What a Beginner Skier or Snowboarder Needs to Know: A Snowsports Glossary
Ski and Ride School – Snowboarding is often referred to as riding, so the Ski and Ride School is where you will sign up for and take lessons to learn to ski or snowboard.
Friends or family may offer to teach you but the best and most cost-effective way to learn a new sport is to take a lesson from a pro. You wouldn’t take sky-diving lessons from a friend or family member, would you?
Look for group lessons and special clinics for beginners. At some resorts, these classes are discounted (especially during January,Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month). Some resorts will even reward you with a season pass upon completion of a series of beginner lessons.
Group lessons are usually limited in size, with a set number of students per instructor.
Clinics are more like “special event” lessons, offered on certain days, with a unique emphasis or for a specific age group. They are often a good deal, so look for them online. There are clinics for beginners but they typically apply at more advanced levels.
Private lessons are often one student per instructor, although it is possible for siblings, a parent and child, or several friends to book a private lesson together.
Lessons are taught by instructors, coaches or pros certified by an accreditation body like PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) or AASI (American Association of Snowboard Instructors). Tipping is not required, but a 10-20% gratuity can be considered as an appropriate way to thank your instructor.
Plan ahead and book your lesson before your arrive. Do this online or by calling the Ski and Ride School.
Children’s Center – At most resorts, the Children’s Center refers to a combination of ski and ride school and day care.
Regulations regarding minimum age (and potty training) vary by resort, so call ahead to make sure your child can be accommodated.
In general, younger, non-skiing children will participate in a licensed day care setting, while toddlers and young preschoolers will enjoy a combination of outdoor lessons and indoor playtime.
Older kids will spend the majority of their time in traditional lessons.
Many Children’s Centers have kids’ rental equipment on site, making it extra easy for parents to drop the kids off, bypassing the larger rental shop.
Rental Shop – First-timers rarely have own equipment so you’ll need to rent skis, boots and poles or a snowboard and boots.
At the rental shop, you’ll fill out a form, stating your weight, height and ability. As a beginner, your ability is “I” (the options are I, II or III). Some resorts may use a different
scale to divide students by ability. If in doubt, ask.
Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll pay and sign a liability waiver.
Then a technician will help you decide what size equipment you need.
Be sure to wear your ski/snowboard socks (just one pair for maximum warmth and comfort), as you’ll want your boots to fit.
Often, you can also rent helmets and ski clothes.
Liability Waiver – To participate in a lesson, rent equipment or purchase a season pass, you’ll need to sign a liability waiver (parents will sign them for their children).
Skiing and snowboarding are very safe sports, especially if you’re taking lessons and riding on slopes appropriate for your skills. Still, accidents can happen.
Lockers and Bins – The weather can change rapidly in the mountains, so it’s a good idea to have extra layers of clothing, disposable hand warmers and, if you’re with small children, extra socks (in case their socks get wet).
Look for lockers in the lodge where you can store extra items during the day.
Some resorts use a bin system where you pay and give your items to an attendant in exchange for a claim check.
Mountain Ambassadors – Many resorts have Ambassadors to help you find your way through the lodge and to the lift. Look for Mountain Ambassadors at information desks and outdoors on the snow.
At some resorts, Ambassadors also give free on-mountain tours to help orient guests.
Ticket Window or Office – To ride a chairlift, you’ll need a lift ticket. Tickets are generally sold at a series of outdoor windows. The ticket window is where you‘ll usually find a trail map to take with you.
Lift Ticket -- When you buy your ticket, you may be given a radio frequency (RF) card to put into your pocket, or a paper ticket that you attach to your jacket or pants with a zip tie or a metal fastener called a wicket.
If you get an RF card, be sure to put it in an empty pocket. They don’t work well next to phones, keys or wallets.
If you don’t know how to put the ticket on, ask at the window. The salesperson will be happy to help!
Season Pass – Season passes are usually purchased before the winter begins. They allow one person to ski or ride as many days as they wish during the ski season.
Many resorts now offer free or discounted days at “sister” resorts, making a season pass a good idea if you plan to ski a lot at one resort, or you hope to travel among several ski areas.
You can also find multi-mountain passes that offer a certain number of days at a group of resorts. Look for the Epic Pass from Vail Resorts, the Rocky Mountain Super Pass, the Powder Alliance pass, the M.A.X. Pass and the Mountain Collective pass. Each of these passes offers discounted skiing at resorts across North America.
If you’ve got elementary school age kids, check to see if they qualify for a 5th or 6th (and sometimes other grades) pass in your state. These passes offer free lift tickets and discounted or free lessons. There’s a list of participating states on the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month website.
Discount Passes/Cards – If you plan to ski or ride three or more times this season, look for multi-day passes and discount cards. They are usually less expensive than purchasing individual tickets, but they don’t require a season-long commitment.
Trail Map – Resort maps come in three sizes: fold up maps for your pocket, medium size maps attached to the chairlift comfort bar and large maps found outdoors at the base area, at the top of chairlifts and at on-mountain intersections.
You’ll also find trail maps on every resort website. Study the map before you arrive. It’s always good to know where you’re going!
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