Planning your first ski holiday
Are you considering booking a ski holiday, but feel you don’t quite know where to begin? Chances are you know someone who has or will be jetting off for a blissful mountain escape this winter. If you’re a skiing a novice, however, the thought of embarking on your very first snow sports holiday can be quite daunting. To equip you with the best possible advice ahead of your first trip, we caught up with journalist and blogger Rachael Oakes-Ash in order to gain some expert insight.
Based in Sydney, Rachael makes a living from travelling the world and reporting on the best skiing and snowboarding locations – covering everything from budget trips to high end luxury resorts. When she’s not busy filing copy for print and online publications, she posts guides, pictures and insights on her blog Snowsbest.
Read on for some top tips on everything from skiing lessons and equipment to must-bring items and the best times to travel…
How did you find your first skiing experience and how many “snow holidays” have you been on since?
My first snow resort experience was in Thredbo in Australia, an alpine village six hours south of Sydney. Everything was new and different and strange. I rode a chairlift for the first time, clicked into skis for the first time, fell over many times and wondered why people would spend time and money every year to do this. By the time I hit day three I knew why. It is highly addictive.
Since then I have been so fortunate in my job to ski regularly in the USA, Canada, Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. From Jackson Hole in Wyoming to Whitefish in Montana; Telluride, Aspen to Vail in Colorado; Park City, Deer Valley, The Canyons, Alta and Snowbird in Utah to Whistler, Red Mountain; and Fernie, Castle and more in Canada. I’ve also skied both islands of Japan, as well as France, Switzerland and beyond.
I have heli-skiied and cat-skiied in remote wilderness lodges for a week at a time, backcountry ski toured, joined the club fields of New Zealand and enjoyed the uber-groomed corduroy runs of the world’s best resorts.
What advice would you give to someone planning on hitting the slopes for the first time?
The first thing any first timer needs to do is book a lesson. This is a must. Without it you will no doubt hurt yourself and others, not mention ruin your snow holiday experience. Instructors are trained to make your experience a fun one and ensure you learn the correct techniques to progress as a skier or a snowboarder. They will also show you the slopes that match your ability.
No matter what your friends and family say, if you don’t feel comfortable taking on a certain slope then don’t do it. Peer pressure leads to injuries and injuries mean you’ll spend less time on the slopes, and more time in the medical centre!
Any tips for those looking to get the best value for money?
Skiing and snowboarding costs money. There is no avoiding it. Though many resorts offer great incentives, especially for families with ‘kids ski for free’ deals when accompanied by an adult.
Beaver Creek in the USA even hands out free, freshly baked warm chocolate chip cookies every afternoon!
Try to book your ski passes in advance, either as part of a package deal with your hotel accommodation or one of the multi day passes on offer at most resorts. Take cash or a credit card with you on the mountain, as it is a well-known fact that the price of hot chocolate increases as the altitude does!
What about the all-important equipment?
You can rent all your gear at a resort except for goggles and gloves – these you will need to buy.
Are there any “must-bring” items?
Take your mobile phone with you whenever you ski, and remember that cold temperatures drain the battery, so take a compact mobile charger too. It is highly likely you will be separated from your friends at some stage so you will need your phone to reconvene.
Sunscreen is also a must, as the reflection from the snow causes burning rays. Lip balm is also essential in order to prevent cracked lips. Ski with an empty backpack that is light and comfortable, so if you find yourself getting too warm you can take an internal layer off and put it in the backpack till you need it again – and you will!
What advice would you give to those looking to avoid the crowds?
If you don’t want crowds and lift queues then choose lesser known resorts, and always check the local area’s school holiday calendar and avoid those dates at all costs. The Christmas and New Year period in Europe can be hectic, whilst the President’s Weekend in the USA is best avoided and January in Japan is peak season.
And finally, do people tend to venture beyond the resorts or is most of the time spent on the slopes?
I love the self-contained feel of a ski village. Everything you need is within your reach. Skiing and snowboarding can be exhausting, especially for first timers who will discover muscles they never knew existed. If you want to see more of a country then schedule time before or after your snow holiday experience as there won’t be time (or energy) during.
Ready to book your first ski holiday? Kick back in the stylish surroundings of the Park Inn by Radisson Rosa Khutor Hotel and enjoy easy access to some truly exceptional ski resorts.