towards midday, the snow tends to get a lot mushier, making it harder to ski on!

Essential Skiing Equipment

You can’t ski without the right equipment, and this is a fact. You absolutely need the essentials in order to ski, and you need to get them ready beforehand.

As a beginner, you probably won’t have your own skiing clothes and equipment, but luckily all ski resorts rent out equipment, so make sure to head there first thing in the morning to get outfitted and equipped.

Here are the basics that you will need:

  • Appropriate ski clothes (make sure they are warm and wind-resistant, layers is the way to go!)
  • Ski goggles (absolutely necessary to protect your eyes from the brightness, and the wind)
  • Ski gloves
  • Ski boots
  • Skis
  • Ski poles
  • Ski helmet

Once you have all of the items that you need and have a plan of action, you’re ready to jump in and face the slopes! And that is when the actual skiing comes in. So let’s move on to teach you about all the basics of how-to ski.

How to fall with your skis on

Falling Safely

How To Fall Down Safely

The first thing that we recommend you practice and learn is how to fall down safely. Why? Well, because you’re going to fall. It is kind of a given. You’re learning to ski, and you’re a beginner, so there will be falling.

And learning how to fall safely will avoid any serious injuries and harm. Plus, if you practice falling, you will get used to it and lose fear, allowing you to focus on learning how to ski better.

Not to mention that most falls happen because people are scared of falling in the first place. So yeah, this is something you should definitely practice a few times before you get started!

The first thing we will say about falling is that most of the time, it shouldn’t hurt. The snow will cushion your snow, and if you fall properly, you will be completely fine. A little shocked, if anything.

Now, every single fall is different, and you will only have a few seconds to react and adjust your body so that you fall in the best way possible. The key is in distributing the weight of your body as evenly as possible.

The main thing to do is to protect your head. And the best way to fall is by outstretching the arm that you are falling on and outstretching your legs. Then, lean into the fall by falling on your side.

This is the safest and best way, and it means you are left in a comfortable lying position on your side, cushioned by the snow.

Things that you should avoid are falling on your elbow, wrists, or hands. If you try to stop the fall by placing your hands in front of you, they will likely get injured by being bent. And if you are holding ski poles, you might also accidentally stab yourself, and this can seriously injure you.

So instead of avoiding the crash, lean into the fall, work with gravity, and gently let yourself down on your side, outstretching your body to distribute the weight. After a few practices falls you will realize that the snow is soft and cushioned and that it’s not that scary!

Oh, and if you ever feel as though you are out of control while skiing, just let yourself fall down. It is one of the best ways to stop when you don’t know how to stop yourself! (Maybe indicate the fall to anyone skiing behind you to avoid them running you over though!)

How To Get Up After A Fall

Once you have mastered the art of falling, it’s time to learn how to get up, so that you can continue skiing. A lot of beginners tend to get stuck once they fall because they don’t know how to get up.

And the truth is that it can be pretty tricky, especially if your skis are in a weird position, and your limbs are all tangled up. The snow is slippery, after all, and with the bulkiness of the equipment, it can be hard to coordinate your movements in order to get back up!

If you do need help getting up, the etiquette is simple. Motion for a fellow skiing person to approach, and let them know that you are stuck and need help.

As a general rule, that person will then get into a more stable position (so that they don’t also fall down while helping you up), and they will offer you the end of one of their ski poles.

You then grab onto the end of the ski pole, and you help yourself up while they pull you in an upwards motion.

Depending on how stuck you are, this can sometimes take a few tries! But don’t worry, people tend to be very nice when skiing, and most are willing to stop and give you a hand!

However, you can’t always rely on people helping you up after you fall down. You have to be able to get up by yourself, and we are going to teach you how to do this.

The way in which you get up will depend on whether your skis are still on or not. So we will cover both situations:

Getting Up With Your Skis Still On

This is the most likely situation, and it is easier or more difficult depending on if you are on a slope or not.

Basically, this is what you have to do:

  • Shift your body until you have both feet (with the skis) aligned side by side. You have to try and get to a side position in which your body is on the floor, on its side, and your skis are aligned in a parallel position.
  • Use your poles as support, by digging them into the snow.
  • Placing your weight on the poles, lift yourself up slowly, while straightening your legs so that you are once again standing on the skis.
  • If you are on a slope, make sure to dig the poles in between you and the downward direction, so that you don’t instantly start sliding away.

Getting Up With Your Skis Off

If the fall caused your skis to come off, then it might actually be a little easier to get up, if anything because you won’t have the skis getting tangled up and in the way when you move your legs!

Get up, again with the help of your ski poles, and quickly retrieve your skis before they slide away.

If you are on a slope, it might be a little tricky to walk with your ski boots, so you will have to dig into the snow with the heel or toe of the boots, depending on the direction you are going uphill or downhill.

The trickier bit is putting your skis back on. If you’re on even ground, it’s easy enough. But on a slope? How do you put your skis on without sliding away instantly?

Here are some tips:

  • Dig one side of your skis into the snow, so that you are leaning into the slope, in an upward direction. This will stop you from sliding down.
  • Put the ski on the downward side of the slope first. You can then dig it into the snow while you put the other on.
  • Lean over the skis as you put them on, for better stability.
  • Use the ski poles as support while you put the skis back on.

It will take a lot of practice, but it is worth learning how to get up by yourself, and it will give you a boost of confidence so that you don’t panic after a fall!

How To Pole Plant

How To Pole Plant

Some people choose to ski without the poles, and this is completely possible. In fact, to some people, the poles only get in the way, and they can focus much better without them.

However, as a beginner, you are more likely to be using poles, as they are a good tool for support, and for helping yourself up after a fall. Not to mention that they can come in very handy when used properly!

That being said, at first, you will feel pretty clumsy when holding the poles. How are you supposed to move them? They might get in the way, and distract you from performing the right movements.

This is why we recommend taking a few moments to learn how to use the poles properly, before you start going down slopes, so that they actually become an asset, rather than hindering you as yet another obstacle in your first skiing day.

There are many things to cover with the use of ski poles, but we will explain three of the basics that you will need to get started: the timing, the correct pole plant method, and the pole plant sequence.

The Timing

One of the key things about using your ski poles is the timing. It is the difference between them being useful, and them hindering your skiing.

You should be placing your pole in the snow right before you initiate a turn so that it can serve as a pivotal point and a signal for your weight to shift.

The Correct Pole Plant Method

Here are the golden rules to perform the correct pole plant:

  • Flick the pole into the snow at a straight angle
  • Let the pole flick off the snow and fall behind you as you advance
  • Change the edges and turn into the direction of the pole

The Pole Plant Sequence

When you plant a pole into the snow, it should be one at a time, and it should be started with the pole on the inside side of your turn. But again, there are many ways in which to use the ski poles.

Here is the standard plant sequence:

  • Traverse with arms out in front, body slightly turned downhill. Your poles should be trailing out behind you at a 45-degree angle. This is their standard position as you ski.
  • Move your inside arm (of the turn you are about to do) forward, so that the pole it is holding can face the ground vertically, slightly forward.
  • Just before you initiate the turn, plant the pole into the snow in front of you, gently, without using it to support your weight. It is just a pivotal point so that your body can adjust and lean into the turn.
  • As you advance on, the pole will naturally come loose from the snow and return to its standard position, equal to the other pole.

It can feel a little unnatural at first, but you will soon get into the swing of using the poles, and they will help improve your skiing at a faster rate.

How To Slide

Now that we have covered a lot of basics that will help your overall skiing experience, it’s time to get into some actual specifics of the skiing itself, starting by learning how to slide. Because that’s pretty much what skiing is all about, it is sliding down a slope.

Once you have practiced all of the basics that we have already covered, the main goal of your first day of skiing will be to make it down a small slope, and from there, you just keep upping the challenge until you eventually can ski down harder slopes!

Besides, learning how to slide really isn’t that hard, gravity does most of the work!

Anyway, here is what you should do when learning how to slide for the first time:

  • Make sure that your skis are on properly, and make your way to the top of a shallow slope with a natural stop at the end. There will be plenty of these in the beginner’s area of the ski resort.
  • Position your skis so that they are parallel to one another, at the width of your hips. Make sure to point them downhill, and to bend your knees slightly.
  • Keep your weight balanced over your skis, in a centered way. And allow gravity to make you slide down the slope.
  • Keep calm as you slide down, maintaining your position.
  • As the slope flattens out, you will come to a natural stop.

Practice this a few times until you start to feel confident. You should also practice the slow slide, which you can perform by positioning your skis so that they are almost touching at the front, and wider apart at the back.

This essentially acts as a brake, so that you aren’t sliding down as fast. And it can also allow you to stop completely, but we will talk about that later.

How To Stop

Once you start learning how to slide, you will also need to start learning how to stop, so that you can stop yourself when necessary, and remain in control.

In fact, learning how to stop is one of the most important parts, because if you aren’t able to control your speed, or come to a standstill, you become a danger to yourself and to others.

There are many different ways of stopping in skiing, but we will talk about the two main ones: the pizza stop (the first kind of stopping method that you should learn) and the hockey stop (a method you should learn when you’ve mastered the basics).

The Pizza Stop

The pizza stop, also sometimes known as the triangle stop, is the most basic form of slowing down, and should be the first that you learn.

In order to adopt this ski position, you need to shift your skis so that they are closer together at the front, and wider apart at the back, creating almost a triangle or pizza shape, hence the name.

You should also then dig into the inside edges of the skis, which will create friction against the snow, causing you to slow down. And eventually, you come to a stop.

The best thing about the pizza stop is that you can come to a full stop entirely, or you can use it to gradually slow down, or simply adjust your speed. The more you triangle and dig into the snow, the slower you will move!

The Hockey Stop

The hockey stop, also known as the parallel stop, is a lot more advanced than the pizza stop but is more effective on steeper slopes.

It is something to learn once you have mastered all of the other basics, and are more confident in your skiing.

We won’t go into detail, as it’s not really for beginners, but it’s something to be aware of!

How To Turn your skis

How To Turn

In order to better control speed, and remain in control, skiers will go down a slope by descending in a zig-zag pattern, going from one side to the other continuously.

Going right and left as you descend is safer than simply going down straight, as your speed would pick up too much and it would be hard to stop!

This is why learning how to turn is so important, as you need it not only to change direction but also to descend bigger slopes.

Turning is pretty simple, but it takes some practice. All you have to do is slightly lean into the side you want to go in, by digging into the snow with the ski on that side, which will create friction and cause you to shift in that direction.

So it is all about combining a centered balance so you stay upright, while leaning into the side you want to turn towards, by digging in with that ski a little. Once you have turned enough, you re-balance your weight again. Easy as that!

How To Control Speed

One of the main parts of skiing is learning to control your speed so that you are safe and able to decide how fast or slow you go. You can control your speed in many different ways, but the main ones are as follows:

  • By using the pizza stop
  • By zig-zagging left to right and right to left throughout the descent
  • By properly skiing in parallel

Skiing In Different Conditions

As a beginner, you should avoid bad or difficult weather conditions while skiing, because they can make your life a lot harder, and could even endanger you. Aim to learn how to ski on days that are clear and even sunny.

When it becomes cloudy and snowy, it is what we call a whiteout. Everything around you becomes white, not only the ground, but also the sky, and visibility becomes difficult. If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips for staying safe:

  • Do not go off alone. Always remain with the group, or you could get lost or hurt, with nobody there to help.
  • Keep track of the piste markers that are around the ski resort, as they will help guide you to safety, and keep you away from dangerous or off-limit zones.
  • If you don’t know where you are, in which direction to find safety, go uphill. The higher up you are, the better chance at getting better visibility of the layout around you.
  • Wear bright colors so that you are more visible to others.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to ski can be a bit daunting, but once you gain some confidence you will realize that it is a super-fun adventure with a lot of opportunities for fun, and for overcoming challenges.

The basics of learning how to ski are basically knowing how to fall down safely, how to get up on your own, how to use the ski poles, how to stop, how to slide, and how to turn. From there, you can slowly improve your skills and advance to higher levels.

About the author

Jesse Blaine

Jesse is the owner of, contributes to a lot of the material, and directs day-to-day operations. He lives in Colorado with his wife and kids and loves the outdoors. He’s an avid skier, hiker, kiteboarder, and adventure sports explorer. Jesse has also traveled the world and lived in five different countries. He speaks several languages and loves communicating with people

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