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A BEGINNER'S SKI HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE //

Standing at the top of the mountain in Austria

Trying something new can be scary and little did I realise that scariest of all might be chucking myself down a mountain. Last year my two friends and I decided to book a ski holiday to Austria and at the beginning of 2018 we headed out to the tiny village of Söll.

Here are some of the things I learnt on my first skiing holiday, which may come in handy if you're thinking of booking a Winter trip too.


Skiing down a mountain in Austria

Ski Lessons


Before I left, I'd only had three beginner ski lessons (at Xscape, Castleford and Chill Factore, Manchester) therefore heading to the top of a real mountain was quite the leap. I'm very glad I'd had some previous lessons but even those didn't fully prepare me for the reality of a week of solid ski activity.

I'd absolutely recommend reaching at least Level 5 beginner's ski lessons before heading on your holiday, or spending some time at a Ski School where you are visiting on your first couple of days.

Absolutely no amount of squats can prepare you for the intensity of skiing for a full six days but I would recommend you at least be regularly active and try to do as many leg days as you can in the run up - it will definitely make a difference for your calves, glutes and quads!


Selfie at the top of a mountain, wearing goggles and skiwear accessories


What to pack


We were hugely lucky with the weather on our trip; the snow was thick, the sun was shining and on average the temperature never went below -3 degrees. Wherever you are heading, make sure you take plenty of layers.

Borrow


Ski wear can be very expensive so chat to friends or family who already ski and see if they can help you out with an outfit or any accessories. This will save you having to buy everything brand new - if it turns out that you don't want to go skiing again after this holiday, you'll be stuck with a lot of expensive and useless gear!

I managed to borrow goggles, ski socks and neck-warmers from others which was a huge, huge help.

Buy staples


Certain things I wanted to treat myself to that were brand new, such as thermal base layers and some sturdy mid-layers I will be able to use in Winter anyway, not necessarily when skiing. I also got some sunglasses and a neck-warmer given to me for Christmas which came in super handy and I'll have them for my next trip. A couple of my favourite purchases were:

- this thermal layer from Sweaty Betty I found to be a dream (and there's 20% off everything Ski at the moment!)

- this bargain fleece (£8.99 at the time of purchase) from Regatta on Amazon; it definitely saved me from the chilliest days.

Buy second hand

Keep your eye on eBay and Depop for ski wear throughout the year (usually lots of bargains after March every year - once the ski season has ended)

Luckily, I managed to find an incredible Parallel jacket and salopettes combo for £17.50 on eBay (which is by far one of my greatest bargains to date!) If you are buying second hand however, please do your best to make sure the seller is knowledgable about the condition of the clothes.

A lot of vintage shops/online stores in particular sell some ski suits that are actually no longer waterproof - which no matter how great they look, will be no good to you after you're soaked to the bone on a mountain. Double check what you're buying where possible. On second hand sites I always made sure to bid on items that had been worn recently, or those with pictures of the owners actually wearing them on the slopes.


A chalet in Söll in Austria

Where to go for a first ski trip


Ultimately I had no idea where to start when it came to where to go, so we left the planning to my friend Hannah, who has boarded and skied pretty much since she could walk. There are plenty of ski resorts around the world that may suit you but for a budget friendly and memorable experience, this was perfect for us.

Austria


Söll in Austria is a small village at the bottom of SkiWelt (Austria's largest interconnected ski area) with plenty of places to eat out on an evening and maybe more importantly, lots of bars for apres ski fun. We arrived at night so after our first sleep in our lovely B&B (Haus Pirchmoos) we woke up to an incredible view of the mountains which is something I will always remember.

A Winter holiday is such a different experience and I would absolutely recommend going to Austria - whether skiing or not - at least once in your lifetime.

Söll in particular made my first visit memorable - there's a more detailed post about the fantastic places to eat and drink in the area if you're heading here this season.

Surrounding areas


Söll is actually not one of the recommended places for ski beginners when we researched it, but I, as a beginner, personally really enjoyed it. However, we did take one day out to venture somewhere with some gentler slopes, after having a slightly traumatic intermediate run experience the day before (spoiler alert, I'm not an intermediate.) 

Scheffau is a mere 15 minute taxi drive away and has some beautifully scenic bars.
This resort also has much wider, blue beginner slopes that makes it much easier to practice turning and improving your ski technique. There are lots of families and children here specifically but in January, both resorts we visited were relatively quiet which made our holiday a breeze.

There are lots of other village resorts around Söll - most within a 30 minute drive - that made it easy to vary things to do and parts of the mountain to explore, which made it a great option for us.


Skiing down a beginner slope in Austria

Things to remember when skiing


You've packed, you've done some lessons and now you're finally on holiday - so far, so good.

It's time to actually get on the skis on a real mountain for the first time - these are a couple of things that I wish I knew about skiing/snowboarding before I arrived!

Take it slow.


If you are brand new to skiing then it's easy to get carried away, hurtle down slopes and end up battered and bruised and with a sense of 'I can't do this'.

On the second day of my holiday, I was determined that Winter holidays weren't for me; it was too scary, too difficult and I was generally questioning why on earth I had agreed to this. However, after some more confidence building beginner slopes and getting the hang of it, it was much more enjoyable. If you're ever in doubt, remember that nobody else really cares how slow you ski or how many times you fall over- ultimately, it's all about progress.

By the end of the week, those slopes that had me tumbling down every day I had finally managed to conquer and I could complete an entire blue run with no falls and almost no fear. It's such a great sense of achievement. When you're feeling nervous, work towards your next goal which could be anything from being able to get your skis back on quickly after a fall, to getting to the bottom of a steep slope successfully.

Eat often and plenty


It's pretty exhausting work skiing all day, so make sure you stop for meals when you need to. We got carried away on the first day and didn't stop for lunch, which meant we were absolutely ravenous by the end of the day!

Have a hearty breakfast and take snacks with you for throughout the day. There are so many restaurants on the slopes, so it's easy to find somewhere for a break (and all the carbs.) I took a thermos flask with me for hot chocolate, pre-empting I would be freezing but surprisingly, I found myself reaching for a cold drink more often as skiing is hot and thirsty work!

As mentioned, the weather in Soll was pretty mild so it may be different circumstances and that hot drink may be your saviour. Regardless, make sure you have a bottle of water handy every day too.

Chair lifts DO get better


Sure, having to slide down a mountain on two pieces of material is scary but nothing is quite as dramatic as your first experience getting on a chair lift.

In the most elegant of ways, my first attempt ended in me crashing into some pleasant European men and shouting 'sorry', sitting in between seats rather than in a designated chair lift seat, then panicking that my skis would fall off whilst 15ft in the air.

After this disaster I got used to using the gates as a barrier, using my poles to stop myself before getting on the chair and realised that I could rest my skis on the seat barrier. If you've done some lessons on a dry slope or indoor ski centre, you may be used to button lifts. Fortunately, these aren't too common on the slopes so we only had to tackle it once and mine went without a hitch.

Feel the fear and do it anyway


Although as I've mentioned it's important to take things at your own pace, it's also important to embrace your fear. If I had let how nervous I was overcome everything else, then I would have had a pretty boring trip.

Sometimes it feels like the scariest venture ever but once you get to the bottom of a steep slope, completely unharmed and with a rush of adrenaline, it feels amazing. Falling over isn't the worst thing in the world. In fact, the more you fall over, the less scared you become as you realise you can simply get back up and try it again.


Overall, my first ski trip to Soll has completely changed my perception on Winter holidays and I can't wait to get back out there. It wasn't ever something I thought I'd be able to do but it definitely ticked off a bucket list item for me.

Let me know if you have any ski holiday recommendations or anything you're nervous about when it comes to skiing!


leanne

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